Q. As you went through the process of game planning for the Bucs a second time, how different is QB Jalen Hurts as a player now than he was in early October? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: I think significantly. He has definitely gotten better throughout that time, which doesn’t surprise me at all because [QB] Jalen [Hurts] is a student of the game. Jalen wants to get better and craves to get better. He has high football character and, like I have said plenty of times, guys that are tough, guys that have high football character and guys who love football are going to reach their ceiling.
I think you’re just seeing him grow closer and closer to his ceiling. Yeah, he’s definitely better and he’s just going to continue to get better because of who he is as a person and as a player.
Q. I’m wondering if you view the first game against the Bucs as a turning point for you guys? It was really after that loss that you guys seemed to change your approach on offense and what were the conversations like coming off that game as you were processing that and making the change? (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: As hard as Thursday night games are sometimes to prepare for, the back end of it – if you’re using that time-wisely – the back end of it can be used to rest and then to really, as coaches, study what has been working, what hasn’t been working.
We definitely took advantage of that as coaches. We studied that very thing: ‘What’s working for us? What’s not working for us?’ And we came away with some answers there.
Now, did that show up the very next week against the Raiders? It started to and then we got in a little bit of a hole. Again, didn’t play our best game there either, as we all know.
But I think what you saw is it started to turn that game, as far as our kind of who we were and what we were doing. Not only in the run game, but also in the passing game and the way we were doing some things in the passing game as well to make things a little bit easier for Jalen [Hurts] and to be able to see the things a little differently and our receivers, tight ends and running backs.
That definitely was a time that we used as coaches. I’m just appreciative of all our coaches that we have on the staff that put that time and that hard work into – that’s what we do, that’s what we get paid to do.
But there was a time where – some might use that as extra rest. We used that as extra time to get better because we knew we needed to get better, obviously, with the way we were at that particular time in the season.
Q. I just wanted to ask you, slow starts have been kind of the theme this season, unfortunately. Is there anything you can do as a coaching staff to kind of start quicker or anything you can change to make that happen? (Ed Kracz)
NICK SIRIANNI: Again, you always try to go in with your best plays ready to go and you’re also trying to get information on what’s happening out there as well. So, it’s a both and. You want to be able to do some things that you know you’re going to start off well and get a successful first drive and second drive, et cetera, but then also gather information in that time.
I don’t think there is anything that you can do any differently than the process we have right now, to be completely honest with you. Like any other time, we have to put the players in position to make plays and the players have to execute when they go out there.
Again, we’re all in this together as far as that goes. Sometimes I think it’s been a little bit, ‘Hey, the offense started slow, defense was hot,’ or vice versa, right? We just have to put it together as a full team of starting fast on both sides of the ball at the same time.
Q. On Jalen Hurts, I know you said after the game that part of the plan for resting him was that you expected him to be 100%. Is that the case? And then do you think there is any guesswork from the Bucs defense perspective in terms of how athletic Jalen will be able to be in this game, in terms of how they’re preparing? (Bo Wulf)
NICK SIRIANNI: As an opposing coach scouting another team, you’re always taking into account what they do as a whole and what they’ve done the last part of the season, maybe the last three or four weeks of the season.
I don’t think we’re alone in our process of the way we do that. A lot of other coaches that I have been around do that same thing. They do, they have to look at that.
Of course, as you’ve played differently throughout the year, they’re going to have to look at all that.
Jalen [Hurts] is feeling pretty good. We’re going to go out there and practice with a walk-through today, but we’ll get more and more information on him as the week goes on. But I know the last week off really helped him heal and get better and closer to that 100%.
Q. What’s the best advice you’ve received or that you feel a quarterback should hear heading into a playoff game or his first playoff game beyond just this is like any other game, because we all know it’s not just like any other game? (Jeff McLane)
NICK SIRIANNI: Earlier this week, [C] Jason Kelce came to me, and we were talking and just discussing the playoffs. What he said I really thought was valuable. He said, ‘The things that lose you games in the regular season also lose you games in the playoffs.’
We really were talking about assignments and fundamentals, the minute details of what you do and how you do it. Know what to do, know how to do it. I must’ve said that 50 times to the team today. Know what to do, know how to do it. Know what to do, know how to do it. And that just kind of amplifies.
Jason came to me with that earlier in the week, and then my assistant, [Eagles Coaches Assistant] Tyler [Scudder], he found a video of Kobe Bryant speaking to the team in 2017. It was ironic, because Jason came to me and Tyler didn’t know anything about what Jason was going to say, and Jason didn’t know anything about what Tyler was going to say. Tyler came to me and gave me this video of what Kobe Bryant was saying later in the season, not quite at the playoffs, but getting ready to go into the playoffs in 2017.
His message was exactly the same. It was, ‘Hey, the fundamentals and technique get amplified more and more so and the assignments get amplified more and more so in the playoffs.’ Kobe went on to tell a story about Game 7 or Game 6 of the Miami Heat versus the San Antonio Spurs. He really dove into a fundamental mistake that somebody made to help make that game change.
So that is the message, is the emotion of the game is going to be there. All we can do right now, and my message is to [QB] Jalen [Hurts] and my message is to the team, is control what we can control right now. That’s getting a little bit better each day and hyper focus on the assignment and the fundamentals.
What’s great about that is that’s been our hyper focus the entire year, so we’re not really doing anything differently. We’re just bringing up that point of emphasis again that two great leaders, two great people –one that played in Philadelphia, one that grew up in the city of Philadelphia, emphasize going into this playoff game.
I thought it was a great message coming from Jason and Kobe Bryant.
Q. Looking back when you first got to Philadelphia, what was that first interaction like when you first met Jalen Hurts in person? Also, are you guys still meeting every Friday when it comes to the meetings that you had previous weeks? Those meetings, how far have they gone to helping that connection you’ve built over time? (Chris Franklin)
NICK SIRIANNI: I first met him I think it was in the equipment room is where I was. We just had a good conversation. I had met him before. I obviously did a lot of pre-draft work on him back in Indianapolis. I remember meeting him at the combine actually, off to the side when I was walking with Brian Daboll, who was his offensive coordinator at Alabama. He kind of introduced me.
So had a lot of interactions with him just before that, the initial time where I met him. But I was just excited to meet him and meet our quarterback. I think he had a throwback Eagles Starter jacket, which I thought was pretty cool, too.
Yes, of course we are still meeting every Friday to continue to grow our relationship, to continue that connection, to continue to work on the game plan like we do, and then off to my office just to continue to talk about anything outside of football or football itself.
I value the relationship that I have with Jalen and all the players on our team, but there is always something special about a head coach and quarterback relationship that I value that good organizations I’ve been around have that good, strong relationship between the two.
That doesn’t mean we don’t get mad at each other here and there. That doesn’t mean that doesn’t happen, that everything is nice and cushy at all times. But he’s awesome to work with. Couldn’t ask for a better guy to work with day in, day out. Look forward to continuing to have those Friday meetings as we continue through the playoffs.
Q. I wanted to ask about the bottom half of the roster. You’ve gotten contributions this year from a lot of nonstarters, guys who have been filling in for injured guys or COVID list guys, practice squad guys. How important to where you’ve gotten has been the fact that you’ve been able to rely on the entire roster and not just the 22 projected starters? (Reuben Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: That’s a good question. Very much so. First of all, it starts with the depth and the talent that [Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and his staff have brought in here. You’re going to go through injuries in the season. I know we’re one of the better teams as far as injuries go, but still have lost key players.
Then to have guys be able to step in for them and play well has been unbelievable, because I think the teams that don’t do that, obviously they suffer from it.
Again, first and foremost, the players that Howie has brought in, and also the players themselves to be ready for that opportunity, right? We talked a lot about roles on the team early in the year. That was one of our talks we had was like, ‘Hey, what’s your role on this football team?’
We really thought it was important to explain roles, to point out roles, and let everyone be aware, ‘Hey, this is your role on this football team.’ The guys that were at the back end of the roster, it was always, ‘Hey, we need you to contribute on special teams and be a guy that’s on special teams and ready to make plays on special teams, those 22 to 25 plays a game.’
But also, your job is to be there and be ready without a lot of the reps, to be ready to go if your number is called upon. I just think guys accepting their role on the team, even though they — I think obviously everybody is going to want a role of being the guy and being the starter, right? Like you said, there are 22 of them.
It’s so important for a team to accept their role and be able to play their role, and then that role can be elevated based off different things.
I don’t think that happens. I don’t think guys play their role unless you have good leaders on the football team like we do, and good people on this football team like we do.
So, again, another tribute to Howie and his staff of not only bringing in talented players that can step up and play when their number is called upon, but also good people that are ready to accept their role and elevate their role when called upon to do so.