Q. We were talking to RB Miles Sanders, and he said that after he got hurt, he told you and some of his teammates to get to the playoffs so he could play. Do you remember that interaction? And what does it say about him that he’s ready to go for this weekend? (Dave Zangaro)
NICK SIRIANNI: I do remember that. He was in my office, and he said, ‘Promise me we’re going to the playoffs. We’re going, right?’ You know me, I’m just like, ‘Yeah, one game at a time. One game at a time. One game at a time.’
But I knew he was going to be out for a little bit, so I kind of said, ‘Okay, I promise you right there.’ What it says about him is just how determined he is to get back and showcase his talent on a national stage here in the first round of the playoffs.
That’s who [RB] Miles [Sanders] is. Miles is, obviously, a phenomenal player, a phenomenal talent, even better teammate, even better person, even better worker, which is why he has the talent and the skill that he does.
Q. This might seem like an obvious question, but how much does it help having Miles back, knowing that you’ll have all four of your top running backs against Tampa Bay? Especially, they’re talking about winds up to 30, 40 miles an hour, to be able to rely on having all your guys for the running game. (Martin Frank)
NICK SIRIANNI: Really excited to be able to have them all hands-on deck. I was just saying to the team after practice, what great contribution we have gotten from so many different people this year, and I really talked about the running back group. What other teams can say they have gotten contributions from four different running backs? And really [RB] Jason Huntley played a good game the other day, so five different running backs, right? But for a majority of the year, it was four different running backs.
So, to have all hands-on deck, we know we’re going to need all hands-on deck to go out and do what we want to do this weekend. That group is no different. We’re just excited that Miles is going to be ready to go and ready to play in this football game because we know how important he is to this offense.
Q. Did DE Josh Sweat return today and what’s his status? Then if I could ask another one, is the underdog theme something you are playing with your messaging to the team? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: As far as [DE] Josh [Sweat], he is questionable. He’s back in the building today. He had some abdominal pain early in the week, but he’s getting a little bit better each day. We don’t know his status for the game yet, but I’ll tell you he’s questionable.
As far as [the] underdog [theme], no. I know that was the theme in 2017, but every team’s a little bit different. Every team has their own things to go by. We know who we are. We know what we’re about. So, we haven’t played that underdog role. We’re just doing our part to get ready for this football game.
Q. We talked to you a lot through the year about game planning, play calling, fourth down decisions, things like that. I’m curious how things changed? Obviously, you have to get prepared for Buccaneers Defensive Coordinator Todd Bowles and that defense, but when you’re playing an explosive offense, when you and Eagles Offensive Coordinator Shane Steichen and Eagles Passing Game Coordinator Kevin Patullo are planning, how does that factor into your thought process when you’re sort of mapping things out? Do you know you need to be more aggressive? How do you handle those types of things? (John McMullen)
NICK SIRIANNI: Every game is treated differently, as far as how you handle the aggression on fourth down or going for it – all those different thing, two-point conversions, everything. So, every game is treated differently. You have conversations about that going into the game, about how aggressive you want to be, how aggressive you don’t want to be.
But then in the game, your chart looks – our chart individually – looks different each week, based off of who you’re playing and that’s a lot of conversations that we have. I just have a lot of good people in this building to help me sort through those things, [Eagles Offensive Coordinator] Shane [Steichen] and [Eagles Passing Game Coordinator] Kevin [Patullo] and Jim Bob [Cooter] really being at the top of that list.
But also, you have to feel how the game’s going, right? A game that you might necessarily think, ‘I’m going to be super aggressive,’ and maybe you are early on, or opposite, right? ‘I’m not going to be real aggressive.’ You might play that differently depending on how the game goes. Based off of how your defense is playing, based on how the opposing offense is playing, whatever it is.
And I think back to the Washington game at Washington. We thought in that situation, we were going to be a little bit more conservative going into the game, but the game played itself out differently and we were more aggressive based off of what we talked about going into the game. We were more aggressive because of the way the game was going, right? We had two fourth down conversions in the red zone.
And I’m not saying we would have went for it or didn’t go for it depending how the game went, but we knew, as that game progressed, we were going to be more aggressive in that football game and that’s precisely what we did.
So, you go in with a plan, but there is a feel to this thing. There is a feel to it. You play the numbers the way you want to play the numbers. And it changes each week, but there’s a feel within each individual game.
What’s the weather like? How is the other team handling it? All sorts of things play into that. But you lean on the chart, you listen to the chart, but it’s not the end all, be all by any means. I’m just grateful that I have Shane and that I have Kevin and Jim Bob and an entire offensive staff to be able to help me through those situations.
Q. Tangentially, this has to do with play calling as well. In the off-season it came to light that Eagles Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Lurie had influenced or at least had meetings with former Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson weekly to talk about how things were going, whether it’s play calling or whatever. Do you have meetings with Jeffrey, regularly? And has he influenced you at all this season, whether he wants more run, more pass? What has that relationship been like for you? (Marcus Hayes)
NICK SIRIANNI: I don’t have meetings with Mr. Lurie [Eagles Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Lurie]. Obviously, we talk a lot. We text back and forth to each other, call each other on the phone. When he’s at practice, we talk out at practice just about how things are going.
All I have ever gotten from Mr. Lurie is unconditional support. He hired me to do a job and he’s trusting me to do that job. I really appreciate that and his support in it.
That’s the relationship. What a great owner. Mr. Lurie is a great owner. He’s just here to support in every single way. I just think this is a great, great, great organization and it starts at the top with Mr. Lurie and all the different people that he has in this organization that make my job easier, from [Eagles Executive Vice President/General Manager] Howie [Roseman] and Howie’s department, from our video department, from our scouting department, from our PR department. I just think this is a phenomenally run organization, and it starts at the top with Mr. Lurie. Like I said, he has given me nothing but support in everything I’ve been doing.
Q. In previous years, you probably would have needed three or four visors for all the injuries that this team faced, and a lot of us probably thought you might have to deal with it this year, but you haven’t. You’ve been relatively healthy. Can you talk about the collaborative effort between the coaching staff, the front office, and the medical staff to keep everybody healthy, especially with what you’ve done since December? (Mike Kaye)
NICK SIRIANNI: Again, I’ll go back to kind of what I say in any phase of this. I’m here to coach the football team and be in charge of the football team, but then I have experts in different areas to help me do my job.
[Eagles Senior Vice President of Communications] Bob Lange helps me prepare for the media and for you guys. To help me just be better at this. I think you guys would say I’ve gotten a little bit better at this, right? You guys got on me after my first interview. I’m teasing [Laughing]. But I’m getting better here.
And the same thing there with every other department. I don’t want to leave out departments, but that’s not the question you asked. That’s the same thing here with the way we practice and the way we go about handling injuries and getting guys back from injury. It’s a collective [effort]. Everything that goes wrong always is going to fall on me, and I understand that and that’s my job as the head coach.
So, I have to make those tough decisions about how we’re going to practice or what we’re going to do. But I’m really leaning on our strength and conditioning staff, our athletic training staff and our doctors to how we go about practice and how we go about when a guy has a minor injury or something, how we get him back into the flow of things and everything like that. Because they’re the experts.
Again, I go back to the question I just answered of just what an organization this is. I just feel there are so many resources here for me to do my job and for our coaches to do our job because all the resources that we have. I can’t give enough props and enough credit to the doctors and to the training staff, starting with [Eagles Vice President of Sports Medicine/Head Athletic Trainer] Tom [Hunkele] and his staff. And then [Eagles Vice President of Player Performance] Ted [Rath] and his staff with the strength and conditioning staff. They’re on it.
And that right there is why we’re in the position we’re in with our guys and their injuries.
And then you look at the guys too. The way they go about their business of getting their bodies ready to go each week. There’s a lot of rehab that goes into getting themselves back on the field. There’s a lot of pre-work to get themselves ready to go out on the field in the first place. So, always the main credit goes to the players of how they go about their business, and we have great professionals on this team that know how important their bodies are for week in and week out.
I just can’t say enough good things about the doctors, the strength and conditioning staff, the trainers and Howie of putting it all together and Mr. Lurie of putting it all together. That’s the reason why we’re in good shape as far as injuries, and I’m glad I don’t have to wear all those numbers on my hat.
Q. I wanted to go back to Miles Sanders with you because I believe it was you who mentioned three weeks back that you went through this with Colts RB Marlon Mack in Indianapolis. He missed two weeks with a broken hand and came back by the third week. So, what did you learn from that experience? (Geoff Mosher)
NICK SIRIANNI: With Marlon, obviously, that was a couple years ago. I don’t know how similar the injuries were. They both were broken hands. I obviously know more about Miles than I did about Marlon. I wasn’t in the medical meetings as an offensive coordinator in Indianapolis.
But what did you learn from that? You learn that you have to stress ball security even more and protecting yourself throughout some of the things even more in that. Miles has been really good with the ball this year. I believe he has one fumble throughout the season. I know that our coaching staff stresses the ball a ton, and if not, more than anybody in the league. We go about stressing the ball, the ball, the ball, the ball.
I know that’s [Seahawks Executive VP of Football Operations/Head Coach] Pete Carroll’s approach too. They talk about that quite a bit. So, I don’t want to say more than anybody in the league. We talk about it a heck of a lot, though.
Miles has done such a good job of getting better at protecting the football, and he’s just better with his fundamentals as our year has gone on. I have a ton of confidence in that. But that’s what you talk about, protecting the ball, how you’re carrying it.
At the end of the day, Miles would not be on the field unless he was ready to go for this game and healthy to go for this game. It’s just about the fundamentals of what we’ve preached all year. Then being confident that he’s ready to go because the doctors, the trainers, they are saying that he’s ready to go, and Miles feels ready to go.
You don’t want to make too much of it, I don’t think. You just go about your business and protect the football like we always talk about and be ready to roll from there.
Q. Can you regulate the usage a little bit based on what you learned? (Geoff Mosher)
NICK SIRIANNI: No limitations. Same way we always play our backs. We’re going to roll them. A guy gets hot, they’ll stay in, just like we always do. Again, no limitations for Miles. He’ll be our guy.
Q. The last time the Eagles played Buccaneers QB Tom Brady in the playoffs, it went pretty well for them. Curious if you’re using that at all for an energy source or a teaching tape? Are you showing highlights, or are you staying away from that this week? If you can explain your decision for either way you took it. (Tim McManus)
NICK SIRIANNI: Every team’s different. In the same way, I’m not kind of diving into the underdog role the — that was a phenomenal football team that a lot of the pieces are still in place here from that 2017 team. But we’re the 2021 version of the Eagles. We’re sticking to what got us to this point.
We have a lot of different things that we talk about, but we’re kind of sticking to that portion of who we’ve been for the past 18 weeks as opposed to what’s happened in the past.
What I will say about that Super Bowl team in ’17 is there have been questions about our experience. I’ve talked to you guys about this before. I think I talked to you about it earlier in the week. The experience we have from those guys that have played in that game — I know it’s not as fresh as the Bucs’ experience they had of winning the Super Bowl last year, but we still have guys from that 2017 Super Bowl team. We have guys that played in the AFC championship game in [CB] Steve Nelson and the NFC Championship game with [S] Anthony Harris, the BCS championship game with our Alabama guys and [S] K’Von [Wallace].
I like our experience as well. I know it’s a different level, but those are big games. I imagine we all watched Monday night Georgia versus Alabama. That’s the biggest stage in college football there is. We have guys that have played on the big stage, and we lean on that experience from that 2017 football team.
Q. I know that you and Eagles defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon have blinders on this week, but given that he does have a head coaching interview coming up, what is your perspective on how ready he would be for that opportunity? (Bo Wulf)
NICK SIRIANNI: I really believe in Jonathan Gannon, the type of coach he is and the type of person he is. If I didn’t, there would be no way he’d be in this building.
I have so much confidence in him and so much faith in him, and I believe in him in the job that he can do as a football coach. I think he’d be a great head football coach in the NFL. I just think he has all the intangibles, all the qualities that I think you need to be a good head football coach. Jonathan has those things. Anything I can do to help him get ready, I will do because he deserves an opportunity.
Obviously, I would never want to lose Coach Gannon, but I think he’s more than ready to be a head football coach and he has all the qualities that you need.
Again, we’re all thinking about this game, and when it’s time to interview, when it’s time to do all those things, we’ll do those and think about that.
Q. I know it’s hypothetical, but do you have a rule on poaching guys from your staff? (Bo Wulf)
NICK SIRIANNI: [Jokingly] Yeah, don’t [laughter]. You know what, I haven’t talked to him about that, and I haven’t even really thought too much about that. But I love our staff, and I love the guys on this staff. [Jokingly] So, yeah, I’ll come up with a rule right now. He’s not allowed to [smiling].
Q. After the Washington game, you told us that Larry Kehres told you rain and a wet field is passing weather, which goes against conventional wisdom. Why is that? And does that also apply to wind as well? (Zach Berman)
NICK SIRIANNI: Wind is a little trickier because you have to be very alert of where the wind is and which way it’s blowing and all those different things. That factors into how you call the game. That factors into the different types of things, without getting too much into the part of the wind of what we do with the wind and without the wind. It factors into it because we think so much about the quarterback, obviously.
As far as why rain contributes to a good passing game in the rain. Now, there are some things that play into that. You have to have the right gloves on. You have to have the right cleats on, this and that. So that was always Coach Kehres’ first emphasis. Make sure we’re wearing the right gloves. Make sure we’re wearing the right cleats.
Back in my day, we had the Nike gloves, but when it started to rain and we were playing at Muskingum or John Carroll, we would have to take the Nike gloves off, and Coach Kehres would say put the Neumann gloves on. I don’t think they make Neumanns anymore.
His other point was this — and again, this is where I first heard it. We didn’t throw the ball a lot in high school, so I didn’t hear it in high school. He would say the offensive line has the advantage against the pass rush on a sloppy field when the field’s wet because the get off isn’t quite as quick. There is some slippage. It’s just advantage goes to the offensive line a little bit because it slows the pass rush down.
Then his other point was always defensive backs are reacting. Wide receivers know the route depth. They know if they’re breaking inside or breaking outside. They know if they’re going vertical. They know what release they’re going to use off the line of scrimmage. So, advantage goes back to the offense again on that.
And his point always there, — obviously, I played wide receiver for him. So, I heard more about that than anything. But then I coached for him, and I heard the whole thing. I remember him in rain games looking at my gloves, boom, make sure you have the right gloves on, cleats. But then really talking about fundamentals in a game that rained. He would talk about the top of the route, all the things that we always teach and he always taught at the top of the route, but emphasizing it a little bit more. Instead of three stutters to get out of a break, maybe you need four. I took three stutters or four stutters, [WR] DeVonta [Smith], he’s a professional, he better be able to get out of it in two stutters.
But those extra steps to get out of the break, maybe a little bit more — I don’t want to give that away because I think it’s giving too much. But just focusing more on the fundamentals. Again, I have some other things in my pocket that I don’t want to talk about for competitive reasons, but those were the main ones.
I appreciate you asking that question. I always like bragging on Coach Kehres. He was an unbelievable coach. I can’t say enough good things about Coach Kehres and everything that I learned from him that I’m still using 20 years later.