By Colin Newby
Nick Sirianni earned the respect of his players and the fan base with a 9-8 record and a playoff appearance during his first season as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
He made the proper adjustments to his offensive game plan to help his team rebound from a 2-5 start to win seven out of nine games and clinch a playoff spot heading into the final week of the regular season.
Despite the respectable finish, the Eagles were never serious Super Bowl contenders. They fell flat in an NFC Wild Card Round loss against an undeniably superior opponent in the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The perception of success was relative to Sirianni’s first season, and significant progress needs to be made in 2022.
General manager Howie Roseman spoke in January about room for improvement and higher expectations in the future.
“We are not happy about the fact that our season ended in the playoffs. We want to build a team that has home playoff games, gets to play in front of our fan base.”
Roseman’s comments set a higher standard for Sirianni in his second season as an NFL head coach. A winning streak against lesser opponents with toothless quarterback play during the second half of the 2021 season was a good starting point, but a 9-8 record and a lifeless exit in the NFC Wild Card Round won’t look impressive in 2022.
The two most successful Eagles coaches of the modern era made significant jumps in their second seasons that helped to define their respective tenures. Andy Reid led the Eagles to a 5-11 record in his rookie year in 1999, but his 2000 team announced a new era with an 11-5 finish and the franchise’s first playoff victory in five years. The Eagles matched or exceeded the win total and won at least one playoff game in each of the next four seasons.
Doug Pederson came out the gates in 2016 with a 7-9 finish during a transition season, but his fearless coaching style in 2017 made an indelible impact in the franchise’s only Super Bowl season.
Sirianni outdid Reid and Pederson with a playoff appearance in his first season, but he will look to join the ranks of the franchise’s best coaches by making the same type of leap in his second season.
Sirianni, Hurts Tied Together
Some of the NFL’s best coaches haven’t been able to escape the reality that they are only as good as their starting quarterbacks, especially in their first job. Bill Belichick finished under .500 in four of his five seasons as head coach of the Cleveland Brown from 1991-1995. Tony Dungy couldn’t break through in the postseason in four appearances with the Buccaneers. Neither team boasted a star quarterback.
Belichick moved to his second job with the New England Patriots and won six Super Bowls with Tom Brady under center. Dungy moved to the Indianapolis Colts to team up with Peyton Manning for a storybook Super Bowl victory after the 2006 season.
Reid sustained long-term success with Donovan McNabb as the unquestioned franchise quarterback, and Pederson benefitted from the outstanding play of both Carson Wentz and Nick Foles when the team was at its best during his five-year tenure.
The Eagles will enter 2022 with Jalen Hurts as their starting quarterback. The third-year pro will need to develop his ability as a passer to create a sustainable, long-term blueprint for success.
The ability of Hurts and Sirianni to find the correct formula for success on offense will define the 2022 season and the future direction of the franchise.