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Is it Fair to Speculate About Sirianni’s Future After the Embarrassing Eagles Loss?

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When the Philadelphia Eagles fired Doug Pederson in January of 2021, owner Jeffrey Lurie admitted that the former coach — who had led the team to three playoff appearances and a Super Bowl title in five years in his post — “did not deserve to be let go.”

Nick Sirianni USA Today

And yet, the Eagles made the decision to fire Pederson after a disastrous 2020 season because they didn’t believe in his vision for fixing the team. The 2020 Eagles only won four games all year, as many games as the Eagles won in the first month of the 2023 season. So 2020 and 2023 aren’t particularly similar seasons. But as the Giants — who entered Week 18 with just five wins on the season — inexplicably throttled the Eagles Sunday afternoon, you were left to wonder if Lurie will have a similar message in a few weeks about Nick Sirianni.

On the surface, it seems like an insane overreaction to fire Sirianni a year after the
Eagles went 14-3 and were narrowly defeated in the Super Bowl by the Kansas City Chiefs. But Pederson was fired three years after guiding the franchise to their first Super Bowl title, and just a year removed from an NFC East title. The recent history of this franchise tells you that they aren’t going to be overly sentimental about the past when deciding on what to do in the future.

It’s not just that the Eagles lost to the Giants Sunday, it’s the fashion that they lost in, with the game essentially over halfway through the second quarter. And that came a week after the lowly Arizona Cardinals came into Lincoln Financial Field and hung 35 on the Eagles. In fact, the Eagles lost five of their final six regular season games, putting up a disastrous point differential of -59 over that period.

If comparing the 2023 Eagles to the 2020 Eagles doesn’t really make sense, allow us to present an alternative — the 2014 Eagles. Coach Chip Kelly’s squad raced out to a 9-3 start, capped off by a 33-10 win in Dallas on Thanksgiving. And then the team collapsed, losing three of their last four games and missing the playoffs altogether.

After the season, significant changes were made. Kelly won a power struggle over general manager Howie Roseman, and seized control of player personnel, making sweeping changes to the roster. The changes were a disaster, and Kelly didn’t survive the next season, with the Eagles starting the 2015 season 6-9 and firing him before the final week of the regular season.

Sirianni has a Super Bowl appearance on his resume, and three playoff appearances in three years. If the Eagles go to Tampa Bay next week and are able to defeat the Buccaneers, that probably would silence any questions about Sirianni’s future. And for as impressive as they’ve been at times this season, quarterback baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers have scored a whopping 22 points over the last two weeks. This should be a winnable game — it’s not as though the Eagles are traveling to Foxborough to face the 2007 New England Patriots.

Then again, the same thing could have been said about even worse opponents in the Cardinals and Giants. The Eagles lost both of those games, and there’s not much reason to believe they will go to Raymond James Stadium next Monday and be able to flip the switch just because the postseason has started.

Related: Eagles Late-Season Collapse Cements Spot on Philly’s Wall of Shame

If the season does indeed end next weekend in the first round of the playoffs, Sirianni will be left to explain a few things. The first is how the Eagles should proceed at both coordinator positions, because it’s clear that both Brian Johnson and Sean Desai were whiffs. Matt Patricia doesn’t seem to have stabilized things defensively, although inserting him as the defensive play caller in mid-December never felt like a recipe for success.

Surely, though, Sirianni will be able to come up with some names for the two slots next season. Maybe his former boss in Indianapolis Frank Reich can be convinced to return as offensive coordinator of the Eagles, a post he held from 2016-2017 before becoming the coach of the Colts. Respectfully, it won’t be difficult for the offense to be more creative under a new coordinator next year than it has been with Johnson this year.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Sirianni is he can’t hang his hat on either side of the ball. He doesn’t have a defensive background, and was previously the offensive coordinator for the Colts. But he didn’t call plays in that role for the Colts, the aforementioned Reich did. Sirianni hasn’t called plays for the Eagles since halfway through the 2021 season when he delegated the responsibility to Shane Steichen. That worked for a year and a half, and nearly produced a Super Bowl title.

But then Steichen got a coaching job of his own, ironically with the Colts. And the Eagles to this point haven’t been able to replace him. Unless Sirianni resumes calling plays in 2024, the Eagles are doomed to repeat this cycle — if they find a good offensive coordinator, he’ll get plucked to be a coach and there’s no guarantee the successor is as capable.

In any event, Sirianni — even if it’s with the assistance of Lurie and Roseman — will probably be able to sell a plan on who his coordinators will be in 2024 that will help to right the ship.

The bigger question is how will he explain just how badly things have gotten off the tracks down the stretch? Sirianni will need to make a compelling argument why the Eagles are to believe that if he returns in 2024, there won’t be some carryover, as there was from 2014 to 2015 with Kelly.

Related: Eagles Open as Favorites vs. Bucs in NFC Wild Card

There’s no question the Eagles had an extremely difficult stretch in their schedule that included two meetings with the Dallas Cowboys, along with tilts against the Kansas City Chiefs, Buffalo Bills, San Francisco 49ers and Seattle Seahawks. But since then, they’ve had three games against bottom-10 teams — two against the Giants, and one against the Cardinals. Most playoff teams would have rattled off three straight wins heading into the postseason. The Eagles lost two of the three, looking dysfunctional even in the Christmas Day win over the Giants.

Sirianni Provides Insights on NFL Hiring Season: ‘It’s Just the Way It Is’

Sirianni will have to convince Lurie and Roseman that not only can he rebuild his staff, but that he’ll be able to keep the train on the tracks moving forward. If not, he may be in danger of losing his job. Sirianni being fired after three playoff appearances in three years might not be fair, but that hasn’t stopped the Eagles before.

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