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McCaffery: Eagles about to find out if Sirianni has a winning plan

An artist, a scholar, a poet of great wisdom, it was Mike Tyson who once provided one of the most famous quotations in sports history.

“Everybody has a plan,” he once famously said, “until they get punched in the mouth.”

Nick Sirianni has a plan for the Eagles, detailed and fresh, an upgrade the organization obviously prefers over Doug Pederson’s approach. It’s the one he unloaded on the New England Patriots under cover at the NewsControl Compound. It’s the one he showed a week later, under the cover of essential secrecy in joint workouts with the Jets.

In about two weeks, though, Sirianni will be made to leave the gym, stop abusing the speed bag, and climb through the NFL ropes. For that, he should be hearing Mike Tyson’s warning in the back of his head.

It’s about to be different.

It’s about to be shocking and fast and violently different.

And there is no indication Sirianni is ready for what is about to hit, for he has made it his policy to give no indication that he is ready for what is about to hit.

Maybe Sirianni, 39, can navigate a team through an NFL regular season. Jeffrey Lurie believes so, and it’s his money. This much, though, is bankable: Penny-ante controlled scrimmages against opponents trying to work themselves into shape is insufficient preparation for an entry-level head coach.

It has been said that in sports, the most difficult move to make is sliding one chair over from assistant coach to head coach, particularly on game days. Sirianni was an offensive coordinator for the Colts, so he does have an awareness of the haste in which plays must be called. But he was an assistant to an offensive-minded head coach, Frank Reich, who really didn’t need much in-game counsel.

While supported, of course, by a full staff of assistants, it’s about to be Sirianni’s game-day call whether to try a fourth-down play or punt, whether or not to pull a cornerback out of the game because he looked a tenth-of-a-second slow on consecutive plays, which way the wind is blowing before a field goal attempt, when to request a replay, when to work an official, when to relax.

Will he be ready?

Can he be ready?

Those questions do apply to every first-time head coach, and the Eagles have been successful with a few, including Pederson and Andy Reid. But they never passed on as much practical preparation as Sirianni did in his dismissal of any preseason-game value.

Sirianni’s reluctance to give Jalen Hurts practical, on-field time was exposed as risky when the second-year quarterback reported a stomach ailment that cost him what would have been his final preseason start. By then, it was too late. There will be a fee for that — a botched play, a misread, a pulled muscle, something. Those terms were acceptable, though, to Sirianni, who was willing to sacrifice some early-season precision in exchange for relatively full health of his players.

So that’s understood: The Eagles will not be fully conditioned for Week 1 action, yet they won’t be too inconvenienced, either, by over-taped knees or ankles. Less clear is whether the dismissal of the exhibitions as annoyances left Sirianni in a fantasy world, convinced that Sept. 12 in Atlanta he will have himself ready to perform at the sport’s highest level.

Playing make-believe as a head coach for three games, ordering few (if any) blitzes, exposing few (if any) thinking-man’s plays and relieving himself of the burden to wander into any pressure situations was a risk. How big a risk? One way or another, he is about to find out.

“You’re always going to be like, ‘Hey, we’ve got more work to do, we’ve got more work to do, we’ve got more work to do,’” Sirianni said during training camp. “And I think anybody that’s in a growth mindset is going to think that way.”

Nick Sirianni will have time to prove himself as an NFL head coach. He won’t be judged after one game, one month or even one year. It will take a full season and one game (not two) before any conclusion is justified. But that over-reliance on minimum-contact dress rehearsals, even if respected spies did insist the Eagles played quite splendidly, is dangerous for a coach about to enter his first for-keeps game.

Asked the other day if he has, as most coaches do, a scripted set of first-quarter plays, Sirianni was basically evasive, keeping that as protected as those underground practice.

“You want to get to a fast start,” he allowed. “There’s a lot of things that you like and you think are going to work out well, and that’s kind of how we think through it. There is a lot of different things we look at of how we want to start a game, how we want to marry things together.”

So the good news for Eagles fans is that their coach has a plan.

The bad news is that everybody does.

Contact Jack McCaffery at


Source: Berkshire mont

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