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Nick Sirianni accepts blame for DeVonta Smith not being involved earlier

The Eagles head coach also talks Jalen Reagor’s muffed punt, and why they kept him as a returner afterward.

And just like that, the Eagles’ season is over.

Head coach Nick Sirianni spoke to reporters following their 31-15 loss to the Buccaneers, in what was a pretty lackluster showing that highlighted more than a few issues they need to address this offseason. Still, they were able to make it to the postseason after starting the season 2-5 with a first-time head coach and second-year QB.

Sirianni said that it definitely hurts, though, because the goal isn’t just to get into the playoffs, and they wanted to come in and do some damage. Whenever it doesn’t go as planned, and the season is just over, it always hurts. But, he considers the season a journey, and that’s something they have to appreciate — everything that built them into the team they were this season.

Here’s what the head coach had to say:

“We know you can’t make mistakes like that in the playoffs against a really good football team, and we did. I don’t want to say that the moment got too big for [the players], I just think we made some mistakes — coaching, it always starts with me as a coach, there were some coaching mistakes, and there’s gonna be some guys that are going to want some plays back out there. But, I didn’t feel and I didn’t sense for a moment that the moment was too big for them.”

As for what mistakes the coaches made specifically, Sirianni pointed to the fact that the Bucs scored 17 points in the first half and the Eagles had 0 points, so they clearly weren’t putting the players in positions to make plays.

“I thought the defensive game plan for Tampa was pretty good, with some of the run blitzes they had on. And there were some things — we would’ve liked to have more runs early on, but you have to adjust to the way they’re blitzing things off the edge, and some of the answers sometimes is to just spit a look out off to the side. I think there was probably four or five runs that we ended up getting out of, and they did a good job — and we spit it out to the perimeter because of their run blitz — and they did a good job of rallying to it. So, I take that responsibility, we weren’t good enough with our answers to some of the run blitzes.”

On Jalen Hurts’ and his performance

“We weren’t as crisp as we needed to be on offense. I thought there was some good zone read things that he did, and read it pretty well. A couple of the early things that happened, like some of the early third downs, I don’t think were necessarily his fault of what happened. Again, I’ll have to watch the tape through it. It’s not going to come out as his best graded game — it’s not going to come out as a lot of our guys’ best graded game.”

As for what this game means for Hurts’ future, Sirianni acknowledged that they’ll all admit this wasn’t his best performance, but his whole body of work this season speaks more than just the last game he played. He felt like the QB grew throughout the year, and he developed as a passer, he got better at reading the defense and making his progressions, and he got better at making decisions about extending plays with his legs.

“I thought he had a great year, and he came a long way. And that’s what I expect from Jalen just because of the type of football character that he has, the type of character that he has, the toughness that he has, the lover for football that he has. I can’t say enough good things about Jalen the player — the person and the player. So, I feel good about him.”

On not getting DeVonta Smith involved earlier

“Early on, again you always want to get your playmakers going as early as you can, but again the defense dictates some of that and the amount of plays we had dictates some of that. We really didn’t have a good drive until — what was it, our third or fourth drive — maybe it was our fourth drive where it was a sustained drive. But, no doubt, it’s my job to get DeVonta going earlier, because he’s a heck of a football player. And of course we wanted to get him going, but there’s some different things that play into that, but I’ll accept that. That starts with me, regardless of how the drives are going.”

Sirianni also noted that there were some plays called for Smith early on, but the defense forced the ball to go somewhere else.

On Jalen Reagor’s muffed punt

“The muffed punt right there, the wind had messed with him a bit earlier in the game, and it looked like he came up — again, I’ll have to look at the tape, exactly what happened.”

The head coach mentioned that at that point in the game he was going over to talk about the defense, so he didn’t get a chance to talk to special teams coordinator Michael Clay about what exactly happened. From his perspective, though, it looked like Reagor just misjudged it.

“Whenever you have a mistake like that, that’s a big mistake, you’re always going to be like, ‘What’s the next approach?’ Does Greg Ward go back there — well Greg Ward had back spasms and he was out. So, we would’ve explored that option. He got another opportunity, made a good play, but then he made a mistake again on that. And, he’s going to want those plays back, and we’ll get back to the drawing board and fix those things, but as far as why we stayed with Jalen — I’m glad he made a play after that, again not happy with the one after the play that he made, but it was moreso about Greg being out.”

Other notables

  • Sirianni was asked how being down 17 points affects their run-first style of offense. He talked about while it’s not ideal, they’ve shown this season they are also an explosive offense, even though they’re run-first, so he didn’t feel the stress until they were down by 24 — until then, he felt they could just run their offense.
  • The head coach admitted that you never want to start a game slow, but there’s also less margin for error in the playoffs, and that’s something they talked about. They emphasized all season that assignments and technique are important, but they’re even more important when the playoffs come, and so, the mistakes get amplified.

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