The bye week is awful. The bye week is great. It’s extremely boring to spend the entire week with nothing to anticipate, it’s like spending the day in a waiting room but without actually waiting for anything. But it’s also great because on Sunday you have no worries. The Eagles spend several weeks a year disappointing us, they can not do that this week. Consider it fall break.
It also gives us some time to reflect.
Sirianni is the best coach of the 2021 cycle
If it takes three years to find out if a player is good, then the same should generally be true of coaches. And if so, then we’re near enough the midterm for the coaches hired in 2021. So far, Nick Sirianni is the best of them. He’s already outlasted two, Urban Meyer and David Culley.
One judge of the quality of a coach—among several—is: does the team he left miss him? This is an imperfect evaluation, a good assistant coach can be replaced by another good assistant coach; or a bad assistant coach can be replaced by another bad assistant coach who just happens to have better players. The notion that Doug Pederson was something approaching helpless without Frank Reich was silly, but the Eagles were definitely worse off without Reich.
Using this gauge, the early returns on Robert Saleh, Brandon Staley, and Dan Campbell aren’t good. Saleh has spent this season telling reporters he’s “keeping receipts” on the Jets doubters and inadvertently admitting that on a daily basis players are asking off his team. His replacement in San Francisco, DeMeco Ryans, is next on the coaching carousel, it is fair to say the 49ers don’t miss Saleh. Brandon Staley’s most positive contribution as a head coach is to raise awareness of the existence of probabilities when discussing his fourth down attempts. The Chargers aren’t much better off than they were before hiring him, while his previous employer just won the Super Bowl without him. Dan Campbell has done nothing to dissuade those who thought he was a laughing stock, and if you can tell me what exactly he did as the Assistant Head Coach and Tight Ends coach with the Saints, I will give you $5. (No actual money will be paid out.)
Two coaches pass this test: Arthur Smith and Nick Sirianni. Smith appears to be an excellent play caller, he’s gotten blood out of the stone that is the Falcons offense, turning Cordarrelle Patterson into an effective weapon and going 10-13 with a team that has little business being competitive. And the Titans offense has struggled mightily without him, though certainly an ineffective Derrick Henry is a major cause. But Smith also looks like the next in a line of millennial coaches who bring nothing more to the table besides Xs and Os. Smith handles media criticism with the grace and charm of the billionaire’s son that he is.
Which brings us to Nick Siranni. The jury is still out on if Sirianni was a home run hire, but to drag out the baseball analogy, he’s at least a double in class full of singles hitters and strikeout machines. His team exceeded expectations last year, which raised them this year, and he’s once again exceeding them this season. In his biggest test to date he coached the pants off the vaunted Cowboys defense and Dan Quinn. Because the Colts have a ton of problems it would be unfair to say losing Nick Sirianni is the root of all of them, but they’re definitely worse off without him.
It sure seems like the Eagles have gotten another coaching hire right. They’ve also gotten next to nothing out of something this season, but it’s okay.
The rookies have done next to nothing. And that’s good.
There are many marks of a good team. Having the best record in the league at this stage of the season is one of them. Another indication of the quality of a team is that their rookies can’t get on the field because they’re buried on the depth chart. The Eagles have that going for them too, only Jordan Davis has seen meaningful playing time.
Making five draft picks plays a part in this, it is hard to make a contribution if you don’t exist. But the team does have nine rookies, more than the Super Bowl favorite Bills and the Super Bowl finalist Bengals, and as many as the defending champion Rams. And we can not overlook that perhaps the rest of the rookies just aren’t good enough.
But for now the reason they can’t get on the field is that really is just that there isn’t any room for them. We always knew it would take an injury for Cam Jurgens to see the field. Nakobe Dean had instant “steal of the draft” potential however you’re not taking Kyzir White or TJ Edwards off the field for him. Even if the Eagles had a deep draft and added talent at every position, where would playing time come besides as injury cover?
This is a really good team.
Marcus Smith takes us behind the curtain
On the subject of rookies who don’t contribute, if you missed it you should read this piece on Marcus Smith by Les Bowen. It is an excellent and sobering reminder of the realities of the NFL.
In our conversation, Smith spoke of his early days with the Eagles, and an unnamed coach on Chip Kelly’s staff who told him, “You know what you have to worry about? You have to worry about being a first-round bust.”
Players say that the best coaches know how to talk to motivate each of their players, know that what works with one guy won’t work with another. That’s what you hear whenever you ask players about the Eagles’ much-lauded offensive line coach, Jeff Stoutland. Smith didn’t get that sort of coaching with the Eagles, it sounds like. He got coaching that poured gasoline on the fire of his anxiety.
“For me, that actually belittled who I was, and actually took some confidence away from who I was, at that moment,” he said.
There is so much that goes on behind the curtain that we will never know about and can not measure anyway. It did not help Smith that he was part of a panic move, when the Eagles were on the clock all the guys they wanted were off the board so they traded back to buy time to regroup and then settled on him. That became a massive fracture point between the front office and coaching staff and created resentment that led to Howie Roseman’s removal as GM.
And it appears it caused the coaches to not do their job. Maybe Smith could have had a solid if unnoteworthy career if his coaches were actually coaching him rather than using him as an outlet to vent frustration.
Stat of the Week That Will Interest Everyone
Let’s not end on a downer. Here’s a fun fact!
Entering Week 7, the Eagles lead the league with 6 wins, and are dead last in losses with 0.
And that is going to be true entering Week 8. I guarantee it.