Instead of being a calming presence to a fan base desperately needing one, Sirianni handled his first news conference like a nervous high school student in the early stages of a public-speaking class. He looked at his notes often but struggled to follow them, closing his eyes at points and repeating words. Days later, The Philadelphia Inquirer published a column titled: “Nick Sirianni Is the Eagles’ Newest Puppet, a Cross Between Barney Fife and Pinocchio.”
“I’ve been covering Eagles coaches’ news conferences for half a century, so I’ve seen them all. I’ve never seen one get off to a worse start than Nick Sirianni’s,” Ray Didinger, a sportswriter who covered the Eagles for decades, said on a podcast. “You can look back on it and laugh, but nobody was laughing then.”
As the 2021 season began, Sirianni did not do much to help himself. The Eagles started the season 2-5, their worst start since 1999. During a news conference in the days after the poor start, Sirianni told reporters that he showed the team a picture of a flower that was ready to bloom and described how, despite the team’s poor record, its figurative roots were growing. Fans and pundits criticized Sirianni for comparing the football team to a delicate flower, and weeks later, after a home loss to the Chargers in Week 9, someone threw a bouquet at him.
Then there are the T-shirts. So many T-shirts. In what seemed to be an attempt to pander to the fan base, Sirianni wore specially designed T-shirts displaying Eagles players’ faces or local lingo. There was one with quarterback Jalen Hurts, another with receiver DeVonta Smith and another with the popular “no one likes us, and we don’t care” phrase that the Eagles used during their Super Bowl run in the 2017 season. The one that caused the biggest stir, however, was Sirianni’s “Beat Dallas” shirt, which he wore the week leading up to the first Eagles-Cowboys game in Week 3. The Eagles were blown out, 41-21.
Sirianni apologized to his team this season before playing Dallas in Week 6. The Eagles won, 26-17. “This was stupid on my part last year,” Sirianni said while holding up the T-shirt and throwing it to the side in a team meeting.
Beyond banishing the shirt, much has changed this year for Sirianni. No one is throwing flowers at him, and he is loved by Eagles fans and hated by others for his sideline antics.