The Nick Sirianni Hiring Is All About Carson Wentz

Rather than bringing in an experienced hand to manage the locker room, the Eagles are going with the 39-year-old who’s never been a play-caller, making the priority clear: save Carson Wentz.
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You can look at the Eagles’ hiring of Nick Sirianni in a few different ways.

Maybe this hire is about conjuring the past, which is not an unfamiliar reflex for Philadelphia’s sentimental ownership. Sirianni is the top lieutenant of Frank Reich, who was inarguably the most underrated component of Philadelphia’s Super Bowl run and they certainly wish Reich was still around. Sirianni, too, is a young, promising quarterbacks coach who never held a play calling position in the NFL before, just like Andy Reid. Take a drink every time that is mentioned before his opening press conference and you’ll end up melting your liver.

Maybe it’s about the state of the roster. Age, specifically, in addition to coaching ability might be important because the Eagles are about to endure a choppy rebuild as the core veteran pillars of Super Bowl LII begin to vanish from future salary cap calculations. Having a young (39) coach with fresh ideas on a roster full of young players might be good for business.

Maybe it’s just another lever turn in the great NFL buddy system, where friends of friends often find their resumes at the top of the pile.

The one thing we can be 100% sure about? This hire had a lot to do with Carson Wentz. Fixing Carson Wentz. Empowering Carson Wentz. Letting the rest of the people who plan to stick around know that they better work alongside Carson Wentz. Not kowtowing to his franchise quarterback and playing Jalen Hurts felt like the final crack in whatever working relationship former head coach Doug Pederson had with his owner and general manager. Bringing in the guy who was mentored by the guy who last got the most out of Wentz says all it needs to say.

It’s an interesting place to be for a relatively green coach stepping into a powerful position for the first time. Not only are you asking him to do something that Pederson, a former NFL quarterback himself and a Reid disciple, struggled mightily to do, but you’re also asking him to elevate Wentz alongside a roster that will be rightfully suspicious of everything. For a while, the Eagles’ coaching search seemed to have an undercurrent of required experience. Patriots offensive coordinator (and former head coach) Josh McDaniels. Saints defensive coordinator (and former head coach) Dennis Allen. Buccaneers defensive coordinator (and former head coach) Todd Bowles. The reason this made sense was that all of them have made fairly significant mistakes in their coaching lives and have a plan to correct that wrong. Talking to a head coach on his way out the door of his first (and possibly only) crack at a head coaching job is like talking to one of the most enlightened people in the universe. The good ones see the error in their ways; why they spent too much time in the quarterback room, things they should have said, things they should not have said.

The emotionally dormant volcano that is the Eagles locker room felt like the right place for that kind of seasoning. The priority could have been healing and rebuilding with a fresh slate. And even if Sirianni won the job in part for being some great soothsayer, it’s unlikely the rest of his new players will interpret it that way.

So it goes for the Eagles, who have sent a message to the rest of the league that they still believe in Wentz and are now stockpiling all of the resources to legitimize that belief. Their divisional foes, the Giants, once did the same thing over the course of two head coaches, a handful of offensive coordinators and quarterbacks coaches, and the drafting of a running back with the No. 2 overall pick, to affirm a belief in a quarterback. That set the franchise back. Other teams have frantically shredded anyone and everyone who wasn’t poised to help the franchise quarterback and have found some modicum of success, though the end result rarely outweighs all of the tangential damage done.

This is the challenge for Sirianni, to make it feel less about the quarterback even if that’s not really true.