PHILADELPHIA - It’s that time of year around the NFL.
Earlier this week Eagles offensive coordinator Shane Steichen joked that there is no time to shave as preparation for the Atlanta Falcons in Week 1 kicked into high gear, and Nick Sirianni began the Wednesday press conference of his first game week as an NFL coach by being asked if he’s getting enough sleep.
The rookie mentor was a bit taken aback that the big, bad Philadelphia media would be concerned about him getting his eight hours but this was the beat that was introduced to sleep monitors, at least for the players, by Chip Kelly.
“I laughed and chuckled at that,” Sirianni smiled when discussing his rest habits. “The more I'm around the game, the more I've learned that you do have to be fresh to come in here and have your mind working right.
“So, I kind of laugh about sleep, but also know it's important. But we have a job to do, and we have a limited amount of time to get everything done we need to get done. So that's first.”
Despite his still somewhat youthful age - Sirianni turned 40 back in June - the Eagles’ new head coach certainly comes across as more old school than new age, more the sleep-in-the-office type than taking the doctor’s-advice-to-recharge-the batteries guy, and perhaps most importantly, more football feel than data-driven.
“We try to do everything in a way where we're not wasting time, where we're very efficient with what we do and can get a lot of information watched and talked about,” the coach explained.
To date, Sirianni has gotten mostly positive reviews after recovering nicely from his introductory press conference where nerves in a virtual setting were overanalyzed.
A winless preseason meant nothing with Sirianni following an organizational directive to prioritize health above all else.
By Sunday, though, everyone is keeping score and it’s fair to wonder if Sirianni is putting too much on his own shoulders.
Outside of Jonathan Gannon piloting the defense, Steichen running the offensive meetings, and the occasional mention of right-hand man Kevin Patullo, the passing game coordinator, or assistant head coach/running backs Jemal Singleton, Sirianni is hesitant to offer up clearly defined roles when it comes to game-planning or game management.
Doug Pederson divvied up situations among his assistants who would then filter things through the OC and then finally to Pederson, who would finish the game plan and approve the call sheet.
Sirianni likely does something similar because the finishing touches on his prep to become a head coach came at the right hand of Frank Reich, Pederson’s former No. 2 in Philadelphia.
If something goes wrong on third downs, red-zone situations, or short-yardage, however, Sirianni wants fingers only pointed at him.
“Everything is together,” Sirianni told SI.com’s Eagle Maven when asked how he delegates game-planning work. “There is just nothing – if I'm going to call the game, it's going to be really hard for me to hand anything out to somebody without my hand on it.”
If things turn bad that’s going to be called micromanaging and if things hum along nicely Sirianni will likely become more willing to open up.
“I like to do it together," he said. "I like to all be in the same room so we know how everyone's thinking, and that's everything. That's run game, that’s screens, that’s first and second down, that’s third down, that’s red zone, that’s tight red zone runs, that’s low red-zone runs, that’s two-minute, that’s four-minute, it's backed up.
“We're going to do everything together.”
That tactic is a little counterintuitive to Sirianni’s point about taking advantage of the time he does have, something even the coach admitted.
“It goes a little bit longer, you get a little bit less sleep that way, but if you're going to call the game, I just think you have to have your hand in everything and understand the why behind why you're calling everything,” he said. “And that's just really important to me and the way I've always operated in this game-planning thing.”
In situations like practice, the goal is to work smarter not harder but that doesn't sound like the case in game prep when it comes to the coaching staff.
As far as game management, Sirianni admitted he’s going to have help when it comes to timing issues and rule challenges but again didn’t want to go on the record with who is going to be in his ear with the most likely candidates being Patullo on the former and Jon Ferrari, the team’s vice president of football operations and compliance, on the latter.
“I have a couple guys that are helping me out with that,” Sirianni said. “But at the end of the day, everything I get is going to fall on me. That's just my role as the head coach, that no matter what happens in the building, I'm going to lean on people that are experts in the things, but I know ultimately at the end of the day, everything and every decision is on me.”
Shouldering the load alone can seem pious but it carries with it a heavy burden that far exceeds a few lost hours of sleep.
-John McMullen contributes Eagles coverage for SI.com's EagleMaven and is the NFL Insider for JAKIB Media. You can listen to John, alongside legendary sports-talk host Jody McDonald every morning from 8-10 on ‘Birds 365,” streaming live on both PhillyVoice.com and YouTube. John is also the host of his own show "Extending the Play" on AM1490 in South Jersey. You can reach him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Ed Kracz is the publisher of SI.com’s Eagle Maven and co-host of the Eagles Unfiltered Podcast. Check out the latest Eagles news at www.SI.com/NFL/Eagles or www.eaglemaven.com and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.