PHILADELPHIA - It’s Nick Sirianni’s 40th birthday and I found the perfect gift for the Eagles’ rookie coach - a neatly-wrapped present of low expectations.
Over the past several weeks a number of national outlets and pundits have unveiled their early 2021 power rankings and every one of them has Philadelphia as the bottom feeder - the worst team in arguably the NFL’s worst division.
To be fair, when you consider the Eagles were exactly that in 2020 and an ugly four-win season cost Doug Pederson his job and had Carson Wentz pulling every conceivable lever he had to abandon ship, it’s not an unreasonable stance to take.
The pessimism, though, is superficial and can be traced to two things that are tethered to that 2020 performance - the inexperienced quarterback and the new coach.
No one outside the Delaware Valley - maybe with the obvious exceptions like Lincoln Riley and Frank Reich - believes in either Jalen Hurts or Sirianni.
And there’s not much substance behind the critique other than the default setting of pedigree for Hurts and the assumption any rookie coach is up against it, especially ones who come across a little overmatched in press conferences.
“I think it’s pretty much it,” Newsday NFL columnist Bob Glauber told SI.com’s Eagle Mavin via BIRDS 365 on Tuesday when asked if the negativity surrounding the Eagles right now is tied to the coach and the QB.
With Hurts, the question is the talent level, according to Glauber, who was recently honored with the PFWA’s Career Achievement Award.
“I love Jalen Hurts as a competitor, loved him at Alabama and how he handled himself,” Glauber said. “Just all class and you root for a guy like that. I just don’t know about the talent. You know, the NFL talent level of a Jalen Hurts. Can it sustain him? The answer is no right now but show me.”
As for the freshman calling the shots, it’s about the unknown and the personality.
“Sirianni is just an unknown quantity - entity - where nobody’s heard of him,” Glauber said. “Now nobody heard of Andy Reid before he got there and he went on to a Hall of Fame career so this can happen and just because you haven’t heard of someone doesn’t mean they can’t succeed.”
The deeper critiques of the Eagles might point to the offensive and defensive lines being potential top 10 units if all things go to plan.
Right now, however, Sirianni is not expected to do much in what already has been labeled a transition year by team owner Jeffrey Lurie.
“Now Sirianni with that first press conference if off to a little bit of a rocky start,” Glauber said. “It takes a little time to get over that, especially nationally, guys around can say ‘OK, he’s gonna settle into it,' but it is a league of coaches and quarterbacks.
"It’s just gotten that way more and more over the years when offenses are carrying the day in terms of how games are played.”
Add in the Vegas over/under win total of 6.5 in a now 17-game season and it will only take mediocrity by Sirianni to outperform what’s supposed to happen.
For NFL coaches, that’s a Godsend.
Take Pederson as an example of the other end of the spectrum. As a Super Bowl LII champion, the former Eagles head coach had gone from punch line to unrealistic expectations faster than a Porsche can hit 60.
The four-win season got Pederson the pink slip.
The same result would put Sirianni on the clock in 2022 but also a mulligan from Lurie, and while there would be more than a few haughty, I told you so's from the pundits, that would come with a year of experience, a firm understanding of the foundational pieces on hand, and extensive draft capital as well as the salary-cap room to turn things around in 2022.
The catch here is my gift has to be used over the next 365 days.
Here’s hoping Sirianni's 41st birthday gift isn’t a travel planner.
“It is a league of coaches and quarterbacks,” said Glauber. “Questions about both of those for the Eagles and I don’t think those questions will be answered in a positive way until they can go out and prove that they can win games and win games consistently.”
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 and please follow him on Twitter: @kracze.