PHILADELPHIA - The whole rock-paper-scissors competition was a fun story, and Nick Sirianni’s revelation he has played that age-old game with his players is a theme that will be touched on again and again as this season rolls along and may even be dusted off a time or two in the years to come depending on the staying power of the Eagles head coach.
Sort of like the gold standard line that owner Jeffrey Lurie tossed out there earlier this century, and the image conjured by GM Howie Roseman when he talked about being a quarterback factory to justify his selection of Jalen Hurts in the 2020 draft.
There’s really no better way to prepare for a season, however than on-field work, and that’s why it felt like a bombshell when the Eagles revealed that their offseason spring work would be devoid of any 11-on-11 or 7-on-7 drills.
It was a compromise reached between Sirianni and his players.
Having talked to some of the players involved in the decision and hearing the justification for not having any team drills or mandatory minicamp, well, it sort of, kind of makes sense, even for an old-school guy like myself.
Spring is now the time for classwork, installation, and drilling down to the core of fundamentals and technique, a pair of elements Sirianni has promised will be his calling card for this team and any others to come.
“There’s enough time here to get installed what we need to have installed before the games really start happening,” said center Jason Kelce, one of the players involved in discussions with Sirianni to arrive at the compromise. “There’s more than enough time and more than enough opportunities to build this thing and get it dialed in for this season.”
Indeed, there are going to be actual preseason games this year after last summer when COVID-19 prevented any of those from taking place.
And how refreshing will it be to see those exhibition games again, after a lifetime of saying how meaningless they are and how nobody watches?
They may actually draw high ratings now, those “meaningless” games, of which the Eagles are scheduled to play three, against the Steelers and Patriots at Lincoln Financial Field and another on the road vs. the New York Jets.
So, spring feels like a good of a time as any to polish the details then when training camp arrives in late July, take that into team drills and see how it translates.
“(Sirianni) has really talked about technique and fundamentals being such a big part of his coaching style and his methods,” said Kelce. “That’s what we’re working on right now, maybe it’s not in a 7-on-7, 11-on-11 live period, but sometimes the best way to work on those fundamentals and those techniques is to really hone them in with your position coaches, really do them in controlled situations and then you take it to a competitive situation.
“I think this could actually be beneficial with the way Nick’s philosophy works and what he believes in. I’m sure we’ll find ways to compete in these weeks. Obviously won’t be with those two periods but we’ll still find a way to try and beat each other, there’s no doubt about that.”
That’s where rock-paper-scissors come in.
There are also other ways of stoking competition.
The Eagles' longest-tenured player, Brandon Graham, revealed that there are basketball hoops in team meeting rooms, sort of like the Pop-a-Shot machine that was in the Eagles’ locker room during the Super Bowl-winning season of 2017, an area of the room that got pretty lively after practices.
There is also a ping-pong table in the players’ lounge.
“Absolutely you feel the energy in the building, always with a new coaching staff,” said defensive lineman Fletcher Cox. “The biggest thing for me is that every new coach in this organization is making sure that I connect, especially with the head coach, connect with him, then connect with the position coach, then connect with the D coordinator.
“Just get to know everybody. You want to connect with those guys because we’re here, we’re all together ow, we’re a family now, we’re a team. We’re going to go through some ups and down so lets’ get this connection going right now. that’s the important part for me is getting that connection with the coaching staff.”
Now, is the time for it.
It will change in training camp, and it will be then that whatever is gleaned during this three-week spring workout program has taken root.
“I could tell you right now, just from being in meetings with these guys, like I've been extremely pleased with the mindset of our guys,” said defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon. “All of them were here this whole week, so we had the attendance or whatever - I'm not counting numbers, but they're all there when they don't have to be, which is awesome.
“It speaks to the character of the team and the defense. I told them (Thursday) that I was thankful for them being here because the best part about our jobs is the players. It was really cool this week, and I'm looking forward to the next two weeks of what we can get done before we get back here at the end of July.”
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.