Roob’s Observations: How a clever compromise helped Nick Sirianni win over his players originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
This game may be meaningless, but these 10 Random Eagles Observations sure aren’t.
A pivotal moment for Nick Sirianni, a look back to an unforgettable Eagles-Cowboys game from the past, a remarkable Jason Kelce stat and tons more! Right here!
1. When I look back at the job Nick Sirianni has done this year, taking a train wreck of a four-win team, winning over the veterans, getting complete buy-in from all the players, building his culture a day at a time and squeezing nine wins and a playoff berth out of this roster in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year, a pivotal moment came in the middle of May, just a few months after he was hired. The NFLPA – the players’ union – had instructed its members in April to boycott spring OTAs, and the Eagles issued a statement saying they would comply. This was a big setback for Sirianni, who knew the tremendous value spring practices would have to a new team with new schemes and new coordinators. So he called his veterans. He offered a compromise. Instead of scattering around the country for Zoom meetings, the players would meet with their coaches and do conditioning work at the NovaCare Complex, they just wouldn’t have full-team OTA practices. The players agreed, and a bond was formed. The players realized Sirianni – who they barely knew – was looking out for their best interests while still trying to get them ready for the season. When I look at the remarkable relationship that’s grown between Sirianni and this Eagles roster, I believe that compromise – and the conversations that led to it – were critical in building the trust and communication that became the foundation of what this team has achieved.
2. Jordan Howard did not look right against Washington, and I have to think that neck injury was still a big issue. Howard was averaging 5.1 yards per carry when he got hurt against the Giants, but he was just 11-for-26 (2.4 yards per carry) against Washington and didn’t appear to have the power he usually has to carry tacklers a few extra yards after he gets hit. With Miles Sanders’ status up in the air for the wild-card round, Howard becomes a pretty important guy for the Eagles. As much as I like Boston Scott and appreciate his production went he plays, they need a healthy Sanders or Howard – ideally both – to have any chance to win a playoff game.
3. To put Jason Kelce’s streak of 121 consecutive regular-season starts in perspective, consider this: Kelce has started every game since Nov. 2, 2014. The next-longest streak among NFL interior linemen belongs to Buccaneers center Ryan Jensen, who’s started 80 straight games – every game since Sept. 10, 2017. Kelce’s streak is nearly three years longer.
READ: Eagles activate Jason Kelce from COVID reserve list
4. It’s crazy that the Eagles’ four potential playoff opponents – the Rams, Cowboys, Cards and Buccaneers – are each responsible for one of the Eagles’ most crushing postseason losses. The Rams came into the Vet in 1989 and pummeled the Eagles 21-7, the Cowboys have won three straight postseason games against the Eagles (by 24, 19 and 20 points), but the 2009 was particularly galling in Donovan McNabb’s final game in an Eagles uniform, the Cards beat the Eagles in the 2008 NFC Championship Game on the Rod Hood no-call on Kevin Curtis and the Bucs loss may have been the worst of all, 27-10 in the 2002 NFC Championship Game in the final game at the Vet (Blaine Bishop is still running after Joe Jurevicius). Look at the bright side: Whoever they face, they’ll have a chance to avenge a really bad loss.
5. If Derek Barnett doesn’t play Saturday night, and he probably won’t, he’ll finish the season with two sacks in 15 starts. That will make him only the 12th defensive end in NFL history drafted in the first half of the first round who started at least 15 games in any season and had two or fewer sacks. The last edge rusher to record that ignomineous achievement was Adam Carriker of the Washington Football Team in 2010.
6. If I was a coach, I would never play my starters in a meaningless game. The benefit of having a week off at the end of a long season far out outweighs any benefit of staying sharp by playing. When the Eagles clinched the No. 1 seed in 2004 with two games to go, Andy Reid rested just about everybody for the last two games of the season, which the Eagles lost. Then they had a bye week. So by the time the opened the playoffs against the Vikings, most of the regulars hadn’t played in a month. And they rolled. They were up 21-7 by the end of the second quarter. Teams fight all year for a bye week. If you have one handed to you, you have to take advantage of it.
7. Only two players drafted in the 7th round in the last 20 years have 20 or more career interceptions, and both were Eagles draft picks. Kurt Coleman, the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2010, had 21 interceptions in his career – seven as an Eagle, 11 as a Panther, three as a Chief – and Jordan Poyer, the Eagles’ 7th-round pick in 2013, has 20 – two with the Browns and 18 with the Bills, including five this year. Coleman and Poyer were teammates on the 2019 Bills.
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8. Jalen Hurts Stat of the Week: Hurts is only the 7th quarterback in NFL history who wasn’t drafted in the first round to have a winning record and lead his team to the playoffs before his 24th birthday (minimum 15 starts). In the last 20 years, the only other ones are Kyle Orton in 2005 and Dak Prescott in 2016.
9. Whenever the Eagles finish the season with the Cowboys I can’t help think back to 2008, when everything fell into place – the Bucs beat the Raiders, the – and all the Eagles needed to lock up an improbable playoff berth was a win at the Linc later in the day. Of course the Eagles won 44-6 and wound up reaching the NFC Championship Game. But the most amazing thing about that 44-6 win is that the Eagles had two fumble returns of 70 yards or more three minutes apart. With 11:23 left in the third quarter and the Eagles up 27-3, Brian Dawkins sacked Tony Romo, forcing a fumble. Chris Clemons recovered and ran 73 yards down the right sideline for a TD. On the Cowboys’ next possession, Dawk forced another fumble, this time on Marion Barber after a pass from Romo. Barber fumbled, Joselio Hanson recovered and raced 96 yards – down the right sideline – for another TD. The Eagles have only had 11 fumble recoveries of 70 yards or more in franchise history and they had two three minutes apart. Get this – that was the only time in the last 25 years there have been two 70-yard fumble recoveries anywhere in the NFL on the same day! No other team has ever had two 70-yard fumble recoveries in the same game. In fact no team since the 1998 Jaguars has had two in the same season! The Eagles did it three minutes apart.
10. Interesting to compare DeVonta Smith and Jordan Matthews’ rookie seasons. Matthews caught 67 passes for 872 yards and eight TDs with 16 catches of 20 yards or more in 2014, and Smith has 61 catches for 875 yards and five TDs with 15 catches of 20 yards or more this year. Very similar.