Concerns in the locker room?
One thing that comes with the territory of hiring a new head coach — be it in the NFL or otherwise — is the conversation of players “buying in” or not. Can the coach effectively lead the team?
If former NFL fullback Mike Robinson is to be believed, not everyone in the Philadelphia Eagles’ locker room is necessarily buying what Nick Sirianni is selling. Robinson said the following in a recent appearance on NFL Network:
“To me, the biggest obstacle is: do we even really know the head coach, Nick Sirianni? Right? Like, when we talk about quarterbacks wanting to go to Indy last year, and the previous years, it wasn’t like they were going there because of Nick Sirianni. They were going there because of Frank Reich. So, I don’t know if he’s a quarterback whisperer or an offensive guru or whatever the case may be. But it just doesn’t seem like he is that guy. It seemed like Frank Reich was calling plays and Frank Reich was the juice behind that offense.
So, I think it’s about this team getting to know Nick Sirianni. I’m not going to say any names, but I know some guys in that locker room who question this guy and they question whether he can truly lead this team.
And my personal thoughts on it, maybe Howie Roseman wanted to put a ‘yes man’ in the head coaching position because Doug Pederson didn’t want to do things all the way his way, so he wanted to get a ‘yes man’ there. At least, that’s what it looks like to me.”
It’s worth noting that Robinson isn’t typically as much of a news-breaker as he is an analyst. It’s not like this is Adam Schefter or Ian Rapoport sharing some bombshell scoop. But Robinson did play in the league for eight seasons and he talks with players for NFL Media, so it’s fair to assume he has legitimate connections.
Honestly, though, I don’t think what Robinson had to say here is super concerning. It only feels natural to have reservations about Sirianni considering we don’t know much about his ability to coach! He’s been a coordinator for just three seasons and he’s never been a full-time play-caller. He doesn’t have a proven track record. Players are just as much in the dark as us outsiders are if this dude is actually able to successfully lead his team to win football games.
That being said, one can wonder how much patience Eagles players will have for Sirianni. To what extent will he get the benefit of the doubt? Will Sirianni’s high-energy approach rub guys the wrong way at some point? Will he be able to adjust? The rookie head coach has much to prove in many respects.
While some Eagles players might be skeptical about Sirianni, though, others have been more outwardly positive about him. Lane Johnson, who has a reputation for being honest, recently had the following to say about his leadership:
“He’s taken great command of the team early on,” Johnson said during an appearance on ESPN, per Jeff Skversky of WPVI. “I think what I appreciate about him the most is he holds everybody accountable. When we go to practice, it doesn’t matter if you’re a veteran or a rookie on the first day. If you’re making mistakes, he’ll push you on the board. Not to call you out, but really to kinda get you better. What that shows, if he can do that with veterans, then the younger guys will come along as well. That’s been my impression early on. It’s been a lot of fun, really a lot of energy. Moving forward, we have a lot to prove.”
Johnson also directly pushed back on Robinson’s claims:
— Lane Johnson (@LaneJohnson65) July 13, 2021
To me, the idea of players “buying in” can be overrated. It seems entirely possible Eagles players can be “bought in” but the team loses anyway because they’re just not talented enough. Of course, it becomes a real issue in a scenario where players don’t appear to be playing hard for the head coach. Sirianni obviously can’t afford to have the team quitting on him.
We’re still about two months away from seeing Sirianni in his first regular season game. Everyone has much to learn about his coaching ability, including the players.