I Will Never Forgive Nick Sirianni For Punting
3:22 PM EST on February 13, 2023
Nick Sirianni did not get off on the right foot with Philadelphia Eagles fans. The team did a hard sell after hiring him in January 2021, posting a series of videos on Twitter where the dazed, previously unknown coach met the team's mascot and saw a photo of Sylvester Stallone in an Eagles jersey. Then came his first press conference, which was so poorly received by fans and media that a certain sports website (Defector) covered it thusly: “Eagles Fans Might Eat Nick Sirianni Alive.”
Defector did not stop making fun of Sirianni from there, and I wasn’t even the one doing it. We wrote about how he was making draft prospects play Rock Paper Scissors. Before his first season, we wrote about his expressed strategies: “This Jabroni Really Said ‘Attacking Rest.’” I did eventually get in on the action, too, writing about how Eagles running backs had just three carries in this one game.
But things turned around. In 2021 the Eagles, after starting 2-5, rallied to make the playoffs under Sirianni’s guidance. This season, they went 14-3 and cruised through two playoff games to make the Super Bowl. Beat writers talked about how great Sirianni's press conferences had become. He got a lot of praise for wearing t-shirts, even wearing ones made by local t-shirt designers. I wrote a bit of a mea culpa about how Sirianni turned things around by committing to the run game. He also got a lot of attention, over his two seasons, for how aggressive he was. He went for it a lot on fourth down. The Eagles converted twice on fourth down in the Super Bowl, and drew the Chiefs offside on a fourth-and-2. Unfortunately, Sirianni should have gone for it one more time.
This is the place to mention that Sirianni has had a great run as Eagles coach so far. The Eagles cakewalked through the season and came into the Super Bowl as favorites; all year long, they looked like a team that could and maybe would win the Super Bowl. This was true even as they were in a fight with Kansas City in the fourth quarter. They were down a point. And with fourth-and-3 on the Eagles’ own 32, Nick Sirianni punted.
It didn’t go well. Arynn Siposs, playing in his first game since coming off injured reserve, punted the ball just 38 yards. Kadarius Toney returned it 65 yards to the Chiefs’ 5. But even before the crappy punt and the even-worse punt coverage—Siposs wound up making the tackle—the decision to punt there was awful. Per NFL Next Gen Stats, Sirianni went for it in “21 of 27 situations where the numbers suggest doing so by at least 1 percent in win probability.” The fourth-down bot said going for it increased the Eagles’ chances of winning by 4.6 percent.
I don’t really need those numbers, though. The Eagles’ defense had been torched by Patrick Mahomes for the whole second half. Kansas City faced only two third downs on its two second-half touchdown drives and had just taken their first lead of the game. The Eagles’ defense was on the ropes, and the offense had a chance to take that lead back. And in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, with 10:33 remaining, Nick Sirianni decided to give that chance away. He punted. The Eagles didn’t get the ball back with a chance to take the lead again until there were eight seconds left. On the biggest stage of his career, with tears in his eyes, Nick Sirianni wimped out.
I’d even seen him go for in his own territory before. Granted, it was not the same situation. Last season, the Eagles went for it on fourth-and-1, successfully, at their own 34, in the second quarter of a game against the Raiders. Sirianni also went for it—again on fourth-and-1, again from their own 34, and again successfully—in the NFC title game two weeks ago. Yes, three yards isn’t one, and the second quarter is not the fourth, and the Chiefs are neither the Raiders nor the 49ers. This is the point of going for it, though. Mahomes was the opposing quarterback in this game.
Sirianni was not asked about the decision to punt in the press conference, but I think his decision-making process was clear. The Eagles had a chance to keep driving, down a point with the ball in the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl, and their coach thought that giving the ball back to Patrick Mahomes was a better idea. I will never forgive him for punting there. He could win five Super Bowls and I’d still be angry at this. Nick Sirianni could rescue my cat from a house fire and I wouldn’t even say thank you. Maybe someone can send him a t-shirt telling him to go for it next time—if he gets the chance.