PHILADELPHIA – On multiple occasions this season, cameras have caught Nick Sirianni in a worked-up state. An expletive or two from the Philadelphia Eagles coach can be picked up by basic lip reading.
Standing up for his team – like he did against the New York Jets in the preseason, or at the end of a Week 6 victory over the Dallas Cowboys – has endeared the second-year coach to his players.
For those who have known Sirianni his whole life, the outbursts aren’t anything abnormal.
“We did our best to keep him under control so that he didn’t get himself into too much trouble,” said Fran Sirianni, Nick’s father who was the varsity coach at Southwestern Central High School for nine years in their native Jamestown, New York. “He was definitely one to, I guess, would talk to opponents.”
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Early in Sirianni’s career, while he coached wide receivers at Indiana University of Pennsylvania from 2006-08, he was on the Southwestern Central sideline during the New York state semifinals.
Jay Sirianni, Nick’s brother, was now the head coach. Jay Sirianni describes his sideline demeanor as “much calmer compared to his brother.” He was confused when an official gave his team a sideline warning.
“I’m like ‘Sideline warning, what are you taking about? I haven’t said anything to you,’ ” Jay Sirianni told USA TODAY Sports. “He’s like that guy right back there. And I turn around and it’s Nick, on our sideline. And he’s like ‘Can you tell that guy to shut up?’ ”
Jay had to tell his brother to take it down a notch.
“That’s just him, that competitiveness,” Jay Sirianni said. “Why wouldn’t you want to play for somebody like that? We poke fun at it. It’s all in good fun. That’s just how three brothers grew up, always being competitive.”
And it’s how three brothers – the eldest, Mike, is head coach at Division III Washington & Jefferson – still are to this day. During the last family vacation, Mike Sirianni recalls, Nick beat him in bocce ball. Little bro had to pay a price.
“I pinned him on the beach. (Body) slammed him, because he was talking and cheating in the game,” Mike Sirianni told USA TODAY Sports. “I was, like, 45.”
Last July 4 weekend, spent in Jay’s backyard, a volleyball was punted in frustration. After the NFC championship game, a 31-7 Eagles victory over the San Francisco 49ers that put Philadelphia in the Super Bowl, Sirianni and his 22-year-old niece continued a spirited debate that carried over from that weekend.
“You got to win,” Jay Sirianni said. “You got to win that argument. You got to win that volleyball game. You got to win that game of P-I-G. It’s that competitiveness.”
‘I love these guys’
In the aftermath of the Week 6 win, which moved the Eagles to 6-0 on their way to a 14-3 season and NFC East division title, Sirianni hollered in the tunnel shortly after walking off the field: “How ’bout them Eagles!”
Moments later, he was asked about the dust-up at the end of the game. He transported himself back to sixth grade, when Jay’s varsity team started 0-2 and someone was critical of the team. Nick wasn’t having it.
“I’m just going to stick up for our guys,” Sirianni said. “That’s who I am. I love these guys. This is my family. I got a great family at home. I got great parents, a great wife, I got great kids, I got great brothers. But this is my other family.”
Nobody in the family recalls anything particular about that time, but they certainly believe him.
“He would get so passionate about our games, that if we lost, or if I didn’t play well and somebody said something, he would be quick to defend and talk trash,” Jay Sirianni said. “So he’s not any different. He hasn’t changed.”
Fran Sirianni said it wasn’t too long ago that Mike was being criticized for something. There was Nick, quick on the defense.
“Nick was right on the spot to defend his older brother (with) the comments he made in that situation,” Fran Sirianni said. “He’s always been like that. Very loyal to his brothers. And likewise, they’ve been very loyal to him.”
The two-way street of loyalty has helped him win over the locker room, Mike Sirianni said.
“I would say, for him, he relates well to his players and he always has his players’ backs in every situation,” the eldest Sirianni brother said. “And I think guys at any level of football would appreciate that.”
His aggressiveness and proclivity for going for it on fourth down have only added to the cache, as he did early against the 49ers in the NFC championship game.
“I was like, ‘This guy’s crazy,’ ” left tackle Jordan Mailata said after the game.
Mailata added: “Big cojones.”
That may be true. But he wouldn’t have done it without having full faith
“They know I got their back,” Sirianni said on that October night. “I know they got my back. And that’s what a team is.”
It’s also what family – especially one like Sirianni household – is about.
Follow Chris Bumbaca on Twitter @BOOMbaca.
Story Credit: usatoday.com