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‘A knot in my stomach' — How Super Bowl loss haunts Sirianni


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‘A knot in my stomach' — How Super Bowl loss haunts Sirianni

The Eagles' head coach has watched the Super Bowl loss ... a lot

By Reuben Frank, Eagles Insider  Published July 25, 2023


Nick Sirianni hasn’t gotten over the Super Bowl. And he never will.

It’s been 5½ months since the Eagles became the first team to lose a Super Bowl in regulation after leading by 10 points at halftime.

They had it. It was theirs. And then they lost it. And we’ve broken down all the "whys” since the Chiefs beat the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII. Where did it go wrong? How did the Eagles let it get away?

But what about the effect that crushing defeat had on Sirianni?

He was a play or two away from becoming the fourth-youngest coach ever to win a Super Bowl (behind Sean McVay, Mike Tomlin and Jon Gruden). He was a play or two away from delivering Philadelphia a second Super Bowl championship in six years. He was a play or two away from becoming only the fourth Philadelphia coach in any sport to win a championship in his first or second year — along with Alex Hannum with the 1967 Sixers, Dallas Green with the 1980 Phillies and Doug Pederson with the 2017 Eagles.

He was a play or two away from Philadelphia sports immortality. A dropped pass. A fumble. A punt return.

And it drives him crazy.

"Yeah, am I watching clips from the game when I’m doing our postseason (evaluations) and thinking to myself, yelling an obscenity out if I see us make a mistake or I see myself make a mistake? Yeah,” he said. "There’ve been times I’ve been sitting in that office and an F-bomb came out of that office and like someone says, ‘Is everything all right?’

‘Yeah, I’m good!’

"We just put a TV outside (at home) in our little deck area, screened-in deck, and my son Jacob and I were watching, there was something on NFL Network, highlights of the Super Bowl or whatever it is. And we watched that and I found myself like, ‘Aw man!’” as he smacks a chair.

As competitive as Sirianni is, none of this should come as a surprise.

Sirianni said he still hasn’t let go of the 24-6 loss to Saint John’s of Collegeville, Minn., in the NCAA Division 3 Championship Game in Salem, Va., his senior year at Mount Union.

That loss — Sirianni’s final college football game — ended the Purple Raiders’ 55-game winning streak and prevented Mount Union from winning a fourth straight national title.

It was also 20 years ago.

"To me, it’s very healthy to do that,” Sirianni said. "It’s healthy to — as Frank Reich used to say to me — drag yourself through the mud. And I’ve said this to players plenty of times. It’s healthy. This is the accountability piece of our program. It’s healthy to drag yourself through the mud. To get real dirty, and to (admit), ‘Oh, I messed that up,’ or, ‘I messed this up,’ and you say I first.

"What did I do first? But then there’s got to come a time where you get yourself out of the mud and you realize you’re here for a reason, and you’re confident in your abilities and to move on. But there is a healthy portion of dragging yourself through the mud because that’s how you get better.”

Sirianni has already proven himself in his first two years as a head coach on any level.

In 2021, he joined Ray Rhodes and Chip Kelly as the third coach in Eagles history to take a team to the playoffs in his first year. And last year, he joined Rhodes as the second head coach in Eagles history to reach the postseason in each of his first two years. Then he joined Pederson, Andy Reid, Dick Vermeil and Greasy Neale as only the fifth coach to lead the Eagles to more than one postseason win in his entire career.

His .676 winning percentage is 13th-highest in NFL history among those who’ve coached at least two full seasons. He’s the only coach in NFL history to take over a team with a losing record and win 14 games within his first two years.

But when the subject is Super Bowl LVII?

He’s not taking any bows.

When he watches the replay — when highlights pop up on TV or with cut-ups in his office — his only focus is what went wrong.

"What did I screw up? What are the things I didn’t like (about) what we did?’ … So of course I’ve had those with that game,” he said. "I’ve probably watched that game an obsessive (number) of times. I’ve watched it a lot. I’ve watched it a lot. … But I do think there’s a healthy part of that.”

This is where Sirianni borrows one of his favorite terms — dog mentality.

It applies here. It applies everywhere.

"Dog mentality doesn’t mean just, ‘I’m onto the next play,’” he said. "There’s part of it that means that and controlling what I can control, but the other part of dog mentality that I always say to these guys is you’ve got to fix what happened here. That’s the accountability.

"Dog Mentality is being in the moment of where you are now so you can have a clear mind and clear focus. But that doesn’t mean we don’t learn from our past, good or bad.”

What if Jalen Hurts hadn’t fumbled? What if Quez Watkins hadn’t dropped that pass? What if T.J. Edwards had tackled Kadarius Toney back at the 37-yard line on that punt return? What if somebody had covered Skyy Moore in the end zone?

These questions will torment Sirianni as long as he coaches. As long as he lives.

Even if the Eagles win a Super Bowl this year or next year or any time under Sirianni … even if they win a bunch of them … he’ll always be haunted by those three hours and 31 minutes at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz., on Feb. 12.

"Fifty years from now … 30 years from now … 20 years from now … whatever … if I watch that game I’m going to have a knot in my stomach,” he said. "You’re just going to always be upset.”


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