Sirianni reaches top of his game
Upon returning home from a walk around their West Ellicott neighborhood early Thursday afternoon, Fran and Amy Sirianni’s phone rang.
The call was from a friend, Bruce Fagerstrom, who wanted to offer his congratulations after checking out the latest news on the NFL Network moments before.
There was one problem, though. Fran and Amy had no idea what Fagerstrom was talking about.
“We were speechless,” Fran said.
That’s because their youngest son, Nick, a 1999 Southwestern Central School graduate and the Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator, is reportedly nearing a deal to become the next head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles.
The possibility puts an exclamation point on an amazing professional odyssey that has taken him from Charles A. Lawson Field as a high school senior to, 22 years later, Lincoln Financial Field in the City of Brotherly Love.
“I don’t know what to say,” said Jay Sirianni, Nick’s brother, Thursday night. “I don’t even know how to respond. It’s just awesome and I’m just so proud. … Now he’s got his shot.”
In the fall of 2005, Fran was patrolling the Southwestern sidelines on a Friday night in Springville when the Trojans were engaged in a football game that had serious playoff implications. As he paced back and forth, he occasionally pulled out his cellphone, punched in a phone number and provided play-by-play of the action on the field.
The person on the receiving end of those calls was Nick, then an assistant at the University of Mount Union, who was anxious to get reports on his high school alma mater, which was coached by brother Jay. Even then, it was clear that Nick, who would end up with four Division III national championship rings with the Purple Raiders as a player and as a coach, was something special.
One of his best friends, Tom Langworthy, has known that for years.
“I’m really excited for him and I’m super proud of him,” said the Jamestown High School varsity football coach, who grew up a block from Nick. “He’s worked his entire adult life for a moment like this and made a ton of sacrifices along the way to put himself in this position.”
It has been quite a ride.
In a journey that has taken him from Mount Union to Indiana University of Pennsylvania in the college ranks to Kansas City, San Diego, Indianapolis and now Philadelphia in the NFL — see related story on Page B1 — Nick has made positive impressions at every stop.
“I think, No. 1, it’s his football knowledge,” Fran said. “… He’s well-respected for what he brings to the table. … The biggest thing that sets Nick apart is his enthusiasm. The first time we went to (Indianapolis) training camp, we heard someone say, ‘We want to see the guy who jumps around all the time and throws his hat.’
“I think it’s that enthusiasm that sets him apart.”
That enthusiasm will be needed with the Eagles.
Philadelphia fired Doug Pederson earlier this month following a 4-11-1 season. It was less than three years after he led the Eagles to their only Super Bowl in franchise history. But issues with franchise quarterback Carson Wentz — he had his worst season of his five-year career and was benched for rookie Jalen Hurts for the final four games in 2020 — meant Philadelphia needed a head coach who could bring out the best in the former MVP-caliber signal-caller.
The Eagles are banking that Nick can do that.
His track record appears to bear that out.
“When he went into Indianapolis after Andrew Luck was hurt, (the next season) was Luck’s comeback year,” said brother Jay. “Philip (Rivers) did not have a very good year two years ago (with the Los Angeles Chargers) and then they turned it around this year (with the Colts). Even when Luck retired (before the 2019 season), all of a sudden (Jacoby Brissett) is thrown into the mix and he played well at times.
“I’m never going to call him a guru, but I think the one thing about Nick is he understands about coaching the player. He knows about being positive and playing to a player’s strengths. … That’s what I think it is. … He had to work and grind, and so he appreciates the athletes who do that, too. He connects with people, and players appreciate that.”
ESPN’s Dan Orlovsky apparently agrees.
“This is the ideal, outstanding hire for Carson Wentz,” he said Thursday afternoon on NFL Live. “I reached out to some people who might know Sirianni a little bit better than me. It is the absolute steal of the hiring process.”
Other comments Orlovsky uncovered included:
“Best coach I’ve ever been around.”
“Has great understanding of defenses and how to attack them.”
“Phenomenal game planner, a fiery leader and a great listener.”
Concluded Orlovsky: “This all comes down to Carson Wentz. This all comes down to, one, can they get Carson Wentz to want to stay in Philadelphia and, two, can they get him back to the 2017-19 stretch. It’s going to be big that they get that relationship started off the right way.”
Langworthy and the Jamestown football team practiced after school Thursday afternoon in preparation for a season they hope begins in a couple months. The message Langworthy left with his players was simple:
“Don’t let anyone talk bad about Jamestown,” he said. “It’s a great place and you can go to the highest heights from Jamestown, New York. You don’t have to come from a big city. Jamestown has everything you need to take you to the peak.”
From a football perspective alone, Langworthy has a point.
Guess where NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, former Philadelphia Eagles offensive lineman Jim McCusker and current Cleveland Brown tight end Stephen Carlson were born?
If you answered “Jamestown,” move to the head of the class.
Now that impressive list grows by one to a 39-year-old named Nick Sirianni. That means his dad will have to change his allegiance from Indy to Philly.
“We have a flag pole in the corner of the yard,” Fran said, “and at the beginning of the season — under the American flag — I have a Colts’ flag. I’ll have to go take that flag down now.”
The Eagles will fly high in West Ellicott for the foreseeable future.