Most people are nursing massive hangovers when flying back from Las Vegas after a long weekend. Non-stop partying and bottle popping, coupled with losses in the sportsbook, make for annoying headaches and nausea.
But the Philadelphia Eagles were dealing with a different kind of hangover coming off a brutal 33-22 loss to the Raiders on October 24. That Week 7 loss put their record at 2-5 as calls for Nick Sirianni’s head lit up the phone lines on local sports radio.
The Raiders put up 442 total yards of offense in a game that wasn’t as close as the scoreboard showed. Derek Carr went 31-of-34 for 323 yards and a 113.6 passer rating. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas goes the famous tagline. And the Eagles took it to heart.
“We were pretty down after the game, and a lot of us had conversations on the flight,” safety Rodney McLeod said on October 28, “but we showed up here yesterday ready to work. Complaining and making excuses is not going to get it done.”
The flight from Vegas to Philly is approximately five hours, ample time to reflect and correct mistakes. The Eagles used that plane ride home time to re-watch the game they just lost and figure out ways to save the 2021 season.
“It was just about continuing to work, continuing to believe, which I don’t think anybody wavered,” safety Anthony Harris told reporters on Tuesday. “We take a look around the locker room, understand the talent that we have, understand some of the experience that we have at different positions, and then just continue to believe in the coaching staff.”
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Growing Roots, Coming Together
Head coach Nick Sirianni has been receiving plenty of NFL Coach of the Year hype for his role in turning things around. He was mocked uncontrollably – vicious jabs mixed with playful jokes – for his infamous “Flower Speech” on October 27. Sirianni put a picture of a flower up and talked about growing roots.
“The roots are continuing to grow out,” Sirianni said at the time. “We all fertilize, we all do our part, each individual, each individual coach, each individual player, everybody in the building, that we do our part to water to make sure that, when it does pop out, it really pops out and it grows.”
It’s still funny to envision a football coach saying that with a straight face in the locker room. Yet it worked. The analogy rang true and the players rallied around the message and their coach.
“And coming together, staying together,” Harris said. “And just going in with the attitude from a players’ standpoint and a coaches’ standpoint of we’re all in it together. We’re all going to come in with our best efforts to find out what we need to do to win and then focus in and get to work.”
The Importance of One Consistent Message
The other thing the Eagles did was double down on their process. Sirianni stuck with his five core values – connecting, competition, accountability, intelligence, fundamentals – and focused on getting “1% better every day.” The latter phrase is burned into the back of everyone’s brain, from the players on the team to the reporters who cover them.
Guess what? It worked. Eagles linebacker T.J. Edwards said sticking to one message instead of introducing a new one was a big reason for the turnaround.
“I think at the end of the day the thing that Coach Sirianni has done so well is keeping the messages the same,” Edwards told reporters on Tuesday. “There’s never been a panic and there’s never been a – even when we down at our worst – there’s never been a time where anyone is freaking out. Or, obviously after a loss there’s a lot of disappointment and people are frustrated with how we’re playing and things like that, but our process has stayed the same throughout this entire time whether we’re winning or losing.”
“Those things come to fruition and now we’re seeing success from all those things,” Edwards said. “All the roots and all the talks we’ve had in the past, all those things that we really doubled down on, are really helping us now. So it’s awesome to see.”