Eagles peel back curtain on interview process for coaches

NFL teams rarely share much information regarding the inner workings of their procedures for hiring head coaches. In extended remarks preceding the formal introduction of coach Nick Sirianni on Friday, Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie peeled back the curtain, a little.

“Our interviews are long,” Lurie said, via the transcript provided by the Eagles. “They’re anywhere from usually seven to 10 hours, non-stop. We delve into every aspect of the sport, leadership, football, in many, many ways. Our fan base, what we want to accomplish in the near future and going forward. . . . They give a lot to us. We don’t give a lot to them.”

Lurie also explained that the Eagles entered the process with roughly 25 names of coaches to consider.

“We go into the details of their background, not just their résumés, but every aspect of leadership potential, X’s and O’s, of course, but far more than you would expect in terms of just what’s on a football résumé,” Lurie said. “It’s much more about the people and how they conduct themselves, how they surround themselves, do they reach for greatness, are they risk averse, do they manage well, do they have a great attention to detail, how are they to work with, how are they to work with when there’s ups and downs of a season, how are they under enormous stress, how are they in competitive situations? The list goes on and on and on about the characteristics. . . . I think for the Eagles, what we’ve harped on very, very much is we’re looking for the best football leader going forward. It’s not about who is the hot coordinator, who is the best Xs and Os, who is the best résumé. Everything is important. Everything is important.”

The Eagles then cut the initial group of roughly 25 to a smaller group of candidates to be interviewed.

“[W]ith lots and lots of research, [we] narrow it,” Lurie said. “In this case we narrowed it to 10. We interviewed 10 candidates. Again, I was blown away by the quality of these candidates. The NFL is lacking in slots, not in candidates. I’m really glad to be able to say that. I’m not saying that diplomatically. Trust me, any friend who has asked me, it’s like these were really, really impressive people and candidates. Some of them quite young. They’ll be the hot candidates in a year, two or three, no question about it. That’s what we learned in the process.”

Lurie also said that the interview, despite its length and apparent intensity, counts for “probably 33 percent” of the broader decision.

Regardless of Lurie’s intended reason(s) for providing such transparency, it necessarily helps boost the decision to hire Sirianni by suggesting that he emerged from a rigorous, probing, and demanding process that started with 25 or so highly-qualified candidates and ended with one. The message to fans and media: By winning this contest of coaches, Sirianni must be extraordinarily qualified.

“As soon as you got to spend time with Nick, and we probably spent about, I don’t know, 10, 12 hours together over two days, it became apparent that this is a very special communicator, not just a brilliant football IQ, which was very evident early on as we went through how he game plans, how he attacks defenses, how he maximizes personnel, not just relying on a scheme but how to each week attack exactly who you’re playing, what their strengths and weaknesses are in great detail,” Lurie said. “Much more than that. . . . He’s somebody who connects with everybody. To me, it continues the culture we’ve had and builds on it. In today’s world, it doesn’t get talked about maybe that often, but for the Eagles, culture remains the most important thing. In our world today, there’s such polarization, there’s such a disconnect between people, people get divided by race, by age, by politics, whatever it is. There’s social media that contributes to that.

“I think it’s really valuable to have somebody that innately and genuinely cares about who they work with, the players that play for them and with them, the other coaches, the staff. Somebody who is genuine about caring. For me, Nick epitomizes that. The first step I think in being a great coach in modern football today, modern sports today, is to care very much about the players and coaches you work with, and everybody. But a player who is 22, 30 years old, in this world, if you care, you can earn trust. If the caring is not real, if you’re not being genuine, players are too smart and they see right through that, as they should.”

Lurie also admitted that, with Sirianni, there will be “a lot of projection” regarding his ongoing development.

“It’s an evaluation of what is now and what coach he can become and what organization we can become with his leadership,” Lurie said.

That’s an implicit plea from Lurie for patience. And it implies that Lurie will be patient. Sirianni may not be ready immediately to become one of the best head coaches in football, but in time he will.

Since firing Andy Reid at the end of the 2012 season, the Eagles kept Chip Kelly for three years and Doug Pederson for five. Pederson didn’t last even though he won a Super Bowl and took the team to the playoffs in three of five seasons. When will Lurie be doing this again?

At this point and moving forward, it’s up to Sirianni.