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Super Bowl-bound Eagles coach Nick Sirianni fueled by faith, family, football

When the Philadelphia Eagles started last season 2-5, Nick Sirianni wasn’t thinking about what it would take to get the team to the playoffs, much less the Super Bowl. In his first year as a head coach, he made a concerted effort to stay focused on the present, and the results started to come.

Philadelphia won six of its last eight games to reach the playoffs, losing to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the wild-card round. The lesson stuck with Sirianni as the Eagles opened this season on an eight-game winning streak and later earned the No. 1 seed in the NFC with a 14-3 record.

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“If I look at this mountain and I say to myself, ‘I’ve got to climb this mountain,’ it’s going to feel like too much of a task,” he said following the team’s 31-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers in Sunday’s NFC championship game. “But if I look at that mountain that we were in and say, ‘We’ve just got to climb this part today, and we’ve got to climb this part tomorrow’ … you don’t think about what could happen two years down the road. You just put the work in.”

Quarterback Jalen Hurts led the team on an 11-play touchdown drive to open the game and then responded to the 49ers’ only points of the game with another touchdown drive lasting 15 plays to immediately restore the Eagles’ lead. Philadelphia scored the final 17 points as San Francisco dealt with an injury to quarterback Brock Purdy and struggled to move the ball against the Eagles’ excellent defense.

Just 37 games into his career as a head coach, Sirianni now finds himself on the biggest stage the sport has to offer.

“This is something we all dream about, and we get to do it because we did it better than anybody else in the NFC this year,” he said in his postgame press conference. “So, that’s pretty special. The fans were awesome, atmosphere was unbelievable.”

Those who watch Sirianni on the sideline may get the impression he’s pretty serious or intense. Eagles team chaplain Ted Winsley would concur, and add that that’s how the coach is in the team’s Bible studies.

“Nick in Bible studies is kind of the same way he is on the sideline — serious, intense, committed, thoughtful,” Winsley told Sports Spectrum this week, for a podcast to be released Monday. “When we did the first coaches study, it was Nick and two other coaches. And the next week it was Nick and five other coaches. Then it was Nick and seven other coaches. Now, I think the last one was Nick and 15 coaches.”

Winsley says Sirianni will sometimes miss a study, but be sure to have someone get the notes from Winsley so he can study on his own. And Sirianni will point out to Winsley particular passages of Scripture that he’s been meditating on. He’ll even share with other members of the organization some things he’s learned from Bible studies.

Said Winsley, “Somebody from the organization pulled me to the side and said, ‘I just want you to know, whatever you’re doing in that room, it’s working because we can feel it outside of the room. We’re in meetings and he’ll say things that he got from Bible study, that impacted him.'”

Like he takes Bible study seriously, Sirianni takes coaching seriously, almost like it’s a family business. There was never really a doubt in Sirianni’s mind that he was going to become a football coach and follow in the footsteps of his father, Fran, and his older brothers.

“It was like God said, ‘You’re a football coach and you’re going to be a football coach,’” he told The Athletic back in 2018.

Sirianni — whose NFL journey started as a quality control coach — developed a relationship with new Carolina Panthers head coach Frank Reich while the two were working for the Chargers, and became Reich’s offensive coordinator when Reich was hired by the Indianapolis Colts in 2018. Sirianni held that position until taking the Eagles job in 2021.

But as prominent a role as football plays in the Sirianni family, it was never allowed to become more important than faith.

“I’m looking at a sign that’s over our archway that says, ‘Faith, family and football,’” Fran told The Athletic. “That’s probably the motto of our family. Our faith is strong but football is definitely strong in that third spot.”

They had to lean on that faith when Fran battled Hodgkin’s lymphoma twice in a six-year span.

“Any disease for any member of the family, it’s not just your disease, it’s a family’s disease because it affects them,” Fran told ESPN last year. “Nick was in elementary school, and we often thought, ‘Well, Nick really doesn’t know what’s going on.’ But I think he really did. And it really affected the older boys. But hopefully, we passed on to them the idea of endurance and patience and tenacity, and most of all, we instilled in them our faith.”

Standing on the opposing sideline from Sirianni on Feb. 12 will be Kansas City Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, who happens to also be the winningest coach in Eagles franchise history. Whichever team wins will become the only franchise with multiple Super Bowl victories in the past six seasons.

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