D+P Hot Takes: The Eagles, a coach and a news conference that went awry

New Eagles coach Nick Sirianni’s first news conference has become a meme – for a fumbling and stumbling answer in which he seemed to call his players less than bright and maybe even stupid. And suddenly sports talk radio in Philadelphia had something new to talk about, reinforcing a narrative that the 39-year-old first-time head coach may be too inexperienced.

It didn’t matter that the rest of the news conference was pretty plain vanilla, filled with the typical thank yous and coach-speak platitudes about teamwork and fundamentals (along with a Facts of Life theme song reference!). Neither did he threaten to bite someone’s kneecap, as news Detroit Lions coach Dan Hamilton did in his introductory news conference.

Of course, if the Birds go 11-5 next season, nobody will remember this misstep. In the meantime, he and the Eagles have some damage control to do.

Here are the D+P Hot Takes on the Sirianni news conference.

Transparency and honesty are two hallmarks of what it takes to be trusted in today’s fast-moving, tweet-every-second world and Sirianni failed on both fronts. By saying that he hadn’t even thought about the looming quarterback controversy made me question his honesty. Can you imagine that this subject never came up in his interviews with Eagles top brass? In his next media outing he needs to come clean and at minimum lay out a process for how he will evaluate the quarterback situation. He doesn’t need to make a choice just yet but he does need to earn back our trust.
Being the new kid on the block is never easy, especially when your new block is Philadelphia. While Philly sports fans aren’t the kindest, they do celebrate authenticity. Sirianni’s first time addressing the crowd as an Eagle didn’t go over as planned, but I think it gives him room to grow and improve, which the media certainly will be keeping track of because if anything – Philly loves an underdog.
1. Do prepare a script and use a teleprompter. Practiced ‘prompter delivery would have lessened his ad lib “word search” and contributed to a smoother outcome. Many times, leaders feel that a script/teleprompter will stifle them or make them seem less authentic, but we almost always encourage both in scenarios like these with the aim of boosting confidence and credibility. 2. Presser Q&As are tough and especially so when entering a situation where controversy already exists (whether real or perceived). Don’t feel pressed to answer something you’re not ready to answer, but do bridge in a way that’s truthful. Sirianni was asked about the Eagles quarterback situation. He responded that he hasn’t thought about it yet. Everyone watching questioned that answer. Instead, he might have taken the opportunity to set his position right from the top -- “I am a week into this job and am simply not ready to talk about that yet. What I can tell you is I’m working as quickly as possible to build our coaching staff and to get to know our players personally so we can make the best decisions for the team.”
Coach Sirianni didn’t mean to insult his team’s intelligence, but clearly his intentions didn’t translate well to speech. That’s where a little media training can step in. PR professionals know the nuances of vocabulary and semantics and can help leaders like Coach Sirianni choose the right words to get their intended messaging across. All he needs is some media training, and he will shine.
Grace and humor are the great equalizers. Coach Sirianni seems sincere, but he also seemed to be trying to hard to show he was in control, which made it seem that he isn’t. Finding a way to make fun of himself in his next news conference would go a long way in showing a certain maturity, while also showing a human side that reporters might eat up – for a day or two.