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Eagles coach Nick Sirianni backs Jalen Hurts' leadership style, A.J. Brown's recent comments

EJ Smith, The Philadelphia Inquirer on

Published in Football

INDIANAPOLIS — With the dust settled on a turbulent season, Eagles coach Nick Sirianni backed the divergent leadership styles of Jalen Hurts and A.J. Brown.

When asked if he felt Hurts needed to be more vocal as a leader after last season’s unprecedented collapse, Sirianni said during a 20-minute news conference Tuesday that he doesn’t want Hurts to change.

“Everybody has to lead their way,” Sirianni said. “And Jalen has special qualities that people will follow and that people will want to follow. He’s got to do what he needs to do to lead in that way. Some people’s leadership style is loud and aggressive, some people’s leadership style is by example, and some is a mixture of both. So Jalen needs to lead how he needs to lead. ... I think he’s done a great job of doing so. Just like he’s done at other things, he’ll get better at that part.”

Sirianni’s comments came a few months after several key members of the organization expressed the belief that the quarterback needed to open up more to his teammates during the Eagles’ 1-6 finish to the season. The morning before Super Bowl LVIII earlier this month, NFL Network reported that the team wanted Hurts to be “more front-facing and more of a vocal leader.”

Hurts’ stoicism and steadiness were previously viewed as a positive when the team has done well, something the 25-year-old pointed to during his year-end news conference last month. Still, Hurts acknowledged then that “every year demands a new version of yourself.”

Sirianni, whose sideline demeanor can often be the polar opposite of his quarterback’s, said staying genuine is all he wants from Hurts.

“People lead in different ways,” Sirianni said. “One thing I learned early about leadership is you have to be yourself. If you lead and you’re trying to be something you’re not when you lead, that gets seen through.”

After putting together an MVP-caliber season in 2022, Hurts regressed in a few key areas in 2023. He had a career high in turnovers and struggled as opposing defenses caught up to the Eagles offense and blitzed him more frequently than just about any other quarterback in the NFL.

Hurts dealt with a knee injury for part of the season that left him limited as a runner, but he finished the season seemingly healthy. Still, his 15 interceptions and five fumbles lost combined for the fourth-highest turnover tally of any player last season and his yards per attempt, completion percentage, and passer rating dropped as well.

 

Sirianni said Hurts’ regression in 2023 was symptomatic of the team overall rather than something specific with Hurts.

“We had a falloff as a team. It’s not just Jalen,” Sirianni said. “It’s not just me. We had a falloff as a team those last six weeks that we all need to get better from. But Jalen’s played some really outstanding football. Here’s what I know about Jalen: Whatever we see that he needs to work on or that he sees that he needs to work on, he’s going get better at that because he puts everything he has into it. And that’s a form of leadership, too.”

Sirianni offered similar support for Eagles wide receiver A.J. Brown, who called in to WIP-FM (94.1) on Friday to voice frustration about the station’s coverage of him and the team overall during the early part of the offseason.

“Like I’ve been telling you guys for a long time, not only is he one of the best players I’ve ever been around, he’s also one of the best leaders,” Sirianni said. “He’s going to do anything he can to stick up for his teammates. That’s why he wears a ‘C’ on his chest. If you’re speculating about, ‘What does it mean if he’s yelling?’ There are some people, when you’re leading them, you yell at them. Some people, you put your arm around them, and some people are in the middle. ... I think A.J. understands that. He’s a great teammate, great person, and, in my opinion, the best receiver that’s been in Philadelphia.”

Sirianni also addressed his own leadership approach. The Inquirer reported Tuesday that some veteran Eagles players took exception with Sirianni treating star players like Hurts and Brown differently than others and that Hurts wasn’t always held accountable the way other players were.

Sirianni conceded that he may have overemphasized one of his “core values” last season and at the expense of others, but declined to get into specifics.

“There were things that we as a team, myself, didn’t do a good enough job of last year,” Sirianni said. “Maybe we leaned a little bit more into one category of our core values — connect, compete, accountability, football IQ, and fundamentals. Maybe at times I felt like I leaned a little bit into one and not enough into the other. Those are things that you evaluate at the end of the year. I look forward to getting better.

“We’re not that far removed from having one of the best cultures that any of us have ever been around. Our players would say that, our coaches would say that. There are just some tweaks that we need to do. But make no mistake about it, you can change how you communicate your culture, the ways you do it, but at the forefront, we’re never going to change what the culture is.”


©2024 The Philadelphia Inquirer. Visit inquirer.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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