INDIANAPOLIS – Nick Sirianni hoped to coach against his friend and mentor Sunday at Lucas Oil Stadium.
Instead, Frank Reich was fired as the Indianapolis Colts’ head coach two weeks ago, and the team’s former offensive coordinator came to town with a score to settle.
After the Philadelphia Eagles escaped with a 17-16 victory, Sirianni stood atop a sideline bench and frantically waved a towel in celebration. It was an outpouring of emotion that showed just how much this week meant to him.
“You don’t want to know what I think if he should be here or not,” Sirianni said of Reich’s firing. “You guys can probably imagine what I really think. I love him, and so I got a little bit emotional about that, and it was good to see the guys that I really cared about and some of the things that (left guard) Quenton Nelson and (center) Ryan Kelly and (wide receiver) Parris Campbell (said).
“Talked to them after the game – and (cornerback) Kenny Moore (II) – so that means a lot when they say that things are – obviously, I’ll keep those things to myself, but (I) spent a lot of time here. One of my children was born here. It was sweet to come here, especially with what happened in this organization in the last couple weeks, and get the win.”
Sirianni served as the Colts’ offensive coordinator from 2018-20 and was a part of the team’s two most recent playoff appearances.
While he oversees a 9-1 Eagles team that has the best record in the NFL, his former franchise has fallen on tough times. Indianapolis is just 13-14-1 since Sirianni left for Philadelphia, and the last month has seen veteran quarterback Matt Ryan benched and unbenched, offensive coordinator Marcus Brady fired, popular running back Nyheim Hines traded to the Buffalo Bills and – of course – Reich fired after 4½ seasons with a 40-33-1 regular season record.
Indianapolis again played hard for interim head coach Jeff Saturday, but the red-zone struggles, penalties and turnover that helped cost the team a 10-point fourth-quarter lead have been all-too-familiar this year.
It was a tough juxtaposition for Colts fans as their former offensive coordinator celebrated a victory with an exciting young quarterback and a team poised for a postseason run.
Meanwhile, Indianapolis continues to lack direction in the midst of an increasingly lost season.
“It’s special for him being the coach here,” Philadelphia quarterback Jalen Hurts said of rewarding Sirianni with a game ball. “Spent a lot of time in Indianapolis, he has a lot of memories here. Great homecoming for him, and I’m glad we were able to get a win for him.”
THEY SAID IT
“This one hurts. Losing at home sucks. At the end of the day, we just have to clean up the tape and see what we can do better. Six games left – why can’t we go on a roll and win six? And see where we can end up at the end of the year. We are going to prepare for that Monday night game next week (against the Pittsburgh Steelers), digest what happened today and just try to get better.” – defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who contributed 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble in the loss.
For the second straight home game, the Colts were unable to hold a two-score lead in the fourth quarter and lost the game on the opponent’s final offensive drive.
But it’s hard to blame the defense for Sunday’s loss after holding the NFL’s third-highest scoring team 10 points below its season average.
“That’s just the NFL,” linebacker Zaire Franklin said of the defense continually being put in tight late-game situations. “Most games are decided by one score. And, at the end of the day, that’s why they pay the quarterbacks all that money because most of the time the other team’s offense has the ball with a chance to win or tie the game.
“Either they are going to make a play or the defense is going to make a play. And, unfortunately, we came up on the short side of that.”