Joe Judge stood before the media, proclaimed that he would restore pride to the Giants’ organization and mapped out how he’d get there, creating an enthusiasm that carried him through his early days as the team’s head coach.
Nick Sirianni’s introductory news conference didn’t go quite as well. In fact, it was a debacle.
"Hey, I messed it up," the Eagles’ first-year coach said this week of his debut with the media. "I stuttered through a couple points."
It was not what an already skeptical fan base had in mind, and Eagles fans were hardly enthused after Sirianni bombed. He droned on and on, stumbling over his words several times while discussing how he planned to implement his vision for a team coming off a 4-11-1 season capped by Doug Pederson’s ouster.
So much for first impressions.
While Judge was universally praised for a Day 1 speech that drew comparisons to venerable coach Bill Parcells, his Giants are struggling for a second straight season. At 3-7 after a 30-10 loss at Tampa on Monday night, Judge took the extraordinary step of firing offensive coordinator Jason Garrett the next day.
Sirianni has earned the trust of his players — and, at least for now, his team’s fans — as the Eagles (5-6) have won three of their last four to get into the discussion for a wild-card playoff berth. Not only has the team improved, but Sirianni’s delivery has gotten better, too.
"My job is to get players better and to get them to be at their best when Sunday comes," he said. " . . . I always want to be the best at everything I do, so I’ve worked hard at being better at that part of my game and of handling the media."
The football part helps, of course. Sirianni has the Eagles playing much better after a 2-5 start. He felt then that there were signs of improvement, even if the record didn’t show it. And he provided an unusual analogy that drew some raised eyebrows, likening the Eagles to . . . a flower.
"What’s going on here is that there’s growth under the soil," he said. "I put a picture of a flower up. It’s coming through the ground and the roots are growing out. Everybody wants to see results, but it’s really important that the foundation is being built and the roots are growing out. The only way the roots grow out every single day is if we all water, we all fertilize, we all do our part. So when it does pop out, it really pops out and it grows."
Giggle all you want, but you can’t mock the results. Since that impromptu discussion of botany, the Eagles have been a different team. Quarterback Jalen Hurts has blossomed into a dependable player with his passing and running skills, and the defense has perked up after a disappointing first half.
"I think we’ve continued to grow as a football team in a lot of different areas," Sirianni said. "I believe our football IQ as far as situational football is concerned is getting better. The goal is to just get a little bit better each day, and I think that has been the case with the team, which is why we’ve had a little bit of a hot streak here of late. But you just have to continue to grow, whether it’s through a bad time or through a good time."
Sirianni will get his first introduction to the Giants-Eagles rivalry on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, although he already has a good idea of the intensity of the decades-old competition. He has the iconic picture of Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik standing over Giants running back Frank Gifford after "Concrete Charlie" knocked out Gifford in a 1960 game.
"I know Eagles fans think of that play and think of that hit a little differently than Giants fans," Sirianni said. "I really respect this rivalry, and that’s what’s so awesome about the NFC East. I do love everything that this rivalry embodies, and I’m grateful I can be a part of it."
The Eagles have dominated the rivalry lately, winning 12 of their last 14 matchups. Sirianni hopes to keep that streak going.
Judge desperately needs a better result against the team he grew up rooting for as a kid in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. It’s been a long time since he won his first news conference as the Giants’ coach. He beat Sirianni decisively there; now we’ll see if he can match him on the field.