WEEK 13 CRYSTAL BALL - WEEKEND
Sirianni's rise is no surprise
My friends, THE GURU saw it coming, Nick Sirianni’s success in Philadelphia. And that should tell you that it didn’t take a genius to spot it.
Indeed, it all makes sense if you know anything about the roots of the Eagles head coach. You see, in addition to his mentor and former boss Frank Reich, his influences include four men - and an amazing woman - who shaped his upbringing and coaching philosophy.
Let’s start from the top:
It began with Nick’s old man in upstate New York as Fran Sirianni was a highly successful football and track and field head coach at Southwestern Central High School in Jamestown West. In fact, well into his 70s, Fran remains a coach of Southwestern’s boys track and field team, assisting the man who replaced him in the top job. That successor? His son Jay, who has followed his father’s coaching lead in directing the team to 35 straight dual-meet victories.
Tom Priester, a former Southwestern teacher who coached cross country at the school for 42 years, talked in 2018 about Fran’s impact on his three sons - Nick, Jay and Mike.
"I know the ideals he brought to (Southwestern), and he continues to have the same ideals - God first, family and a dedication to what you do, and he's instilled that into his boys. I know they have a great deal of respect for their father, and they just picked up the tradition their father established."
It’s worth noting that Coach Fran was also no slouch as a player, entering the Clarion (Pa.) University Sports Hall of Fame for football and track and field. More importantly, that’s where he experienced his greatest success, meeting his future wife, Amy.
His older brothers, Mike and Jay.
The aforementioned Jay continues to make his mark at Southwestern, where he previously led the football program for 12 years. Meanwhile, brother Mike has been head football coach at Division III Washington & Jefferson since 2003.
W&J is not widely known as a football school, but it should be. In fact, it's a force with which to be reckoned, dominating the Presidents Athletic Conference with 10 league titles and a 176-42 record in Mike’s 20 seasons. And his career winning percentage of .807 is one of the best in NCAA history, at any level.
His college head coach.
Fran and his boys have done great things in their athletic careers, but their lofty accomplishments pale compared to those of Larry Kehres, who coached all three Sirianni boys at the University of Mount Union (Ohio).
In fact, Kehres owns the best winning percentage in college football history, and it isn’t particularly close, with his .929 well ahead of Notre Dame’s Knute Rockne, who is second at .881. Amazingly, in 27 years at the helm, Kehres won 11 national titles while appearing in the championship game 16 times.
Along the way, he led the Purple Raiders to the two longest winning streaks in the history of the sport at any collegiate level – 55 and 54 games - and won the Ohio Athletic Conference title in each of his final 21 seasons. He lost a grand total of two OAC games – 2! – while advancing to the NCAA semifinals or the title game every year. Goodness.
He also had a massive impact on his players. Mike put it this way in 2021 when talking about what stood out about Coach Kehres.
“The consistency. We would be playing a 14-0 team in the national championship or we could be playing an 0-8 team in the ninth week of the season and it was the same. Practices were the same. We didn’t watch film any longer. We didn’t practice any less. There were no major pregame speeches. It was business. It was the same. He treated everyone with consistency and everyone with respect and it was kind of like ‘Win the day.’ You want to win every day.”
That said, it’s unlikely Mike and the other Sirianni boys would’ve set foot on the Alliance, Ohio, campus without a push from their mother, Amy. Mom took her eldest son, Mike, to a career fair at St. Bonaventure University during his senior year of high school and, at the event, she was impressed with the Mount Union representative.
“Why don’t you try this college?” she said to Mike. “It’s something I think you would like, it’s a nice, small college, it’s a Christian school.'”
The rest, as they say, is history.
One last note on Mount Union: after Kehres retired in 2012 to become athletic director, he handed the reins to his son, Vince, now the defensive coordinator at Toledo. The kid turned out to be the winningest coach in college football during his seven years at the helm with a record of 95-6 (.949), six conference titles and two national championships in five trips. His replacement, former Mount Union offensive lineman Geoff Dart, is 30-1 (.968) since taking the job and he has an old hand as his quarterbacks coach, Mr. Larry Kehres.
As with the Siriannis, I guess coaching is in the Kehres blood.
I’m no high-profile coach but I am on a little bit of a warm streak right now. Indeed, after an 11-5 week, the season mark sits at 107-73 (.594).
Let’s take a quick look at this week’s games as with Arizona and Carolina on the bye and lots of info at the ready — the full schedule, including TV listings and broadcaster pairings; team standings; and team and individual statistics. And injury reports, too.
Now for the picks and I’ll start with the game I’m attending today at MetLife Stadium with my red-hot Commanders taking on the Giants.
Washington has won six of seven games while New York has dropped three of four, which makes it easy to pick my boys. However, it often seems like the Giants play well when they’re backed into a corner and that’s what I see happening today. It pains me to do it, but I think the hosts escape with a narrow win.
In the other 1 pm ET games, take Green Bay over Chitown, host Philly vs. Tennessee, Dee-troit against the Jags, Baltimore over Denver, Atlanta over Pittsburgh, Minnesota vs. the Jets and Houston to upset Cleveland in DeShaun Watson’s return.
In the 4 pm window, I’m rolling with Seattle at the Rams, San Fran over visiting Miami, KC in Cincinnati and Vegas, at home, against the Chargers. On Sunday night, Dallas beats Indy and, tomorrow, Tampa upends New Orleans.
That’s all for this week, folks! Wish me luck today in the belly of the beast and God bless!