Wild, wacky opening night is back with a vengeance
Weird questions abound, but there are some substantive ones as well
PHOENIX — Nick Sirianni answered questions about Rocky, Santa Claus and even which of his players on the Philadelphia Eagles he’d want to date his 5-year-old daughter when she grows up.
Welcome to Super Bowl opening night where football talk gives way to the wild and wacky.
The circus atmosphere that kicks off the NFL’s biggest week returned Monday for the first time since 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic forced teams to meet the media on video conferences the past two seasons.
Sirianni and the Eagles took the stage first at Footprint Center, home of the Phoenix Suns. “Fly, Eagles, Fly” chants greeted players and coaches before they spent an hour answering wideranging questions from more than 2,000 media members.
For the record, Sirianni loves the Rocky movies. He identifies with Sylvester Stallone’s fictional movie character, who is part of Philadelphia’s fabric as much as the cheesesteak.
“I live and coach in the greatest sports town in America,” Sirianni said. “It means so much to everybody there. That’s what you want. When you’re a little kid playing in a peewee football game, you want everybody to see you. You want your fans to love it. You want them to be there. You want them wearing green on Friday. You want them to be throwing snowballs at Santa Claus. You want to put talent on display in front of the greatest sports town in America. I love the fact that my kids are growing up in a sports town where football means so much because football means so much to me.”
Eagles quarterback Jalen Hurts, an AP NFL MVP finalist, drew the largest crowd. Reporters staked out his spot about an hour before the event started. The first question came from Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, an NFL Network analyst.
“I feel like it’s not a time to reflect,” Hurts said about his journey to stardom. “We came here to finish the job.”
Overall, opening night wasn’t quite as outrageous as past years.
In Arizona in 2008, a female reporter showed up wearing a white wedding dress and veil and proposed to Tom Brady, who was trying to lead the New England Patriots to the first 19-0 season in NFL history.
One radio host walked around shirtless wearing a barrel. Otherwise, it was more about odd questions than odd looks.
THE QB MATCHUP: Sirianni said he’s thrilled young aspiring football players all over the world will get to watch two Black quarterbacks face each other for the first time in the Super Bowl.
He’s also pleased they get to watch two really, really good quarterbacks.
“I’m really excited for both quarterbacks, what they can represent to a ton of kids,” Sirianni said at Monday’s Super Bowl media night. “Not only are they two African-American quarterbacks, but they’re the two best quarterbacks in the NFL this year. First-team All-Pro, secondteam All-Pro.
“They both play at the highest level.”
There are many storylines for this Super Bowl, but the duel between Philadelphia’s Jalen Hurts and Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes is right at the top of the list.
The significance of Sunday’s matchup in Glendale, Arizona, isn’t lost on Mahomes.
“I think about it a lot,” Mahomes said. “The quarterbacks that came before me — Shack Harris, Doug Williams — that laid the foundation for me to be in this position. It goes across all sports. If you think about Jackie Robinson and the people who broke the color barrier in baseball, I wouldn’t be standing here today if it wasn’t for them.
“To be lucky enough to be in this position — and play against another great guy like Jalen — it will be a special moment. I’m glad we’re here today, but how can we keep moving forward? How can we motivate kids who are younger, who want to follow their dreams to be a quarterback?”
t’s not just the quarterbacks who are relishing the groundbreaking matchup. Chiefs running back Jerick McKinnon said players are well aware of what they’re witnessing.
“There’s history being made,” McKinnon said. “That’s a beautiful thing. Something I can look back and tell my kids that, ‘I was a part of that, I experienced that.’ So it’s a blessing. This whole experience is a blessing.”