Sirmans’ first year in the NFL was Jackson’s final season with the Rams, and since then he has coached mostly young running backs, including NFL offensive rookie of the year Todd Gurley this past season.
Now his job is to get Eddie Lacy back on track after a disappointing third season. In fact the job is Sirmans' in large part because his predecessor, Sam Gash, was fired after Lacy showed up for Year 3 out of shape and never was able to match his production from his first two seasons.
Whether it was Gurley last year or Lacy this year, Sirmans uses Jackson as the model for his backs.
“I talk to those guys about, ‘Hey, here’s how a running back that’s played 10 years in the NFL, here’s how he went about his business,’” Sirmans said Thursday. “So those notes that you’re taking, all of his notebooks were filled up. He was coming in here, going through tape, watching those things. So I try to encourage those guys that, ‘Here’s how professionals handle their business.’
"So it was great for me. So when I got those younger guys, I pretty much said, ‘Hey, here’s how those veteran guys have done it. If you have plans and expectations to stay in this league for a long time, here’s what you need to do. Here’s how you need to train yourself.’ They all want to stick around in this league for a long time.”
Coach Mike McCarthy hired Sirmans at a critical point in Lacy’s career. After consecutive 1,100-yard seasons, Lacy showed up to training camp last year overweight and never got his conditioning back to where the Packers expected. Although McCarthy said Thursday that he believes Lacy is back on the right track after he called him out for being overweight, a big part of Sirmans’ job is to make sure Lacy’s production improves after his 758-yard season in 2015.
“It’s a performance business; we all understand that,” McCarthy said. “There’s a big picture that obviously ultimately I’m in charge of. The opportunity to continue to move forward as far as teaching the players, getting the players to respond and getting them to perform at the highest level, I think sometimes change is necessary to try to improve that drive.”
What’s more, Lacy is entering the final year of his rookie contract. He’ll need to show a renewed dedication if he wants the Packers to offer him a second deal.
“My role, from that standpoint, it’s very important because everything leads to performance,” Sirmans said. “So the better shape he’s in, obviously the better he’s going to perform. So my role is to make sure not only that I encourage him, to make sure that he’s doing the right thing. Making sure he also realizes the benefits of him being at his top, which he does. He does understand that. But once he knows and understands that he’s in top physical position and fitness, he’s going to have a chance to perform at the highest level.”
Like Lacy, Jackson was a bruising-type running back at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, and he just completed his 12th NFL season. Sirmans said he sees the same type of longevity possible for Lacy.
“I think the things that he can do, for a guy that’s a big guy with incredible feet, I think he’s a guy who definitely has some staying power in this league for sure,” Sirmans said.