Philadelphia Eagles: Pederson’s built the NFL’s most QB friendly system

(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) /

After struggling to fit square pegs into round holes for years, Doug Pederson has designed the NFL’s most QB friendly system for the Philadelphia Eagles.

The Philadelphia Eagles are Super Bowl champions!

While there are many factors that have directly contributed to the team’s incredible turnaround from a 7-9, fourth-place finish in the NFC East to the best team in the nation, from Howie Roseman‘s masterful offseason moves to the team fervent dedication to the next man up mentality, no one has been more instrumental in the Eagles recent string of success than Doug Pederson.

After the Eagles lost franchise quarterback Carson Wentz to IR after suffering a season-ending ACL injury on a called back touchdown run against the Los Angeles Rams, many fans, pundits are detractors alike all assumed that the team’s season and playoff aspirations were essentially over, but apparently, no one told Pederson.

With Nick Foles pressed into action as the team’s new signal caller, the Eagles not only soldered on, but thrived, winning four of their next five games in route to the team’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2002, and their first championship since 1960.

Related Story: Philadelphia Eagles fan learns Super Bowl LII score while covering news

More from Philadelphia Eagles

While many will look to the team’s strong supporting cast, and stout run defense as to why the Birds continued to dominate without Wentz, one aspect that often gets overlooked is just how great, and quarterback friendly the system Pederson has put together in South Philly.

When the Eagles initially hired Pederson before the 2016 NFL season, the entire organization made it a point of emphasize0 to assemble a quarterback-friendly system that could help to develop whomever the team added in the NFL draft into a starting caliber player.

Between offensive coordinator Frank Reich, a former folk hero quarterback for the Buffalo Bills, quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo, a Radnor grad who helped ease Derek Carr‘s transition into the NFL, and Pederson himself, a 13-year career backup in the NFL, the team has created a quarterback incubator of sorts that transformed Wentz from a FCS prospect with only 23 collegiate starts to a MVP finalist in only 29 games. And the collective didn’t just work their magic on Wentz.

When Foles entered the starting lineup, Pederson did something that’s almost unprecedented in the NFL, he changed his scheme to fit his new quarterback.

Revolutionary, right?

While this may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised by how many teams try to take a quarterback and try to force them into a scheme that doesn’t necessarily fit their skillset.

When Michael Vick, arguably the most dynamic quarterback in NFL history, entered the league in 2001, the former Virginia Tech Hokie was placed into a more traditional, pro-style offensive system that handcuffed his street ball athleticism in favor of winning from the pocket. Though the team did win plenty of games with Vick under center, as he still made some jaw-dropping plays with both his arm and legs, they never got over the hump to win a Super Bowl.

Want another example that hits a little closer to home?

Related Story: Philadelphia Eagles: 5 most memorable moments from Super Bowl LII

In 2013 when the aforementioned Michael Vick went down, then Eagles head coach Chip Kelly inserted backup quarterback Nick Foles into his lineup and put together one of the most amazing half seasons in NFL history.

With Foles under center, Kelly’s fast-paced spread offense picked apart opposing defenses with lightning speed, but after suffering some setbacks in 2014, the team’s de facto GM decided to trade away Foles, a quarterback who went 14-4 as a starter under Kelly to the Rams for Sam Bradford because he just wasn’t athletic enough to run his signature play, the read-option. While Foles did have some success with the RPO, now his signature play, his inability to make quick reads in Kelly’s rudimentary passing game, when coupled with his perceived inability to make plays with his feet made him a non-starter and ultimately not deserving of a roster spot.

And this would not be the first time a team would move on from Foles because of his perceived shortcomings.

Foles only lasted one season with the Rams, going 4-7 as a starter in Jeff Fisher‘s anemic offense before being benched for Case Keenum, and finished the season ranked the worst starting quarterback in the entire league by ESPN. While this sudden, and extreme fall from the NFL’s elite to an afterthought was incredibly hard for Foles, as highlighted by his own admission of considering retirement following the season, he was given another chance to help a team out, this time with the man who drafted him, Andy Reid.

With recent Redskins acquisition Alex Smith getting up there in age, and never really living up to being the first overall selection in the 2005 NFL Draft, the Chiefs were actively looking for his heir apparent, and ultimately decided to once again look over Foles, and trade up into the first half of the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft to select Texas Tech Air Raid leader Patrick Mahomes 10th overall.

Which ultimately brought Foles to South Philly.

Related Story: Philadelphia Eagles: A night of a lifetime for the Eagles and their fans

While many fans wondered which Foles they would see in 2017 when Wentz ultimately went down for the season with his ACL injury, the 8-2 All-Star or the 4-7 burnout, Coach Pederson knew exactly how to get the most out of his offseason acquisition.

Instead of forcing Foles to play fit into a scheme tailor-made for Wentz’s incredible athleticism, improvisational style, and gunslinger mentality, the coaching staff took a deep dive into Foles’ tape, both as a pro and all the way back to his days at Arizona, to redesign their playbook to fit their new quarterback’s strengths, specifically the run-pass option. Gone were the sweeping bootleg passes, nine step drops and read-option plays, in favor of a quicker, timing based gameplan that highlighted Foles quick release, while limiting the amount of time the ball was in his hands to help neutralize opposing team’s pass rush.

And it worked incredibly well.

Who would have ever guessed that designing a playbook around a players strengths of a quarterback, while trying to minimize their weaknesses could actually be successful?

Apparently very few coaches.

As the college game moves further and further away from the traditional pro-style offenses that many NFL teams choose to deploy, the league’s receiving more and more young, incredibly talented quarterbacks who aren’t ready to play on Day 1.

Related Story: Philadelphia Eagles complete historic run as Super Bowl LII champions

While players like Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, and Paxton Lynch were incredibly successful in college and were rewarded for their efforts by being selected in the first round of the last two NFL Drafts, none of these players took significant snaps from under center in college, and often received their play called from boards on the sideline, as opposed to calling them in the huddle. Some players, like former Baylor star Bryce Petty, have even admitted that they never even learned how to read a defense at the college level.

So how, and why should teams expect a young college player to come into a completely new scheme, with different responsibilities requirements, and play designs, and still remain as productive and dynamic as they were in college?

In an incredible expose for the Wall Street Journal, Kevin Clarke broke down why the NFL has a QB Crisis, and he makes some great points.

While some players, like Colin Kaepernick, Tyrod Taylor, and Tim Tebow have struggled to latch on to consistent success in the NFL because of their unconventional playing style, other incredibly dynamic college quarterbacks, like Braxton Miller, Nick Marshall and Terrelle Pryor, have actually had to change positions to have a chance at an NFL career, with varying degrees of success.

Now it may seem inconsequential, but as former Browns GM Ray Farmer proposed to Clarke “What if you devoted resources to designing an offense where Nick Marshall could thrive?

I’m sure Pederson would agree.

Why aren’t more NFL teams willing to radically redesign their playbooks around the skillsets of their quarterback, in an attempt to ease their transition into the league, or to simply capitalize on their skills and minimize their deficiencies?

Related Story: Philadelphia Eagles: 5 reasons Nick Foles shouldn’t be traded in 2018

Maybe call it hubris, but I imagine that many offensive coordinators and offensive-minded head coaches feel that they got to where they are based on the strength of their offensive scheme, and simply don’t see a point in compromising their offenses integrity to accommodate any one player’s skillset. That’s why some quarterbacks, like Case Keenum, or Josh McCown have gone on to find success later in their careers by joining  a scheme that fits their skill set, and other players, like Ryan Tannehill and Jay Cutler have cost more than their fair share of coaches their jobs, as they both obviously have NFL caliber talent, but have yet to play in a scheme that can maximize their potential.

While I’m not saying anyone off the street can be a starting quarterback in the NFL, it seems incredibly shortsighted to completely remove highly qualified players who have the production, drive, and character to play the game at the highest level because they don’t have the right sized hands or the optimal height.

Drafting a blue-chip prospect like Wentz with virtually perfect measurables, and the sound mental fortitude needed to play the quarterback position at the game’s highest level can be looked at as a silver bullet to finding a franchise quarterback in the NFL, but Pederson’s Eagles just won a Super Bowl behind the arm of a former fourth-round pick who’s on his fourth team in as many years by crafting a scheme that fits his unique skillset mid-season.

While Foles’ time in Philly may not last past next season, as he’s already in high demand by some of the league’s quarterback-needy teams, Pederson’s newfound pedigree as a quarterback whisperer who can turn players careers around will like have veterans from across the league vying for a chance to learn under the Eagles second-year head coach, and hopefully resurrect their own careers as backups to Wentz.

Next: Philadelphia Eagles: Philly fans, this is your moment

In Pederson, the Eagles have lucked into finding one of the league’s most unselfish head coaches one who’s willing to compromise his own offensive scheme to optimize his quarterback’s skill set, and if they’re smart, other teams will start taking notice.