We’ve linked to the site FishDuck.com several times in this space in the past couple months.
The site is run by Charles Fischer, a 56-year-old Oregon football fan, and his stable of writers. They provide great analysis and background on Chip Kelly and the Oregon program.
Fischer recently put up a post titled, Why Chip Kelly Will Win Super Bowls At Philadelphia. In case you can’t figure it out from the headline, Fischer thinks Eagles fans are in for a treat, and he has no reservations about Kelly’s ability to adjust to the NFL game.
He offered up one anecdote in particular that will be of interest to this group (hat tip to Bleeding Green Nation):
In 2007 Heisman candidate QB Dennis Dixon went down with a knee injury that thwarted Oregon’s National Championship hopes, but few realize the extent to which Oregon was ravaged by injuries at the position that year. Oregon was down to their fourth string QB, (Justin Roper, a redshirt freshman who later transferred to Montana) as the starter for the Sun Bowl that year and Coach Kelly devised a game plan for the statuesque Roper that utilized his talents. Roper threw for four touchdown passes in that victory while Oregon set a record for points in the Sun Bowl (56). It was Chip’s first year as our Offensive Coordinator, and I knew then we had something special in this coach as I watched the DVR multiple times spellbound. I could not believe my eyes as we Oregon fans knew we were the ones about to get pasted going into this game, yet Coach Kelly’s game plan turned it completely around.
The story, of course, relates to the Eagles’ current QB situation. Kelly has been asked time and again about his preference for a mobile quarterback. In each instance, he says pretty much the same thing: that he’ll adjust to personnel and that he has won with classic drop-back quarterbacks before. Most often, he points to Ricky Santos, his QB at New Hampshire.
But he could have just as easily mentioned Roper’s performance in the Sun Bowl. To be fair, running back Jonathan Stewart led the way in that game, running for 253 yards on 23 carries. But Roper completed 17 of 30 attempts for 180 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
“I didn’t expect to have that many stats. I expected to do well, but not that well,” Roper said after the game, per the Associated Press.
Roper was not a running quarterback. He had 32 rushing attempts for 86 yards in 10 games with the Ducks before transferring to Montana. He was 6-5, 218 and described above as “statuesque.” The Eagles have a quarterback in Nick Foles, who is 6-5, 243. And while he showed last year that he could make some throws on the move, no one would consider him to be mobile.
Andy Reid developed a reputation for working with quarterbacks during his time as an assistant with the Packers and then during his 14-year run with the Eagles.
Kelly earned that reputation in the college ranks. In February of last year, Ted Miller of ESPN.com wrote, “I don’t want to sound fawning but I’m not sure any coach in the nation has been better with quarterbacks since 2007 than Chip Kelly.”
Miller then went on to recap how Kelly got the most out of Dennis Dixon in 2007, how he had to piece things together in 2008 after QB Nate Costa had knee issues and how he found an answer with Darron Thomas in 2010 after Jeremiah Masoli got kicked off the team.
One Oregon player pointed out to me earlier this offseason that Kelly made four BCS games with three different quarterbacks. And he was right.
The question that now hangs over Kelly’s hiring with the Eagles is: Can he make it work in the NFL? We’re all guessing on the answer, but the Roper story and Kelly’s QB history shows he’s had to adjust in the past.
Maybe that points to the Eagles’ thought process when it comes to hanging on to Foles: Evaluate the roster, identify assets, hang on to them and bank on Kelly being able to make it work, even if the skill set doesn’t always match the prototype.