Foles On Kelly: ‘There’s Always an Answer’

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Photo by: Jeff Fusco.

Chip Kelly has been asked the same question over and over again since he became the Eagles’ head coach: What are you looking for out of your quarterback?

His answers have varied, depending on the day. Kelly once said it was repetitive accuracy. Other times, he’s pointed to just being able to win games. And throughout, he’s maintained the importance of standing strong when faced with trying situations.

While all of those things factor into Kelly’s evaluation of his signal-caller, the No. 1 attribute he seems to value is decision-making. That’s why Kelly and Nick Foles seemed to have gotten along so well last year.

“Being decisive is very important,” Foles said, speaking to a roomful of reporters at the conclusion of last month’s minicamp. “It’s always important to be decisive when you’re a quarterback. And honestly you play fast, and what I mean by that is the guys are gonna look to the quarterback. What’s the speed of the quarterback? What’s his body language when you’re running the offense? Is he sort of just walking up and doing whatever? Is he intense, yelling the calls, getting it? Because if they see your speed and moving and just your intensity, then all of a sudden, it’s just human nature to just zap in and do it and just go. And I think that was probably the big thing.”

In other words, Foles is the tone-setter. That’s on gameday, during the weeks at practice and in the offseason.

To many outsiders, this partnership seemed unlikely merely a year ago. Kelly opened up the competition during the summer, Michael Vick played better in the preseason, and that was that.

But when Foles got his opportunity, he led the Eagles to a division title and put up eye-popping numbers along the way. The question going forward is: What will Kelly and Foles do for an encore?

Asked if Kelly’s offense is built to last now that coordinators will have a full offseason to study it, Foles said: “I sure hope so. I mean, when I run a play I don’t want to go into a play not knowing, ‘Alright, if they give me this look, we have no answer.’ It’s not a good feeling.

“So the thing I love about this offense is there’s really an answer for every different situation. Now the big thing is execution. You might have an answer, but if you don’t execute it, the play won’t work or something bad happens. But that’s what I love, is there’s always an answer, there’s always a reason. Different looks, I know where to go. It’s just, ‘Can I make the throw? Can I move the pocket? Can we make that cut with the running back?’ Stuff like that. That’s where execution comes in.”

It’s really a thorough and accurate description of Kelly’s offensive philosophy.

“I don’t think your offense can be a thousand miles wide and an inch deep,” Kelly said. “I think you have to have a system, whether that’s offense, defense or special teams. And you have to adhere to that system a little bit. You can’t just say, ‘I saw this play on Monday Night Football, let’s put it in. And I watched the University of Texas yesterday, let’s put this in.’ What do you want to be? What do you stand for? What is your vision in terms of how you want to get things accomplished?”

In the Eagles’ offense, Kelly hands the keys to Foles. He’s in charge of making reads, getting the playmakers into advantageous situations and moving fast. For Foles, the process begins as the offense gets to the line of scrimmage, before the ball is snapped.

“Just an example: When I get a play in, I make sure everybody is on the same page,” Foles explained. “I take a pre-snap read of the alignment, how the backers have shifted, where are the safeties, where are the corners and peripherals. So you just take that, and we’ll get the protection if it’s a pass. If it’s a run [play], I need to sort of key my defender or, like you said, numbers, like ‘Alright, do we have numbers here? Do we have numbers in the box?’ So that really all happens in a matter of a second, in my mind. And it took me 30 seconds to explain it to you, but it happens like that.”

Once Foles makes sure he has the offense in the right look, and the ball is snapped, he reads key defenders, sees how they react and decides where to go with the football.

“And then when the ball’s snapped, just through years of playing, I’ve been trained to react, because the defense isn’t just gonna line up and say, ‘Hey, this is what we’re doing,’ ” Foles continued. “They’re gonna go like this and guys are gonna come here, guys are gonna drop out, guys are gonna swipe, or vice versa or everywhere. So when you set a snap count and you see something, all of a sudden you catch the ball and look up, what happened? So you have to see what players are out of place. Where did the safeties roll? What are the corners doing? And you sort of get keys before the snap, but then it’s that instant, I know what I’m doing with the ball. Now I just go through my drop, or I hand off, or I keep the ball, whatever it is. And it’s hard to explain. It’s just, it’s just got to come to you, and you’ve got to be able to react.”

The Eagles run many of the similar concepts out of different looks. Given Foles’ explanation, it’s easy to see why Kelly is obsessed with practicing fast and maximizing reps. The entire operation is based on the QB knowing where to go with the football depending on the look of the defense, and also all 11 guys executing at a high enough level.

“I think the fast pace, you go more with just your gut,” Foles said. “Obviously there’s different checks and I’m reading the defense and there’s different hot reads and there’s a lot of stuff that goes on, but you’re not over-thinking things too much. You’re just playing with what your preparation has showed you. You’re just reacting. And if there’s a bad play, you just try to throw the ball where you do something to move on to the next play.”

The results for Foles in Year 1 under Kelly have been well-documented. The third-highest single-season QB rating in NFL history and franchise records for yards and points.

Foles is fully aware of the challenges that await in Year 2. But listening to him speak, it’s clear that he knows what’s expected of him and what his options are. The fate of the Eagles in 2014 will depend largely on if Foles can once again make the right decisions.

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  • JofreyRice

    he sounds pretty impressive describing this.

    I’m not a huge fan of the defense, but I’ll say that their ability to be so versatile, and field so many different looks–odd and even fronts, nickel looks, 3 safety packages, etc.–is probably a big advantage to practice against for the offense.

    I’m really excited to see the way Kelly attacks a defense that just lines up and executes with talent; like the ones they have out in the NFC West. Dealing SF a loss early in the season would be tremendous.

    • Eagles1018…Please no more du

      I’m concerned with that entire division. I mean the Rams won’t be pushovers by my stretch. I think if we go 10-6 with at least a wild card berth again we did good.

      • JofreyRice

        yep. Class of the NFL right now.

      • Amar, CB who bought in

        Wild Card berths are going to be tough to secure, NFC West will have at least 1 (if not both) and then there are 3 strong contenders in NFC South.

  • PhillySean

    I used to go insane watching the eagles O play with absolutely no apparent sense of urgency until maybe their final two possessions of the game.

    Edited to add: it sure is refreshing to read Kelly talking about wanting to see a QB move quickly and with intensity.

    • Kev_H

      I also thought of Reid’s tendency to get plays in late thus hanging his guys out to dry with no answers.

    • Pennguino

      It is nice not having that Helter Skelter offense

  • Rick H

    Foles will have a great year! There will be a game where he throws a couple of interceptions and the offense has a bad game… Then instantly the “I told you he wasn’t any good crowd will come out in droves” but he will be an All Pro. The Eagles will win the division…
    Every player has a few bad games. That is why the Eagles are building a very good team around their stars with focus on character, 100% committed players,depth and special teams standouts.

    • Pennguino

      It is nice when coach sees the player is off and finds a different way to get the most out of him while shifting the play calls to something that is working. If Foles struggles in a game Chip will goto McCoy and pound it until Foles gets out of his funk or start calling plays he can complete.
      Unlike Reid and McNabb. McNabb will be off and Reid will have him try and throw out of it by passing 30 times in the first half while the gap in the score gets bigger and bigger.

      • Rick H

        Very very true! One of my worst memories of passing at the wrong time occurred in the NFC Championship game at home against the Panthers. The score was 3 to 0 Panthers if I recall correctly (at the beginning of the 2nd half). The Eagles received the kickoff and ran it down the Panthers throat all the way down the field. Staley was getting 7 yards then 9 yards then 10 more yards… The Panthers knew the Eagles were going the run the ball and couldn’t stop it anyway. So the Eagles and Reid are just about to enter the red zone and Reid has McNabb throw the ball. I was there at the game lowel level front row and I couldn’t believe it.
        A short in to Pinkston and Pinkston doesn’t fight for inside position and Ricky Manning stepped in front and intercepted the pass as if it was thrown to him.
        IT was one of the dumbest plays ever. The Eagles could have & should have run the ball right into the end zone. It was looking easy. Andy had to pass!

  • knighn

    Speaking of Offense / Defense, have you guys read Tommy Lawlor’s blurb on Mike Pereira?

    Interesting day at NFL officiating clinic. Biggest point of emphasis for 2014..Illegal contact and defensive holding. More offense!
    — Mike Pereira

    Lawlor points out how it might negatively impact the Eagles defense, but I believe this could also impact other teams that like to press and could turn out to be highly beneficial to the Eagles offense… who will likely face a lot of press coverage. The only question: will this focus on illegal conduct / defensive holding benefit the Eagles offense more than it harms the Eagles defense?!

    • aub32

      I think this would do more harm than good for us. Our offenses really doesn’t need the help. Plus our offense is a very run heavy offense. Illegal contact wouldn’t really help that aspect. We are also getting away from WRs like DJ and DJ2. Lastly, Kelly is one of the best coaches at getting WRs open utilizing different route combinations. So our WRs aren’t going to have much more success than they would regularly.

      On the flip side, think how many PI calls or near calls we had last year. Our CBs aren’t overly athletic. They do not possess great ball skills or an outstanding understanding of the position and opponents. They depend heavily on being able disrupt WRs during their route. If refs become more strict, be prepared to hear CW called for a penalty every other series and Fletch at least once or twice a game.

      • knighn

        I had a similar thought… at first.

        The Eagles offense is run-heavy for the NFL, which means they still pass the ball more than 50% of the time. They also run out of the option quite a bit, so more passing options would only help to improve the run game. I also think the Eagles will pass at a greater rate than last year when Mike Vick was running things for 6 games and Nick Foles was new to the system.

        I think the end result will be that the Eagles score even more points but we’ll also see a few more PI calls.

        • aub32

          I don’t see the Eagles scoring much more than last year. That doesn’t mean the offense will be worse. We face better competition. The Saints secondary looks good. The NFCW is stacked. The Panthers can play D. Plus DJax, the person who would’ve been helped most by this change, is gone. I don’t see us throwing many down the field passes as we did last year. So that’s another reason why I think the ruling hurts more than helps.

          • MagatBrackendale

            i was watching a bit of NFL Network this morning and they had some interesting info about that “high-powered” Denver Peyton Manning offense. More than half of his touchdown passes were fairly short, not downfield, and much of the credit should have gone to the receivers’ YAC. Seems to me that the Eagles just might have a similar group of receivers. And Foles is that kind of passer, with the proven ability to occasionally fling the 50 yards in the air surprise.

          • aub32

            There’s a big difference in talent that you are missing. Nick Foles had one great season. Manning is all time great. You cannot compare the two at this point in Nick’s career. Thomas >>> Maclin. Decker >> Cooper. Welker >> Matthews. Thomas > Ertz. Plus the Broncos doesn’t run the ball as much as we do. So I don’t see how you can even begin to compare the two offenses.


            I just looked and saw this was Maggie. I must say I am disappointed. Just because Foles is big and slow does not make him Manning. Foles is good but I cannot believe you tried to make the comparison as if these two QBs are in the same class.

          • MagatBrackendale

            And I am disappointed that you seem to think I was comparing Foles “body of work” to Manning’s. That’s ridiculous. The TV folk were talking about the 2013 season and some possibilities for 2014. And so was I. In addition, I do not worship at the altar of any quarterback as I have never seen one of them, including Peyton Manning, throw the ball to himself. Talented? Yes. Great god-like beings? No. Omaha, Omaha, Omaha.

          • aub32

            Who called manning a god. I don’t even like his style of play. However, the man is one of the best QBs to play the gams, and assuming Foles can easily duplicate what manning was able to do in 2013 with less receiving talent than manning had is a stretch.

          • Andy
          • knighn

            Believe it or not: the Eagles offense only averaged 27.6 points per game last year. I could see them easily average 30+ points per game this year.

            Maclin will be helped by the rule… and if healthy, he’s not that much of a drop-off from DeSean (and has historically provided more in the Red Zone). Meanwhile Jordan Matthews, even as a rookie, should provide more than 2013 Jason Avant. 2014 Zach Ertz should be better than 2013 Zach Ertz. Sproles should be a better option (especially in the passing game) than Bryce Brown.

            This will be Foles’ second season in this system, his first as a full-time starter, and only his 3rd in the NFL. Not to mention: this is only Chip’s 2nd NFL season and I believe he’ll adapt as well.

            As for “Strength of Schedule”, Sheil dealt with that one back in February:
            For example: the Panthers, as you pointed out, can play D, but should NOT be able to play as well under the NFL’s new rules that benefit offense. Who do you think that will help more? The Eagles and their already prolific passing offense or the Panthers who have Jason Avant and Jerricho Cotchery their projected WRs? Other writers have also dealt with the myth of pre-season strength-of-schedule since Sheil’s article came out.

            I don’t believe that the Eagles will have as many big plays but they should have a more efficient offense that ultimately puts up more points. We’ll revisit this during and after the 2014 season.

          • aub32

            I think you are missing something. Outside of SEA and maybe ARZ, I am not overly worried about the secondaries we will be facing. My worry is the front 7. The Panthers secondary isn’t scary. Their front 7 is. Our offense is predicated on our ability to run the ball. If we cannot run the ball, we will be in trouble. Maclin is not in the same class as DJax, especially coming off of that injury. So play action will play a big part in helping to get guys open. Also, Sproles will not be a mismatch when going against Willis, Kuechly, Wagner, and so on. Those teams can hit, and I am not convinced Maclin won’t duck instead of running the risk of taking a hit from Chancellor.

          • knighn

            While Tommy focused on the CBs, the emphasis on “Illegal contact and defensive holding” will impact much more than the CBs. In my humble opinion, Super Bowl XLVIII was NOT the game that the NFL wanted. You think Roger Goodell enjoyed watching one of NFL’s golden boys getting shut down in front of a huge national audience? You think the NFL wanted people to watch that lopsided snoozefest?

            Look at the rules that they’re emphasizing. They’re also trying to get the refs to spot the ball faster (today’s article – 07/22). I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: “In Today’s NFL Offense is what wins championships. If defenses start becoming too strong (Seahawks) the league will simply change the rules and officiating to further benefit the offense.” I believe that’s what we’re staring to see now. It’s hard for the NFL to market its Red Zone channel if teams aren’t scoring in the Red Zone.

            Moving to other parts of your argument: I share your concerns about Maclin, both with his health and his STJM reputation. However: I don’t believe that Maclin is truly that much of a drop-off from Jackson, and he was historically better in the Red Zone. With the Eagles playing more of a ball-control offense, I believe Maclin could play a good part. If Maclin doesn’t Mac Up, I believe he will be benched in favor for other big wide receivers who are more physical… (better run blockers) even if not as talented.

            As for your assertion, “Our offense is predicated on our ability to run the ball.” I think there is a partial truth there. Chip Kelly likes to run a balanced offense and he likes to for his team to run the ball. However, I believe that Kelly, unlike Reid, will go with what’s working while still maintaining balance. As Chip said when first hired, “We’re an equal-opportunity scoring offense. Whether we throw it across the line or run it across the line… If we can wing it, we’ll wing it. If we can run it, we’ll run it.” Remember the game against the Cardinals where Foles had 3 passing TDs to his TEs because that’s where the Cardinals weakness was? Wherever the weakness is, these Eagles will exploit it. If the new emphasis on officiating makes it easier for the Eagles to exploit opposing defenses: so be it.

            I expect the Eagles O to average 30 or more points per game this year. Whether or not the Eagles D will keep up is a different subject.

    • Kev_H

      The Seahawks got a lot of mileage out of daring officials to call illegal contact/holding every play. It will be interesting to see how the officials respond.

      • knighn

        That was the 1st team I thought of. I didn’t go there because I didn’t feel like being lectured on “the awesome Seahawks defense.”

        • MagatBrackendale

          The “awesome Seattle defense” admirers are causing you some constern?

          • knighn

            Nice try, Maggie, but I don’t think “constern” will ever catch on. I admire your swag in trying.

  • Daniel Spector

    Off topic but I thought this was cool

    “You see the likes of Coach Kelly,” says NFL Executive VP of Operations Troy Vincent. “And that high tempo office. They’re running rapid plays. The ball needs to be spotted rapidly, and we need to make sure that our officials are also evolving to the pace of that game.”

    • Jernst

      That’s great news after seeing all those articles last year about how the refs would dictate the speed of the offense. The NFL front office loves money, and if you look at the vast majority of their rule changes and implementation they clearly see that money comes from excited fans and subsequently lots of scoring. The NFL has taken note of the national excitement over Kellys offense and the potential for more scoring, less down time and a game that’s more fast paced and exciting for fans. Was there anything more exciting than watching our offense operate in the first quarter of that first Washington game on Monday night. That’s one of the few times we actually saw the offense operate at blur speed. I remember thinking after the fumble return for a TD on the first drive, “Ok, sweet, we get the ball back, I can’t wait to watch more of this offense.” Never before was I that pumped over an early turnover and 7 point deficit. I think were gonna see the offense move at a blistering pace this season, much faster than last now that the players are comfortable in the system and have had a full year to condition for it.

  • Bullwinkle

    Other than his slow running speed, Foles seems like the perfect QB for Kelly’s system. I remember reading an article last year where Nick’s father mentioned that his son is very smart. I bet that Kelly knew after training camp that Nick would eventually be the starting QB, but he had to start Michael, because of his better performance in the preseason games. After watching those games, my opinion was that Michael had better stats and was more dynamic, but Nick demonstrated better overall command of the offense. I loved the way the offense worked during the second half of last season. It was methodical (for the most part) like a well tuned machine.

    • anon

      that was obvious from pre-season. if vick was smarter he would have won, but he doesnt anticipate and holds onto the ball too long. i think nick also throws a more catchable ball. But it was fun watching vick play the skins…

    • aub32

      You are clearly jaded by hindsight. Foles was bad in preseaaon, but he had turnovers and stalled a few drives. The good were good and methodical, but how is having 1 good drive and 1 bad drive showing any type of consistency. Foles won out in the long run. He had a great season, but there’s no way anyone can watch last year’s preseason and say he did a better job.

      • Andy Six Score and Four

        Some typos make a big difference… I think you meant to say that Foles “wasn’t” bad in the preseason. :)

        • aub32

          You’re right. I was trying to get out of the office lol.

      • Bullwinkle

        What’s clear to you in terms of Foles’ performance in preseason was not clear to me. I saw a tall young guy with potential who played within the system, made smart decisions and was showing improvement. Michael was the same Michael I’ve watched for years, a creative artist on the field who manufactured offense using his amazing athletic ability. I was hoping that Foles would get the starting job coming out of camp, based on my opinion of his potential. However, I never expected him to play as well as he did.

        • aub32

          Playing better than expected is not the same thing as playing better than Vick. He clearly played worse in the offense than Vick during the preseason. It wasn’t just about stats. The guy had fumbles and threw an INT. His drives that were successful looked good, but you cannot just ignore the bad.

          • Bullwinkle

            I did not say Foles played better than Michael Vick. I said I felt that Foles had more potential than Michael. In my view, Michael Vick had reached his full potential. He played exactly how I expected him to play when the season started. He was good and he was not so good. He tried to do too much himself and did not fully take advantage of the various options Kelly’s offense provides. Coming out of preseason, I believed that Vick at age 32 was not going to improve much and that he would eventually get injured as a result of his style of play.

  • cliff h-MOAR white goons

    let’s hurry-up already, i’m dying to find out about Foles. the 27/2 coaches quote machine or the hapless luckiest qb ‘Allas fans are trying to spin.

  • mtn_green

    Watched Bills TC for a minute on espn. Man they just stand around the whole time. Players are on stationary bikes to keep loose while everyone stands around.

    Eagles have a far better TC program. Bills are just leaving reps on the field that could be taped and shown to players to correct mistakes.

    Love watching Eagles TC, too bad just loops the same few reps in their videos.

  • dislikedisqus

    That is such a vivid description of playing QB in the 21st century.