How Much Of It Is the System?
Nick Foles currently leads the league with a quarterback rating of 128.0. That’s 10 points higher than Peyton Manning and 20 points higher than Aaron Rodgers. He has 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. He has started five games, and has been awarded NFC Offensive Player of the Week twice.
Impressive, obviously. How much of the credit goes to the quarterback, and how much goes to the system?
“It’s always about the individual,” said Chip Kelly. “It doesn’t matter what plays are called or scheme that is run, they still have to be executed, and I think he is executing them and all the credit goes to him. He spends a lot of time, he works extremely hard at it, he’s got a really good grasp of what we’re doing, he’s extremely accurate in his throws. He’s doing a great job of making decisions and not putting the ball in harm’s way.”
It’s hard to ignore, though, the way quarterbacks have routinely excelled under Kelly. Whether it was Jeremiah Masoli (15 TD, 6 INT in 2009), Darron Thomas (63 TD, 16 INT in 2010-11) or Marcus Mariota (32 TD, 6 INT in 2012), all of his signal-callers produced in a pretty big way while he was head coach at Oregon. Mariota continues to thrive this season (25 TD, 0 INT) running essentially the same system that Kelly installed. Michael Vick had this Eagles offense humming for the most part before he got injured.
Is it fair to call this a quarterback-friendly system?
“I would say nine times this year yes, two times this year no,” Kelly quipped.
There is evidence to support the case. But as Kelly said, the system is nothing if the quarterback can’t execute.
When asked earlier this year what he seeks first and foremost out of a quarterback, Kelly went with “repetitive accuracy.” On Monday, he added that he values “wins number one, interceptions number two, and [Foles has] been really good with both of those.”
Foles hasn’t thrown an interception and is 4-1 as a starter, so you can see why Kelly would be pleased.
As for the Foles-Vick situation: Kelly indicated that Vick, who was inactive Sunday, could have played against Washington if the team needed him. He is hoping that Vick (hamstring) will be “up and ready to go” after the bye week. The head coach says that when both QBs are healthy, he will have a talk with each of them about the starting job, as he did this summer following the quarterback competition. There is no reason to think Foles will be taken out of the lineup while he is playing this well.
Kelly discussed how he’s been able to make it work with two quarterbacks that possess very different skill sets.
“If you’ve got a guy who is more of a runner — and I had some of those guys at my career at Oregon — then we feature more quarterback runs. If you have someone that’s more of a thrower then you feature more throws. If you’ve got a guy that can do both, then I think that puts a little bit more stress on the defense,” he said. “But it always has to be catered to who is pulling the trigger.”
Some other notes from Kelly’s day-after press conference:
— Several veterans said after the game that they are feeling unusually fresh for this late in the season, a reporter mentioned, and credit Kelly’s sports-science driven approach. Is the coach surprised to hear that?
“No, I’m not surprised,” he responded. “That’s part of the plan and it’s a well thought-out research plan, it’s not just a , ‘Hey, let’s try this.’ But it’s a two-way street. They have to buy into it, too, and they’ve done an unbelievable job buying into it. We’re not with them 24/7, nor should we be with them 24/7, but we’ve got a bunch of guys that want to be great at what they do and thy understand that not only here what they do every day but what they do when they’re not here during the day has a great affect on you in terms of being able to respond physically on Sundays.”
— Kelly isn’t worried about his own stamina, either. He said that even though the NFL season is longer than a college slate, his current workload might actually be lighter because he doesn’t have to hit the recruiting trail during the offseason.