Tag Archives: Bill Musgrave

Nick Foles, Overcoming Adversity, and Earning Patience

Regardless of the twists and turns that his NFL career takes, the numbers ’27 and two’ will always be synonymous with Nick Foles.

It represents the touchdown to interception ratio that the Eagles’ third-year quarterback posted during the 2013 season, (technically 29 and two if you count the two touchdown passes thrown in a playoff game where Foles out dueled future Hall of Famer Drew Brees).

It also represents an NFL record and normally serves as a conversation starter about the signal-caller going forward. Foles believers cite it to illustrate just how good he was last year and to show that they are convinced he is a franchise quarterback. Foles doubters mention that the two numbers are not sustainable and that some regression in 2014 is guaranteed.

The exercise is a great example of how the same statistic can be bent in different ways to form two complex arguments.

Foles’ projections for 2014 are all over the map. I personally put him down for 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions before the season started. Regardless of what folks think he will do for an encore though, those numbers ’27 and two’ should have one unifying trait between fans and detractors.

They should be a reminder of patience as the year gets into full swing — Way more patience than what was exhibited Sunday afternoon when Foles got off to a less than stellar start against the Jaguars in the season opener.

A promising season was less than 30 minutes old, and calls for Mark Sanchez began to ring out both at Lincoln Financial Field and throughout Eagles Twitter. Philly.com even went as far as to put up a poll about the topic as the Eagles struggled through an ugly first half that saw them head into the locker room down 17-0.

I am not sure how much the page has been visited post-Sunday but as of clicking on late Thursday night calls for Sanchez were still at 33.1 percent.

Eagles-Jaguars Poll

Thankfully, Chip Kelly, Pat Shurmur, and Bill Musgrave stuck with their Pro Bowl quarterback knowing he had recovered from adversity before and could do it again.

Benching a quarterback who is healthy but ineffective has always been a real sensitive topic to me. The position comes with so much prestige that you cannot simply put the toothpaste back in the tube once it is out.

If you pull a quarterback coming off a breakout season less than a half into a new one, you better be sure the good version of Sanchez from the preseason isn’t a mirage because you may never get Foles back once the trigger is pulled.

It is not like baseball when your ace has a bad start and the manager takes the ball telling him to try again five days later. Five days later may never arrive in this instance.

Sticking with Foles paid off as the quarterback went 15-for-22 for 183 yards in the second half with two touchdown passes. The 68-yard bomb to Jeremy Maclin may have been a bit of a coverage bust, but the 25-yard pass to Zach Ertz to cut the Jaguars lead to three had some nice touch on it.

Foles was certainly shaky during the first 30 minutes, but it should say something about him that he was able to bounce back quickly, just like last November where he threw seven touchdown passes two weeks after playing an awful game against Dallas that saw him exit with a concussion. At the time, it was believed that Foles had fumbled away his chance to win the starting quarterback job with Michael Vick recovering from injury, but he quickly got another shot and made the most of it.

Lost in all of this as well is that Foles was not the only quarterback to have some Week 1 issues. Tom Brady avoided throwing an interception but was 29-for-56 — a measly 4.4 yards passing per attempt — in a 33-20 loss to the Dolphins.

Completions Attempts Yards Turnovers Score
4 8 46 2 (fumbles) 17 — 0
6 9 56 1 (interception) 10 — 0

Take a look at these blind quarterback stats for a second. The top column is Foles’ first three drives. The bottom column is Andrew Luck’s first three drives against the Broncos Sunday night.

Luck, the Eagles’ Week 2 opponent, did not have a particularly good start to the season either, but nobody freaked out and called for Matt Hasselbeck to replace him because Luck was the number one overall pick in the draft back in 2012. He gets a pass for any bad stretches he experiences, chalked up to growing pains and learning on the fly. Foles was the 88th pick in the same draft class and the sixth overall quarterback selected. He does not get those passes because most third round picks are perceived to not be franchise quarterbacks.

You would think after 2013 that we would be past this, but apparently that isn’t the case. The fact that Foles was a third round pick should be irrelevant after what he did last season. Foles’ numbers were better across the board and both quarterbacks won their respective divisions. The only difference was Luck got to play one more game because his defense held when he led a fourth quarter comeback in a playoff game while the Eagles’ special teams let Foles down.

The Colts were my Super Bowl pick, and I also had them winning on Monday when I did my Eagles predictions, but I cannot wait to see the reaction should Foles outperform Luck like he did with Brees last January.

This should be a fun time when it comes to following the Eagles. It reminds me of the 2000 and 2001 Andy Reid teams where the talent was good enough to get to the playoffs, but sky high expectations had not yet set in to the point where watching was more stressful than fun and anything short of a Lombardi Trophy would be considered an absolute failure.

The big difference I see between now and then is that the Giants were still pretty formidable in those days before falling off for a few years. Right now, the rest of the NFC East is awful.

Foles won way more than he lost in 2013 (nine wins compared to three losses specifically), and I often think about tying that into a Chip Kelly quote a few days after the playoff loss to the Saints last year.

Kelly was essentially asked by a reporter if he considered himself an ‘NFL coach after completing his first season in the most competitive league in the world. In typical Kelly fashion, he responded by saying that he thought he was an NFL coach 10 times and not one seven times, an obvious ode to the Eagles record.

Well, if we apply the same logic, Foles was a franchise quarterback nine times and not one three times. Seventy five percent — That sounds pretty damn good to me.

A record setting touchdown to interception ratio, nine wins, the first NFC East title since 2010, and a flawless fourth quarter playoff drive. Natural regression suggests he cannot repeat that, but let your mind wander for a second. What if he does? What if he comes really close to those numbers again?

And you were ready to potentially throw all of that away because of one bad half?

If Nick Foles did not already have your trust going into Sunday, he probably did not earn it, however, he should have earned your patience last season, and that should last for way more than a half.

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Gentlemen, We Can Rebuild Mark Sanchez. We Have the Technology

Work with me for a second here as we progress through this fake conversation.

The date is Monday, March 24, and Chip Kelly is sitting in his NovaCare Complex office watching tape from the 2013 season.

Footage from the fourth quarter of the first Cowboys game just finished playing featuring rookie Matt Barkley throwing three interceptions after having to relieve a concussed Nick Foles.

Kelly: Secretary, bring me a smoothie and set me up on a Skype call with Howie, Pat, and Bill. 

Secretary: Sure coach, but if you don’t mind me asking, who is Bill, Billy Davis? We have a lot of Bill’s who work for us. 

Kelly: No, not him. Bill Musgrave, our new quarterbacks coach. 

Secretary: Wait, wasn’t the old quarterbacks coach also named Bill? Billy Lazor or something?

Kelly: Yes, he’s in Miami now. You know I hate wasting time, and right now you’re being inefficient with these questions. Get them on the phone, please.

(Shurmur’s ring tone is the Michigan State fight song. Musgrave, in the process of completing his move from Minnesota to Philadelphia, takes a few rings to answer)

Kelly: Afternoon, guys. I’ll cut to the chase real quick. We need to address our quarterback situation. Nick may be the starter for the next 1000 years, but he has suffered some type of injury just about every year going back to his college days at Arizona. I like Matt, but watching some tape from last year, I’m not sure he’s ready to be our backup. Let’s hear some suggestions.

Shurmur: Why don’t we make it easy and just re-sign Mike, Chip? He liked it here and already knows the system.

Kelly: Pat, you gotta keep up here, dawgy. Mike signed with the Jets last Friday. That’s why I’m calling. Bill, you’ll be their position coach. What have you got? (Silence) Bill, talk!

Musgrave: Sorry, Chip, little hard to hear over the Minnesota wind outside the airport here, can’t wait to get to Philly. I used to coach Joe Webb…

Roseman: Bill, no! I realize you’re new here, but we don’t mention that name around these parts after what Webb did on a Tuesday night in December 2010.

Kelly: Howie, let’s make Bill feel welcome and let him finish. In December 2010, I was preparing for Nick Fairley and Auburn’s defense. I wasn’t here for any of that. Go ahead, Bill.

Musgrave: Sorry, Howie, I should have thought of that,, but yeah Joe Webb, very athletic, he would be my choice.

Kelly: Meh. Let’s…

Roseman: Uh Chip, not to interrupt, but I just got a text. Webb signed with the Panthers 30 seconds ago.

Kelly: No loss. Pat, now that you’re all caught up, what do you think?

Shurmur: Well Chip, I used to coach Colt McCoy in Cleveland, threw 14 touchdown passes for me in 2011. What about him?

Kelly: I don’t hate it, but he’s had some bad shoulder injuries. Let me jump in here guys. You know who I like? Mark Sanchez.

(Silence for 10 seconds)

Kelly: I said I like Mark Sanchez, guys. Wind blowing up again, Bill?

Musgrave: Nah Chip, I heard you that time. I’m just kinda shocked. I’d be happy to try to coach him up, but he had 27 turnovers in his final year with the Jets. Are you sure?

Shurmur: Yeah, Chip, I’m kinda with Bill here. I know you were still at Oregon, but in Mark’s final four games with the Jets in 2012, he threw eight interceptions to only one touchdown pass and completed 50.4 percent of his passes. Plus, you mentioned shoulder troubles with Colt. Mark had surgery for a torn labrum in the fall. I just…

Kelly: Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology — and good wide receivers. Get the deal done, Howie. We’ll talk about DeSean later.

(Phone clicks as Kelly immediately returns to watching film)

I have not yet really broached the topic that is the revitalization of Mark Sanchez throughout this preseason. I avoided it in part because I didn’t believe what I was seeing. I also thought there were more pressing issues to address, but to ignore writing about Sanchez any longer would be irresponsible given what we are witnessing.

Considering Kelly announced that Sanchez will not play against his former employer when the Eagles host the Jets Thursday night, now seems like a good time to go more in-depth on him. Sanchez’s preseason is over — a three game stretch that saw him go 25-31 for 281 yards, two touchdowns, and only one interception while leading six touchdown drives.

Most impressive perhaps is that in the third game, Sanchez successfully moved the ball against the Steelers’ starters on defense, who were still playing deep into the third quarter.

The sixth year signal-caller was poised and comfortable in Kelly’s up-temp offense, looking like the quarterback who defeated Carson Palmer, Philip Rivers, Peyton Manning, and Tom Brady in playoff games during his first two years in the league and nothing like the deer-in-headlights quarterback who lost his way during his final two years with the Jets.

Consider me as surprised as anyone. I never had any major reason to dislike Sanchez but watching how bad things had gotten for him had almost become a must-see circus from afar. Nothing would top the butt fumble, but you started tuning in just to see what crazy turnover he would commit next.

Needless to say, I was not excited when the Eagles signed him. I had been decently high on Matt Barkley going back to when the birds drafted him. In Kelly’s system, a quarterback needs to be a good, quick decision-maker above all, and Sanchez, with 95 turnovers over four seasons, was far from that.

As I alluded to earlier in the fake conversation, I thought a guy like Colt McCoy — who has a lesser resume but also fewer turnovers — would have been a solid pick if they didn’t give the job to Barkley.

Even as training camp started, I held out hope that Barkley would be able to beat Sanchez out. I really don’t think Barkley played poorly either, but it became crystal clear during the opening game against the Bears, that I was not going to get my wish.

I was wrong, and unlike pond scum hack Mike Freeman, I will try to admit when I am wrong about something.

Sanchez right now looks like a great signing for 2.25 million dollars and one of the best backup quarterback options in the NFL.

Eagles Mark Sanchez
Cowboys Brandon Weeden
Giants Ryan Nassib
Redskins Kirk Cousins
Packers Matt Flynn
Bears Jimmy Clausen
Lions Dan Orlovsky
Vikings Teddy Bridgewater
Panthers Derek Anderson
Saints Luke McCown
Bucs Mike Glennon
Falcons T.J. Yates
Seahawks Tarvaris Jackson
49ers Blaine Gabbert
Cardinals Drew Stanton
Rams Shaun Hill
Patriots Jimmy Garoppolo
Dolphins Matt Moore
Jets Michael Vick
Bills Thaddeus Lewis
Bengals Jason Campbell
Steelers Bruce Gradkowski
Ravens Tyrod Taylor
Browns Johnny Manziel
Colts Matt Hasselbeck
Titans Charlie Whitehurst
Jaguars Blake Bortles
Texans Case Keenum
Broncos Brock Osweiler
Chiefs Chase Daniel
Chargers Kellen Clemens
Raiders Derek Carr

What we have in that chart is a list of all the projected backup quarterbacks in the league. The 32 of them combine for 12 playoff wins. Matt Hasselbeck owns five, Michael Vick has two, T.J. Yates is responsible for one, and Sanchez has four.

If you are high on rookies like Blake Bortles, Johnny Manziel, Teddy Bridgewater, and Jimmy Garoppolo, you could say that they are better options than Sanchez, but once the first three become starters, it is tough to make a solid case that Chad Henne, Brian Hoyer, and Matt Cassel are better.

No one on that list can say they have out-dueled two future Hall of Fame quarterbacks en route to road playoff victories.

After being left hung out to dry with no competent weapons and a defensive oriented staff in New York, Sanchez again looks like a capable quarterback with guys like Jordan Matthews, my dude Zach Ertz, James Casey, and Arrelious Benn to sling the ball to.

The bad Sanchez flashed at one point against the Patriots with an ill-advised throw into double coverage intended for Casey that resulted in an interception, but mistakes have been few and far between.

All of a sudden, Sanchez is an asset again after being an afterthought as recently as five months ago. The best part is that other teams know it too. The Rams just lost starter Sam Bradford to a torn ACL and in the past have been on record as wanting Sanchez.

This is what I am referring to when I constantly say on Twitter that the Eagles’ bottom half of the roster is the best it has been in quite some time. Talent at a few starting positions probably needs to improve before they can really challenge the Seahawks in the NFC, but depth is a valuable thing, and they have reserve players who could start for other teams.

It sounds like Sanchez doesn’t want the Rams though as much as they might want him, and the Eagles have no reason to move him unless the Rams absolutely blow them away. Sanchez, of course, wants to be a starter again, but why be in such a hurry to leave the coaching staff that is helping to save your career?

Sanchez Tweet

Some folks will want to see Sanchez show competency in a regular season game before they believe this is for real, however, I think some quarterback needy teams would be willing to take a chance even if they never get to see that.

In a perfect world, they won’t. I believe Nick Foles is way better than Sanchez. Therefore, I won’t go as far as saying ‘Foles could get hurt and the offense won’t miss a beat,’ but I do now believe that Sanchez could step in for a week or two, move the offense, and win a game if the Eagles needed him. I didn’t think that a month ago.

It appears I was wrong, and as weird as it is for me to see him in a different shade of green, I couldn’t be happier about being wrong here.

The ideal outcome is that Sanchez will carry a clipboard throughout the season and then take what he learned here and sign somewhere in the offseason where he can really compete to be a starter again.

If Chip Kelly stays in the NFL long enough, his influence will touch many people and places. His Year 1 offense already set several Eagles records. Other organizations are already trying to catch up to him when it comes to the sports science department and play-calling. His coaching tree has already started to grow with Bill Lazor going from Eagles quarterbacks coach to Dolphins offensive coordinator, hired to try to take what he learned from Kelly and apply it elsewhere.

The last paragraph and Kelly’s resume will only grow as the years go by. Hopefully there is a Super Bowl on it soon that will sit at the top, but rebuilding Mark Sanchez?

That wouldn’t be too far behind.