One of the challenges in achieving year after year success in the NFL is a strong core of players and coaches. A deep playoff run can quickly increase the market value of coordinators, position coaches, and free agent players looking for their next contract. The Philadelphia Eagles, despite major turnover, came away from 2013 with a successful season. Yes, it was one and done in the playoffs, but this wasn’t the Birds team of the Andy Reid era. Unfortunately, that success came with a price, as former Eagles Quarterbacks Coach Bill Lazor formally accepted the job of offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins. With the 2014 NFL Draft coming into view, one could argue that replacing this coaching position might be one of the Eagles’ most important picks.
We all know the story of Nick Foles ascension to the role of starting quarterback this season. The debate will undoubtedly continue on where to place that success. Was it Foles’ quick thinking and football IQ? Was it Head Coach Chip Kelly’s innovative and adaptive offensive system? Or was it perhaps a strong position coach like Bill Lazor who found a way to get the best out of the talent given to him? We’ll find out the real answer in the coming season, but it would be unfair not to give credit to Lazor for the work he did. A quick look back to Foles’ rookie year, with inconsistent play and more than double the amount of interceptions (5) in only 3 games, set a rookie bar for the signal-caller. Glance through this season, with 10 games played, an NFL record-setting 27-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and the evidence of an impressive developmental leap is there. Again, credit is due to the player for focusing on their craft, to Kelly for a system that adapted to the player’s strength, but also to the guy whose job it was to make sure Foles was ready.
The loss of Lazor may not have a material impact on the Iggles next season, or it could derail a hot start to a quarterback’s career and the Eagles’ rapid turnaround. Aside from draft preparation, Kelly has a critical and important pick to make – who to place in the role of Quarterbacks Coach for the 2014 season. Ideally, the new position coach will inherit a competent, capable quarterback already well versed in Kelly’s systems. In the best scenario, the new coach takes Foles to an even higher level, helping to smooth over some of the rough offensive patches that the team experienced this past year. With any coach however, an even keel, balanced approach to the same type of player may be the most important attribute.
Fans and analysis often talk about the coaching carousel that turns after every season. Coordinators get shots at head coaching jobs, position coaches move up to coordinators, and some go the opposite direction. The goal of any team is to have the right blend of coaching talent that functions as a cohesive unit to drive the head coach’s methodology, techniques, and system down to the players. It’s the ultimate personnel puzzle. Any piece that doesn’t fit can make the final picture not quite right. The Eagles have a lot of good pieces that do fit together. It may be easy to just focus on the player components as the key to a successful 2014 season, but let’s not forget that its the coaches job to help get the best out of the players. The quarterback coaching vacancy may end up being one of the most important picks the Birds make.