The Philadelphia Eagles made what many believe to be a very wise hire this past Monday when they named 15 year coaching veteran, and former Minnesota Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave their quarterbacks coach. The move came as a result of the departure of Bill Lazor who left to become the Miami Dolphins offensive coordinator.
On the surface the Musgrave hire does not really stand out as a “big splash,” nor a significant move. However, if you take a look at Musgrave’s creative play-calling strengths, and his quarterback development record, one might deduce that the hire has rather more significant implications for the Eagles.
Musgrave himself was a quarterback and started for the University of Oregon leading the Ducks to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in the school’s history. He also holds Oregon’s team record in college career passing yards at 8,343. He had a seven-year NFL professional career where he played for the 49ers under Coach George Seifert, and later under Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan.
His NFL coaching career began in 1997 when he was hired by Joe Bugle to coach the quarterbacks in Oakland during a transition season that would see the Raiders hire Jon Gruden the following year. Musgrave spent only one year in Oakland as he was brought in by the Philadelphia Eagles coach Ray Rhodes to coach the Eagles QB’s in 1998. The next season saw Musgrave rejoin his old 49ers coach George Seifert with the Carolina Panthers which is where many believe he sharpened his mastery of the West Coast offense. He was eventually promoted to be Carolina’s offensive coordinator.
While Musgrave’s noted development of quarterbacks such as Atlanta Falcons Matt Ryan impresses many, I believe Eagles head coach Chip Kelly had another of Musgrave’s coaching strengths in mind when hiring him. Musgrave is widely regarded throughout the NFL as one of the most creative play callers. Musgrave is one of the few coaches who truly understand how to develop plays around “gadget” players such as Vikings wide receivers Cordarelle Patterson and Percy Harvin.
“A lot of coaches make that mistake too, at least they have historically, of thinking of schemes and plays that they prefer without thinking about the players that have to execute them,” he said. “We’re going to do a fantastic job of putting our guys in the schemes that fit their talents.”
Musgrave has certainly stuck with that principle throughout his coaching career. While bubble screens and end-arounds were often used to get Musgrave’s playmakers the ball in Minnesota, it is the unique running lanes and blocking assignments which makes him such an innovator. The Vikes implemented an “Inverted Wishbone” or “Full House” offense where two fullbacks lined up to the left and right behind the quarterback, and a half back lined up directly behind the quarterback forming a diamond shape. This formation allowed the offense to read and quickly adapt to the defense’s formation, and can be used for zone-blocking, “power” man-blocking, or other exotic blocking schemes not frequently seen in the NFL.
What I believe the Philadelphia Eagles have brilliantly executed with the Musgrave hire is add a veteran coach with a solid track record of bringing along and building young quarterbacks into stellar players, thus giving Eagles quarterback Nick Foles a solid mentor, while also providing Chip Kelly with another master-mind offensive play caller who can take the Eagles already versatile and innovative offense to another level.
With the effective use of exotic blocking concepts for Vikings running back Adrian Peterson throughout his coaching tenure in Minnesota, Philadelphia running back LeSean McCoy could potentially benefit most from the Bill Musgrave hire. Opposing defenses may see some of the most unusual plays ever created in league history next season, and opposing coaches likely don’t yet realize those innovations are coming.
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