Philadelphia Eagles News

Can Bill Musgrave Get More Out Of Nick Foles?


The Eagles lost one regular season game in the final two months of the 2013 season, to the Minnesota Vikings at Mall of America Field in Minneapolis. It was also the only time in that span the Eagles defense allowed more than 22 points to an opponent. The Vikings offense, in fact, had its best performance of the season, racking up 455 yards and 48 points. The offensive coordinator who called the plays for the Vikings on that day was Bill Musgrave. As is wont to happen in the NFL, however, Musgrave was not retained when Mike Zimmer replaced Leslie Frazier as the new head coach of the Vikings following the team's disappointing 5-10-1 finish. He did not stay unemployed long, as Chip Kelly quickly tabbed him to replace Bill Lazor as the Eagles' new quarterbacks coach.

Musgrave, who was part of the Eagles coaching staff in 1998, enters an exciting situation and is looking forward to working with Nick Foles, whom he first got to observe and know during the 2012 Senior Bowl.

"I think that comes into play, you always look at the personnel," Musgrave said of what attracted him to the job. "(The Minnesota Vikings coaching staff) was coaching the North Team when Nick played on the South Team in Mobile (during the 2012 Senior Bowl), so I got to watch him that whole week of practice and interview him at length on a Thursday night. So I felt like I knew Nick pretty well going into that draft. We had a taken a guy the year before in Christian Ponder, so we weren't in the market (for a quarterback), but Nick had a super week down in Mobile. He had a touchdown on a skinny post to his receiver from Arizona (Juron Criner), so I felt like I knew Nick and have enjoyed watching his ascent the last two years."

Musgrave has had many stops in his 17-year career as a football coach, most notably his stint as Matt Ryan's first quarterbacks coach with the Atlanta Falcons from 2008-10. In those three seasons, he helped Ryan develop into a Pro Bowl signal caller and one of the NFL's brightest stars at the quarterback position. In his three seasons as offensive coordinator in Minnesota, Musgrave mentored Christian Ponder and oversaw Adrian Peterson's historic rushing performance in 2012, when the Vikings achieved a 10-6 record and Wild Card playoff berth. He has already assessed Foles' strengths and weaknesses and has high hopes for his new pupil.

"Nick is very accurate," Musgrave said. "At this level, you only get so many opportunities to carve up a defense. The defenses are good, the defensive coordinators are brilliant. And one of Nick's strengths is being accurate. If it's there, there's a very good chance Nick's going to put it right on (the receiver). In terms of improving, Nick did a good job of protecting the football, for the most part, last year, and we're always looking to do that because those are tough mistakes to overcome. But we also want Nick to protect his body more, especially late in the down, and not take so many hits. I don't want to call them unnecessary hits because they are necessary. You want to get the maximum yards out of each and every play, but we also want Nick to be able to stay upright and stay on the field.

"I think Nick can be a lot better, and I know he shares that sentiment. He's looking to have a fantastic year because there are a lot fewer unknowns in terms of how defenses can counterbalance our system. Nick knows our system more, he's in a different role at this stage than he was 12 months ago, so I know he's looking forward to taking that next step."

Foles is not the only player with whom Musgrave gets to work with as quarterbacks coach. The team signed Mark Sanchez in the offseason and has Matt Barkley entering his second season. It is a depth chart crowded with quarterbacks who all feel they can be starters in the NFL, including one who has been with the New York Jets and another who started for all four seasons in college at USC. For most teams that might mean a clashing of egos that disrupts chemistry, but not with these Eagles.

"Fortunately, in our room, there aren't egos," Musgrave said. "We have four guys who really care about the Eagles, first and foremost. They're team-oriented people, they support one another. We have a fantastic meeting room, and when we get on the practice field it's the same thing and they support each other. But the life of a backup quarterback is you're always fighting for scraps. You want to get as many plays as you can because that's the way you learn. You learn only so much from watching, but you have to get out there and do it."

Overall, Musgrave, the only new coach on the staff, has jumped into the fire, quickly got up to speed and seamlessly integrated himself into the culture.

"Energetic, positive and team-oriented," Musgrave said when asked to describe the environment Kelly has created. "It's a program that has graduate-level X's and O's, but also elite culture and the ability to put the team first and check your egos at the door, which are essential to winning."

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