Welcome to CoachSpeak, our new feature here. Each week we sit down with an assistant coach for a question-and-answer session. Today: offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur ...
Q. The offense has used two quarterbacks, six starting offensive line combinations, has had some injuries at running back and you are still productive. How? Why?
Shurmur: "Well, we believe in our system, we believe in the players we put in there and we believe that anybody on our roster can play winning football. It's a credit to our guys. They've trained well. We do whatever we can to score points. That's our focus. We try to play to the strengths of the guys who are in there."
Q. What are some of the ways you've seen defenses come at you in the last year and a half trying to take away those strengths?
Shurmur: "Every defense comes in with a theme and sometimes it changes based on what we've seen (from that defense) in prior weeks. We just see what they're doing and try to attack what they show us."
Q. You are well into your second season working with Chip Kelly. You have your offensive philosophies and Chip has his. How have those two philosophies married?
Shurmur: "I think any time you put coaches together who haven't worked before there are really good things that we've done in our prior lives. It's been awesome. We've got a great offensive staff. We've got a lot of guys with good ideas. I think we've developed an Eagles offense that works for us. There are certainly things that are an inspiration, especially in the running game, and things we do from Coach's background, some of the pass concepts from his background, but then we add things that have worked well for us in other places."
Q. When you say "add things" there's maybe an idea that can, on the fly, add wrinkles and maybe even introduce new concepts during the course of the season ... does it work that way ever?
Shurmur: "At times. At times you can add new plays. But you have to add things that fit. I think the danger for an offensive coach is to see something on tape and say, 'We're going to run that play.' What you do is you see something on tape of a defense being attacked and then you try to do the things that you do well to get the same results."
Q. It's all about tempo. The media talks about tempo, tempo, tempo all the time. That's got to be an advantage. But why does tempo work so well and is there more to it than just tempo?
Shurmur: "I think 'tempo' becomes kind of a global word kind of like 'West Coast offense' was. We like to think it's pace. We like to try to control the pace and there are times when we try to play fast, which is normal for us. And there are certainly times when we get in the huddle and there are other times when we will play at a pace that we consider 'tempo.'"
Q. You've had success as a position coach, a coordinator, a head coach. Now you are working with Chip Kelly. What do you take away on a daily basis working with him?
Shurmur: "I came in here first with a very open mind. I knew it was going to be extremely different in terms of how we do business day to day, which was exciting to me to become a part of that. I feel like we all work well together. We all want to do what's best for the Eagles. We won't follow a bad idea down the hole. We just kind of try to do what's best. No one has an ego in terms of whose idea it is, it's just a matter of trying to do what's best for our players and our offense."
Q. What makes for an effective playcaller?
Shurmur: "I think if you have really good players and you have plays that can be executed against more than one coverage or more than one front and then having a feel for when it's the right time to call a special play or have a feel for, 'OK, we're running the ball with success, so a couple of more runs here' or 'We've run the ball a little bit, it's time for a play action' or maybe you get a feel that, 'Hey, we can pass protect these guys and the quarterback is in a rhythm, let's give him a play or two more where you can throw the ball.' I think some of it is a feel. I think some of it is knowing what your players do well and then you are always doing what you can to try to move the ball and score points. If you keep those things in mind, you have a chance."
Q. Jeremy Maclin has had a great season. Why has he been so successful?
Shurmur: "I think he's displayed a level of toughness that we expected, but nonetheless he's done it. He came back from the injury, he trained well in the offseason, he had an excellent Training Camp and he sort of ground through the first part of this year and he's had great production for us. The thing about Jeremy is there are times when he doesn't catch the ball, where he does exactly what we're looking for, whether it's blocking or running a route that's complementary to maybe somebody else being first in the progression. I appreciate what he is as a player and I know we're really, really glad he's made his comeback."