When Chip Kelly was hired it was assumed that he would bring the Oregon Ducks‘ spread offense with him to the Philadelphia Eagles. And by extension, most believed a fast quarterback would be required to properly execute the read-option plays that served as the backbone of Oregon’s offensive system.
Fast-forward to today, and the Eagles actually call very few read-option plays and rarely utilize four-receiver sets. The offense does run plays out of read-option formations, but those looks are meant to ensure that quarterback Nick Foles has several options with which to attack the defense. Chip Kelly’s offense is all about creating matchup advantages, not piling up quarterback rushing yards.
At Oregon, Marcus Mariota‘s game-changing running ability was difficult for college defenders to contain so he often ran when given the option. Because Foles runs a 5.14 40-yard dash, he naturally throws more often than he runs. Run or pass, Chip Kelly’s offense leverages matchup advantages to provide the quarterback with a maximum number of opportunities to deliver the football to the team’s playmakers. Because the quarterback is required to make key run-pass decisions while a play is unfolding, quick decision-making skills and accuracy are more important than pure foot speed.
While a quarterback that runs a 4.5 40 is not a requirement, the QB run-threat must be present for certain plays to be effective. Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, for example, could not successfully operate the Eagles offense in its current iteration. Nick Foles, on the hand, has shown adequate mobility. In eight games started, he is averaging 26 yards rushing per week, which is on par with Andrew Luck and not far behind Colin Kaepernick. In recent weeks he has become more comfortable, rushing for over 34 yards per game over his last five starts.
How has the plodding Foles become a mobile quarterback? It is a team effort. Chip Kelly is helping Foles by dialing up naked bootlegs when the defense is too aggressive at the point of attack. LeSean McCoy is helping Foles by keeping the linebackers focused on stopping the Eagles’ dynamic running back. Tight ends Zach Ertz and Brent Celek are helping Foles by sealing off linebackers and safeties when the quarterback decides to scramble. Finally, Foles himself has done a masterful job of diagnosing defensive looks by taking off when cornerbacks in man coverage turn their backs to him, and then he often angles toward the sideline to net additional yards before sliding or slipping out of bounds.
The Chip Kelly offense primarily requires rapid decision-making from the quarterback, and mobility is secondary. Fortunately, Nick Foles offers a lot of the first and just enough of the second.