Philadelphia Eagles: Ryan Tannehill

PHILADELPHIA -- Right coach, wrong city.

A day after speculation swirled that Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor would go to Detroit, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports Lazor will be the new offensive coordinator of the Miami Dolphins.

The 41-year-old Lazor spent just one season on Eagles coach Chip Kelly's staff. He spent the three previous seasons as the offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia. Before that, Lazor worked as an assistant for NFL head coaches Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren.

His depth and breadth of experience make Lazor attractive, but his work in Philadelphia can't be overlooked. Lazor coached Nick Foles to the highest passer rating (119.2) in the NFL and a record touchdown/interception ratio of 27 to 2. Lazor also worked closely with rookie Matt Barkley, who is likely to be the Eagles' No. 2 quarterback in 2014.

Any coaching departure is cause for concern, especially when it affects young players like Foles and Barkley. But the Eagles have some redundancy built in. Kelly works with the quarterbacks, and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has coached quarterbacks from Donovan McNabb to Sam Bradford to Foles.

In Miami, Lazor will work with quarterback Ryan Tannehill trying to revitalize the offensive system run by head coach Joe Philbin.
PHILADELPHIA -- Every Sunday, before most of the other Eagles had peeked out of the tunnel from the locker room, quarterback Matt Barkley stood in the middle of the field throwing passes.

At the other end: one of the Eagles' inactive receivers or tight ends. At Barkley's side: quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor.

According to ESPN's Ed Werder, Lazor is expected to leave Chip Kelly's staff after one season to become offensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions. Lazor would be charged with getting the most from quarterback Matthew Stafford, wide receiver Calvin Johnson and running back Reggie Bush.

The 41-year-old Lazor has the benefit of exposure to Kelly's innovative offense without being completely identified with a single system. Lazor came to the Eagles after three years as the offensive coordinator at Virginia. Before that, though, he worked for NFL head coaches Dan Reeves, Joe Gibbs and Mike Holmgren.

The Miami Dolphins reportedly interviewed Lazor for their offensive coordinator position. The Detroit situation seems like a better one. Instead of joining the staff of a head coach who could be on the hot seat in 2014, Lazor will be coming in with Caldwell from the beginning. And while Ryan Tannehill and Brian Hartline are a nice quarterback/wide receiver combo, Stafford and Johnson are among the most dangerous in the league.

In his one year with the Eagles, Lazor helped Nick Foles to one of the great individual seasons in history. Foles threw for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions in 10 regular-season starts. His passer rating was a league-high 119.2.
PHILADELPHIA -- If the Miami Dolphins' interest in Eagles quarterbacks coach Bill Lazor seems sudden -- based on one 10-6 season on Chip Kelly's staff -- there are two things to bear in mind.

First, the NFL moves more quickly now. You don't have to be a 55-year-old with 25 years in the league to be a coordinator. In fact, the opposite is true. The younger, the better. Teams are all in a hurry to identify and target up-and-coming coaching talent, so a year of exposure to Kelly's offense and his work with Nick Foles make the 41-year-old Lazor intriguing.

Second, Lazor didn't just materialize on the Eagles staff last year. He has worked for Dan Reeves in Atlanta, Joe Gibbs in Washington, Mike Holmgren in Seattle and Kelly here. He has coached NFL quarterbacks and spent three seasons as offensive coordinator at the University of Virginia.

That's a pretty varied resume. Coupled with Lazor's intelligence, it makes him a natural candidate for an NFL coordinator job.

Lazor's interview with the Dolphins was first reported by ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Will Miami be the right fit? Coupled with news that the Dolphins may go after Eagles personnel man Tom Gamble as their next general manager, it could be a perfect situation for Lazor. Current head coach Joe Philbin will be under pressure to win next year. If Lazor can raise quarterback Ryan Tannehill's game to another level, he can be seen as a difference maker and instant head coaching candidate.

If Philbin doesn't win and Gamble is the GM, Lazor could still be on solid ground in Miami.

Kelly said Monday that he wouldn't hold any of his assistants back if they had opportunities for advancement.

"Everything is done on an individual basis," Kelly said. "But I'm never going to stand in the way of someone bettering themselves."
Nick FolesAP Photo/Ben MargotThe Eagles didn't pick him as one and don't pay him like one, but Nick Foles is playing like an elite QB.

PHILADELPHIA – Try this exercise. Imagine the Philadelphia Eagles took quarterback Nick Foles near the top of the 2013 NFL draft. Imagine he came to town with the expectation that he would be an elite franchise quarterback.

Now look at what Foles has accomplished this season. He has started five games. He has won four. He threw seven touchdown passes in a game, tying the NFL record. Overall, he has thrown 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions. His passer rating is 128.0, best in the NFL.

If he were Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, his team’s fans would be over the moon with that kind of production. If he were Sam Bradford or Brandon Weeden or Ryan Tannehill, there would be full-fledged cults devoted to him.

In Philadelphia? There is a fascinating wait-and-see reaction to Foles’ phenomenal 2013 season. Hours of talk radio are filled with discussion about whether Foles can be the Eagles’ quarterback – for the season, for 2014, for the long haul.

There are good reasons for this, starting with the way coach Chip Kelly has handled the Eagles’ quarterback situation. Veteran Michael Vick was Kelly’s chosen quarterback after a training-camp competition. Since Vick was injured, even as Foles has put up the crazy numbers outlined above, Kelly has simply declined to say who his No. 1 quarterback is.

“I honestly really haven’t thought about it,” Foles said. “I don’t know. Whatever he decides, wherever he goes, I’m in it 100 percent. I’ll support whatever Chip says. I don’t know how the talk will go or when it will be, but I’m all in for this team. Whatever’s best for this team will always be the most important thing to me.”

But it goes beyond Kelly’s management of a tricky situation with the veteran Vick. Eagles fans have been down this road before: Ty Detmer, Bobby Hoying, A.J. Feeley and Kevin Kolb have raised hopes, only to disappoint and frustrate.

Kolb is the freshest wound. A second-round pick, Kolb started two games in place of the injured Donovan McNabb in 2009. He completed 55 of 85 passes for 718 yards and four touchdowns, with three interceptions. Kolb was the first quarterback in the history of the league to throw for more than 300 yards in each of his first two career starts.

Kolb did not become the Eagles’ franchise quarterback. Neither did Feeley or Hoying or Detmer. Eagles fans are naturally skeptical of flash-in-the-pan quarterbacks. And when Foles delivered a truly terrible performance against Dallas in his second start of the season, that skepticism flared up.

Foles has played brilliantly since then, but he hasn’t quite erased the memory of his Dallas dud. But there is one more compelling reason fans here haven’t fully jumped on the Foles bandwagon. And it comes back to Kelly.

When Eagles owner Jeff Lurie and general manager Howie Roseman landed the Wizard of Oregon, the excitement was palpable. Kelly was going to bring his futuristic offense to Philadelphia. Surely there would be a dynamic quarterback sprinting all over the field and firing passes from the rocket launcher on his shoulder.

[+] EnlargeNick Foles
Kirby Lee/USA TODAY SportsDespite Nick Foles' great play, Eagles fans are at best cautious. They've been here before.
Foles was an afterthought. It isn’t easy going from afterthought to hero. But the truth is, Kelly has said from the start that he could run his offense with Foles as his quarterback.

“It's always about the individual, so it doesn't matter what plays are called or what scheme is run,” Kelly said. “They still have to be executed. I think he is executing them and all the credit goes to him. He spends a lot of time. He works extremely hard at it. He's got a really good grasp on what we're doing, extremely accurate in his throws. I think he's a really good decision-maker. It's exciting to see him grow here.”

Kelly has praised Foles but, with Vick to consider, he hasn’t really embraced him. Teammates who respect Vick as one of the great athletes ever to play the game are beginning to talk about Foles as a guy who just wins. Fans who keep waiting for the next Dallas dud are cautiously beginning to believe Foles just might be the guy.

For now, if not forever.

All of this puts the Eagles in a pretty good position. They didn’t have to commit to Foles the way other franchises had to commit to Bradford or Tannehill or Christian Ponder or EJ Manuel. They wouldn’t trade their situation with Foles for San Diego’s with Philip Rivers, Dallas’ with Tony Romo or Chicago’s with Jay Cutler.

If Foles continues to play at an elite level, the Eagles will have filled the most important position in the game without taking a big risk. And if he goes the way of Kolb and Hoying and the rest, they won’t be hamstrung by a huge contract and a wasted first-round pick.

Meanwhile, they have a quarterback who has gotten them into the playoff picture, earned a display in Canton for his seven-touchdown game and has no sense of entitlement.

“I never think that way,” Foles said. “When you start thinking that way, you start getting complacent. Just because you do a lot of great things the week before doesn’t mean you’re going to go out there and do it again.”

That’s what the great ones do. Foles may not become one of them, but he at least has the chance.

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