When Chip Kelly was still at Oregon, then-Falcons quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave would come by campus to scout the Ducks’ various quarterbacks, and he and Kelly would invariably sit down and talk football.
“He’s just a guy I’ve always had a ton of respect for,” Kelly said.
Years later, those informal meetings in Eugene led to a job in Philadelphia.
On Wednesday, two months after the Eagles hired Musgrave as their own quarterbacks coach, Kelly finally got around to actually talking about the move.
Musgrave, who coached with the Eagles under Ray Rhodes in 1998, replaced the highly regarded Bill Lazor, who was hired in January as the Dolphins’ offensive coordinator.
Musgrave, who worked with Lazor with the Redskins in 2005, became available after the season ended when Vikings head coach Leslie Frazier – once upon a time Andy Reid’s defensive backs coach with the Eagles – and his entire staff were fired.
Quarterbacks coach is a critical position for any team but especially for the Eagles, who have a young, developing quarterback in Nick Foles, who had a Pro Bowl season but has only started 16 NFL games and just turned 25.
Kelly, speaking at the NFL owners’ meetings in Orlando on Wednesday, was asked what impressed him about Musgrave.
“Just when we went through the interview process, I think Bill’s way about himself,” he said. “He’s another guy that’s extremely intelligent, but hes got a demenaor in terms of how he gets his point across.
“He’s got a ton of experience not only as a coach but also a player. He played for the 49ers and won a Super Bowl. He has a lot of understanding about the game, that proven experience. …
“The tough thing about this league is … say I want to hire this guy. There’s a certain amount of guys you can talk to, but he was a guy that was available. He was really the first guy we called to say, ‘Hey, we want to sit down and set up a chance to visit.’”
Musgrave, 46, played at Oregon long before Kelly got there and was a fourth-round draft pick of the 49ers in 1991. He spent five years largely as a backup quarterback with the Niners before finishing his NFL career in 1996 with the Raiders.
In 1998, Rhodes hired Musgrave as an offensive assistant, but with the Eagles 1-5 and the offense averaging just 11.5 points through six games, Rhodes took play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Dana Bible and gave them to Musgrave.
The Eagles went 2-8 the rest of the year, averaging 9.2 points per game the rest of the season. Rhodes and his entire staff were fired after the season.
Musgrave spent the next 15 years with the Panthers, University of Virginia, Jaguars, Redskins, Falcons and Vikings before rejoining the Eagles 15 years after he left.
Although Musgrave will coach all the Eagles’ quarterbacks, it’s imperative for the Eagles that he has a productive working relationship with Foles, who emerged last year as the Eagles’ long-term quarterback solution.
“Huge,” Kelly said. “That’s the guy that’s with those guys every single day. Kind of what the dynamic in that meeting room is is who is leading that group, understanding Nick, understanding Matt, understanding G.J. [Kinne] and the guys in that room.”
Kelly, who was often non-committal during the season when talking about Foles and his future, reiterated Wednesday that Foles will go into 2014 as the starter, no matter what other moves the Eagles make.
Even though Foles threw 29 touchdowns and just two interceptions last year, he can get better with another year of Kelly’s system under his belt, Kelly said.
“Year 1 for a lot of those guys was getting all of the terminology down, learning it, ‘Hey it’s this play, do this,’” Kelly said.
“Now it’s the intricacies of it. Exactly what is my footwork? How is my ball-handling? How can I do a better job when I don’t have the ball? How can I do a better job faking? Now I understand what the coverage is on this play, but how can I influence the coverage?
“How can I move the safety because I really want to throw the post? … Instead of saying, ‘Hey, the safety’s in the post. I gotta throw the checkdown.’ Now, it’s, ‘What are the teeny intricacies of the game?’”
After replacing an injured Michael Vick last year, Foles went 8-2 with an NFL-best 119.2 passer rating, third-highest in NFL history.
But Kelly said he expects Foles to be even better next year as he learns.
“That’s the one thing about Nick that is so encouraging,” Kelly said. “He always wants to get better. He constantly improved as the season went along. You’ll see a lot of players plateau. But I think he continued to improve.
“We’ll all hopeful. But knowing his work ethic, I think in Year 2, he’s going to do a lot of improving.”