‘Press-ing’ the Right Button
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Whether you want to give Nick Foles or Doug Pederson credit for pressing the right button by calling the "Philly Special" in Super Bowl LII, it was another Press who unearthed the option.
Before Foles suggested it, Pederson okayed it, Trey Burton threw it, and Foles hauled in the most famous 4th-and-1 play in Super Bowl history, Press Taylor, the Eagles new quarterbacks coach, came up with the idea to put the play in the voluminous Philadelphia playbook when culling through the film of a meaningless Week 17 Minnesota-Chicago game back in the 2016 season.
As a quality-control coach, part of Taylor's job was watching hours of film to find good ideas and he saw the Bears run a similar play against the Vikings during a play-out-the-string setback. More than a year later the Eagles were waiting for a good spot to use it and Foles played to Pederson's ultra-aggressive nature when the stakes were at their highest.
"Let's do it," the coach famously said after Foles' suggestion. And the rest is history.
Taylor was up in the coaches’ booth at U.S. Bank Stadium watching it all unfold.
“It was awesome,” Taylor said during his first meeting with reporters as QB coach Monday. “I don’t think I could have ever imagined that it would end up being a 4th-and-1 call in the Super Bowl. I don’t think anybody would have."
Taylor was quick to explain finding the play isn't the same as calling it and executing on the biggest stage of them all, however.
“All the credit goes to Nick and Coach Pederson for calling it at that time," Taylor explained, "and the players for executing it the way that they did. Me getting credit for it is way overblown."
Time and time again Pederson's assistants talk about the coach's lack of ego. Frank Reich and John DeFilippo often did it before leaving for promotions, the former as the head coach in Indianapolis and the latter as the offensive coordinator with the Vikings. On Monday, Taylor, the heir to "Coach Flip," Duce Staley and receivers coach Gunter Brewer were among those spinning the familiar narrative: Pederson doesn't care where a good idea comes from, just bring him the good idea.
“It’s the result of the environment that Coach Pederson and Coach Reich had created among the staff,” Taylor explained.
At 30 Taylor is now a fast-rising star in the profession, who spent the past two years in quality control while also assisting DeFilippo with the Eagles' QBs. That meant working with the best quarterback room in football last season, a group receiver Mack Hollins recently described as the MVP (Carson Wentz), the Super Bowl MVP (Foles) and a future MVP (Nate Sudfeld).
The quality-control aspect of Taylor's duties had Reich directing him to look at tape and build up a folder of "trick plays" that could be put in the game plan for any given week. Buried among them was "The Philly Special."
“Coach Reich said, ‘Hey, give me your five best [trick-play] ideas,’” Taylor explained. The Bears-Vikings game was the example from the pro level but Taylor acknowledged he also saw it more than once at the college level, where looser formation rules made it easier to run.
"The rules are different in the pros," Taylor remarked. "The quarterback can’t catch a pass once he’s lined up under center. The Bears used it against the Vikings a couple of years ago. We ended up copying it exactly the way the Bears ran it.”
So the "Philly Special" might really be the "Chicago Deep Dish" but what it isn't is "my play," according to Taylor.
For Taylor, who arrived in Philadelphia with Chip Kelly as a 25-year-old, entry-level assistant fresh off a stint as a grad assistant in Tulsa, it was simply a good idea brought to a boss who craves them.
More so, it was the tipping point leading Pederson to the belief that Taylor was indeed the next guy to mentor Wentz, the face of the franchise, on a daily basis and Foles even if Taylor is basically the same age as the Super Bowl MVP.
“I feel really close to both of them," Taylor said of his star QBs. “I feel like I know what makes them tick. I’ve had a personal relationship with them. I’ve been on the practice field with them. I feel I know the things they like and the things they don’t like.
“I see it as kind of a partnership. ... I’m kind of a vessel between them and [offensive coordinator Mike] Groh, and maybe Coach Pederson.”
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen
Want more NFL? Check out John's piece on why the Colts putting all their eggs in the Andrew Luck basket at GetMoreSports.com