Redskins can learn from Eagles on how to win with backup quarterback
The Philadelphia Eagles have been down the path the Redskins are currently trying to navigate.
Last year, Eagles starter Carson Wentz went down with a torn ACL when backup Nick Foles took over with less than a month in the regular season remaining. A rare thing eventually happened afterward: The Eagles won the Super Bowl.
With the Redskins still seeking their first win with Colt McCoy in place of an injured Alex Smith (leg), the team’s next opponent, the Eagles, is perhaps the best or at least most recent example of how to succeed when replacing an injured starting quarterback.
But as Eagles coach Doug Pederson will admit, it’s not easy to find a new rhythm this late into the season.
“It is a tough thing because you also have to worry about the other members of your offense and you can’t necessarily change your offense midstream,” Pederson said. “But, I think you can find things that would be very beneficial, whether that’s more shotgun or under center or whatever it is. ... There is a little bit of a fine line but you don’t want to wholesale change your offense but at the same time you’ve got to do what it takes to win a game.”
Pederson said he tried to adjust the offense to Foles’ strengths. That meant incorporating more run-pass-option plays, which Foles was previously successful at executing under Chip Kelly in his first stint with Philadelphia.
From there, it was a matter of repetition to get up to speed, Pederson said.
The Redskins, coach Jay Gruden said, are in the process of doing the same for McCoy. In his first start since 2014, McCoy was up and down last week against the Dallas Cowboys. He passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions.
Gruden said the most important part of practice is eliminating plays that McCoy might find uncomfortable. Washington believes McCoy going through his first full week of practice should help after the team participated in only walk-throughs for Dallas.
Asked about the Eagles’ success with Foles, Gruden said the Redskins can learn a lot from it, adding few gave Philadelphia a chance to win it all after Wentz’ injury.
“It’s about how the team rallies around certain people and it’s not about one guy,” Gruden said. “That defense stepped it up, that offensive line stepped it up, the running game stepped it up and of course Nick Foles did a great job in critical moments. That’s what we’re trying to do.”
Washington will need its defense and run game to improve, with both taking a step back in November. Cornerback Josh Norman pinpointed missed tackles as the main difference for the defense, while Gruden has said the team needs to do a better job upfront for the run.
McCoy, too, knows he has to improve. “For me, turnovers are going to lose you games and so being smart with the football number one is of the upmost importance,” McCoy said. “I think going from there, it’s an understanding of what we’re trying to accomplish.”
The Eagles, ultimately, were able to accomplish the goal of every team. Their final win paid dividends for Foles who not only won Super Bowl MVP, but will go down in Philadelphia folklore for bringing the city its first post-merger championship in football.
McCoy could also help himself financially depending on how the rest of the season unfolds. When the 32-year-old signed a one-year contract extension this summer, the deal contained provisions that would allow the quarterback to hit free agency in 2019 if he hit certain criteria.
According to a source familiar with the situation, McCoy is now “very likely” to be in a position in which he can void the deal, if he opts to do so.
If that happens, the Redskins have the option to “buy back” McCoy’s rights which would keep him under contract for next season, but with additional salary. The source said the buybacks range from $700,000-$4 million depending on the criteria met. Right now, McCoy is slated to make $3.5 million next season with $2 million guaranteed.
Pederson, meanwhile, called Smith’s injury “unfortunate.” He later added McCoy and Smith are similar, considering both quarterbacks thrived in a West Coast offense.
“I hate that for Alex having worked with him in the past but I think that’s the same thing that Washington is going through,” said Pederson, who was once Smith’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City. “Find that rhythm, find the things that Colt is good at and just keep exploiting that, keep using it to their advantage, and that was one of the things that helped us with Nick last season.”