Eagles

A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

A meeting with Chip Kelly brought Press Taylor to Eagles

This is a story about how Chip Kelly helped the Eagles win the Super Bowl. 

Really. 

So in the summer of 2012, when Kelly was still the head coach at the University of Oregon, he was in Miami visiting some friends on the Dolphins’ coaching staff. He was hanging around the facility waiting for one of those friends to get out of a meeting, when he stopped in the office of the Dolphins’ new quarterbacks coach Zac Taylor. 

On that exact day, Taylor had a visitor of his own. His younger brother Press, then a graduate assistant at Tulsa, happened to be on his summer break and was visiting Miami. 

So the three — Zac, Press and Chip — sat in a room at Miami and talked football for a couple of hours. Then they went their separate ways. 

Until Kelly was hired as the Eagles’ head coach and was looking for a quality control coach. 

That’s when another tie came into play. Greg Austin, who was Kelly’s graduate assistant at Oregon and became the Eagles’ assistant offensive line coach on that original staff, happened to be a college teammate of Zac’s at Nebraska. In fact, Austin was a part of the offensive line that protected Zac, the quarterback. So Austin suggested the name Press Taylor and Kelly remembered that long chat in Miami. 

“So when they got here, they had an idea for what the position looked like and they called me,” Press Taylor said last week. “It didn’t take much longer for me to say yes and show up here.” 

Five years later, Taylor is still just 30 years old, but he’s risen to the level of quarterbacks coach, replacing John DeFilippo, who is now the Vikings’ offensive coordinator. Last year, Taylor was responsible for mining the "Philly Special" from a Bears-Vikings game in 2016. He then watched that play help the Eagles win Super Bowl LII (see story)

And it all wouldn’t have happened without that chance meeting in Miami. 

Taylor never expected that day in Miami to lead to all of this. 

“No, I did not,” Taylor said. “At the time, Coach Kelly is at the University of Oregon, I’m at the University of Tulsa. I was just grateful to sit and talk football with anybody. It was just fun. I didn’t anticipate it being this.” 

Kelly brought Taylor to Philly, but Doug Pederson had just the right amount of missing ego to keep him. Taylor was one of several coaches Pederson kept on his original staff. Not only did Pederson keep Taylor, but he promoted him to assistant quarterbacks coach, a title he held until getting promoted this spring. 

During the 2016 offseason, after Kelly was fired and while the Eagles were looking for a replacement, Taylor was back at home in Oklahoma with his wife, mining information about possible new bosses with the same zeal with which he mined the "Philly Special."

“Trying to find connections I had with that person because, ideally, I wanted to stay,” Taylor remembered. “I really liked my time here in Philadelphia for the first three years, knew what kind of talent we had on our roster and really enjoyed coaching in the NFL. I was hoping to stay and really followed it all throughout that.”

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

Greg Ward is the receiver Malcolm Jenkins wanted all along

While the Eagles were busy trying to cobble together a wide receiver corps with Mack Hollins and Jordan Matthews, Malcolm Jenkins was campaigning for somebody else to get a shot.

Greg Ward.

“I’ve been calling for him to get called up to the active roster since training camp,” Jenkins said Thursday.

Nobody listened.

Instead, Ward spent nine of the first 10 weeks of the season on the practice squad. The one week he was on the active roster, against the Lions, he only got two snaps on offense. 

Then it was back to the practice squad.

Once Ward finally landed on the 53-man roster for good and actually got a chance to play and the Eagles saw what he could do, the Eagles released both Hollins and Matthews in the span of nine days.

Hollins played 473 snaps and had 10 catches in 11 games. That's a catch every 47.3 snaps.

Matthews played 137 snaps and had four catches in two games. That's a catch every 34.3 snaps.

Ward has played 145 snaps in three games and already has 11 receptions. That's a catch every 13.2 snaps.

Ward's eight-yard catch in overtime Monday night got the Eagles down to the two-yard-line, setting up Carson Wentz's game-winning TD pass to Zach Ertz.

How did the Eagles not realize for 2 1/2 months that Ward was a better option than Hollins or Matthews?

It’s not like he’s new here. Ward was on the practice squad all year in 2017 and in training camp in 2018 as well before leading the ill-fated AAF in receiving.

Boston Scott, Josh Perkins and Ward, who were all on the practice squad for a good chunk of this season, had 15 catches for 140 yards (and 59 rushing yards and a TD) in the Eagles’ win over the Giants.

Hollins? Hasn't caught a pass since September. 

Matthews? He's back with the 49ers, who've already cut him twice this year (without a catch).

Scott, like Ward, was buried on the depth chart while the Eagles went out and got Jay Ajayi, who is averaging 3.0 yards on 10 carries. Not until Miles Sanders had to leave the game briefly Monday night did the Eagles finally let Scott play. And that was the last we saw of Ajayi.

On the one hand, it’s good that these practice squad guys are contributing because it shows that the Eagles at least liked them enough to sign them and keep them around.

But why they stuck with guys like Ajayi, Hollins and Matthews for so long before finally letting Scott, Perkins and Ward play remains a mystery.

How could they not tell they could play?

“Not necessarily surprised because we see it every day,” Jenkins said. “These are guys who make us better and challenge us. I’m just excited to see them, No. 1, have the opportunity but to take full advantage of it and really help us get a win. I don’t think we get the win without them. To see them get the opportunity, I’m definitely proud.

“It does create some energy when you see them make plays. When guys you expect to make plays make plays, it’s one thing. But all of a sudden you have Perkins and Boston and G. Ward making plays, it adds a little juice to the team.” 

You just have to wonder why it took so long for them to even get the opportunity to add a little juice to the team.

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Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Kamu Grugier-Hill admits to lying about concussion to stay in game

Eagles linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill on Thursday admitted that when he suffered his concussion in Miami two weeks ago, he lied to medical personnel to stay in the game.

He told them he hurt his shoulder.

“I just basically lied to them,” Grugier-Hill said. “I thought it would just go away. Just didn’t really say anything about it. It got to the point where I really couldn’t lie to them anymore.”

The concussion happened on the first play from scrimmage in the game against the Dolphins, when the starting linebacker collided with receiver DeVante Parker. That means he played a total of 54 combined defensive and special teams snaps with a concussion that game.

Eventually, when the headaches didn’t subside, Grugier-Hill reported the concussion symptoms to trainers on Thursday, four days after the head shot. He was put in the NFL’s concussion protocol and missed the Giants game. He has since been cleared and will return to action in Washington this weekend.

Grugier-Hill, 25, said he had never had a concussion before and didn’t know exactly what it felt like. Last week, head coach Doug Pederson said the Eagles encourage all their players to report concussion symptoms and self police.

Does Grugier-Hil regret his decision?

“No,” he said. “I mean, I wish we would have at least got a win.”

There’s no questioning Grugier-Hill’s loyalty but lying to medical staff about a brain injury is nothing to be praised; it’s dangerous. But at least Grugier-Hill was honest about his decision — plenty of players aren’t.

And this certainly wasn’t the first time — nor will it be the last — that a player decides to stay in a game even though they know they might be concussed.

Back in 2015, Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins admitted he played through more than an entire half against the Cowboys with a concussion. After eventually getting through the protocol, Jenkins said he felt “foggy” for the entire second half.

That’s the hole in the NFL’s concussion policy. The league has concussion spotters in the press box at every game and has made strides to prevent and detect these head injuries earlier, but players are still willing to put their long-term health on the line to stay in games. And Eagles medical personnel can’t treat a concussion they don’t know exists. It’s a hard problem to fix.

As far as the league has come, concussions are still far too normalized in the sport.

“I think it’s just part of the game,” Grugier-Hill said. “You get rocked a little bit every once in a while.”

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