Eagles

Press Taylor breaks down how he brought 'Philly Special' to Eagles

Press Taylor breaks down how he brought 'Philly Special' to Eagles

You’re never going to forget the “Philly Special.” 

Never. 

Perhaps the gutsiest call in NFL history, the trick play the Eagles pulled off late in the second quarter of Super Bowl LII helped the franchise hold the Lombardi Trophy for the first time.

Go ahead and thank Press Taylor for that. 

Taylor is now the Eagles’ quarterbacks coach, but last season as an offensive quality control assistant, part of his job was to mine plays — often specifically gadget plays — from around the rest of the NFL and college. So it was actually a newly-turned 30-year-old who made a bunch of grown men cry tears of joy in February. 

But what was it like for Taylor to see the play he mined get used in the Super Bowl? 

“It was awesome,” Taylor said with a smile Monday morning, just over four months since the game. “I don’t think I ever could have imagined it being a 4th-and-2 call in the Super Bowl. I don’t think anybody would have.” 

During the Super Bowl, Taylor was upstairs in the coaching booth when he heard the play call come over his headset. Down on the field, it was Nick Foles who approached Doug Pederson with the suggestion “Philly Philly” in one of the most memorable moments from the incredible game. 

Taylor tried to downplay the credit he’s received from Pederson and former offensive coordinator Frank Reich for bringing the play to the Eagles. But there he was during the Super Bowl, watching the play he found, get used in an incredibly pivotal moment. 

“We were all just kind of holding on, hoping it turned out well,” Taylor said. “And it did. It was a great call. I think, for us, if you’re not the play-caller and you’re not on the field executing, you’re kind of just a fan that happens to know the play being called and knows what to look for when we line up.”

During last season, Taylor collected gadget plays in a folder until Reich came to him and asked for his five best ideas. It included the Philly Special. Taylor saw it from a Bears-Vikings game in the 2016 season. Then WRs coach Mike Groh and Alshon Jeffery, having both come from Chicago, were familiar with it and helped install it and help it fit with the Eagles. 

The Bears actually called the play “Clemson Special” because they found it from watching college tape. (See the tape breakdown and the play’s origins here.)

Taylor had seen the play at the college level before too, at Oklahoma, West Virginia, South Alabama, but said the play needs to be different in the NFL, where a quarterback can’t catch a pass after being lined up under center. So Foles had to be in the shotgun. 

After the Eagles called the play, Taylor watched it work to perfection, just as he envisioned. 

“Watching as Nick moves, how the defense reacts,” he said, “ you just get more and more excited as the play goes on.”

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.”

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

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AP Images

5 more Eagles who were impressive during spring practices

As the Eagles wrapped up their spring practices last week, head coach Doug Pederson was asked for a list of young players who stood out over the last few weeks. 

It was a pretty good list (see story)

But with a limited amount of time, Pederson probably didn’t mention every young player who had a good spring. I’m gonna give him a hand and list five more players he failed to mention. 

De’Vante Bausby 
This guy was the revelation of the spring. He joined the Eagles’ practice squad last season but seemingly has a great shot to make the active roster this year. During many OTA practices and in minicamp, the 25-year-old took first-team reps at the nickel corner spot. I still have trouble believing that Bausby is going to be on the field ahead of Sidney Jones, but that doesn’t take away from how good he’s looked so far. Aside from just getting first-team reps, he made the most of them. It seemed like he was making a play every day. 

Nate Sudfeld
This was really our first extended look at Sudfeld, but it’s far from our last. In fact, prepare yourselves to see a ton of the third-stringer this summer. Because while Carson Wentz recovers, Sudfeld is Nick Foles’ backup. And the Eagles need to treat Foles like a starter, which means fewer reps. Sudfeld didn’t come to the Eagles until after last cuts a year ago. This spring, it was easy to see why the Eagles like Sudfeld so much. He’s pretty athletic, can move his legs, and spent the few weeks dropping dimes all over the field. Eventually, Foles is going to move on and Sudfeld should be able to take the backup role. 

Bryce Treggs
Remember when Treggs-mania took over Philadelphia in 2016? Fans were clamoring for more of Treggs after he made that one big catch. Since then, that mania has certainly died down, but Treggs is off to a good start in 2018. He’s a much better player than he was a few years ago. To me, he made the best play we saw all spring, when he stretched out to catch one of those dimes from Sudfeld. Treggs doesn't have a great shot of making the Eagles’ roster, but he can put together some more good tape and maybe find another team. 

Nate Gerry 
In his second season out of Nebraska, Gerry has a real chance to win the weakside linebacker job. He’s battling Kamu Grugier-Hill and Corey Nelson for the spot left by Mychal Kendricks’ release. And Gerry is off to a good start. Having a year in the defense under his belt should certainly help him gain an edge on Nelson, but he still needs to make plays. In the spring, he did. He had a couple interceptions and seemed to read everything well. His background as a safety is clearly something the Eagles like for this position; the other two guys have coverage skills too. 

Josh Sweat
It’s a little tough for defensive ends to stand out in non-padded practices, but the rookie from Florida State did. The first thing to notice about Sweat is just how big he is. He’s listed at 6-5, 251. For now, he’s really long and skinny, but is quick and athletic too. It helped him going against someone as raw as Jordan Mailata, but even when he was facing others, Sweat still looked explosive. We’ll know more once the pads go on, but it seems like the Eagles might have a steal and somehow added even more depth on the D-line. 

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