More on Harrell

Posted: January 19th, 2020 | Author: | Filed under: Philadelphia Eagles | 1 Comment »

We don’t have any updates on Graham Harrell or the Eagles coaching situations so I thought it might be good to talk some more about Harrell.

We’ll start with Harrell’s background. He played QB for Mike Leach at Texas Tech. That’s where Harrell learned the Air Raid offense and was exposed to Leach’s highly unorthodox style of football. Watch this 60 Minutes segment to get some background on Leach and also to see Harrell in his college days.

Leach is about as far from an NFL coach and NFL mindset as you can get. His offense is based on simplicity. Master a handful of plays instead of having a playbook that is six inches thick and full of thousands of options. Focus on the players, not the X’s and O’s.

Harrell was a three-year starter for Texas Tech. He threw for more than 15,000 yards and had 134 TD passes. He set a handful of NCAA passing records.

Despite his collegiate success, Harrell went undrafted. He wasn’t special physically and the NFL wasn’t impressed by the Air Raid offense. Harrell managed to stay in the NFL from 2010-2013, spending most of his time with the Packers.

Harrell didn’t play much, but that was a valuable time for him. He got to learn the West Coast offense and experience life with pro coaches. Instead of embracing the NFL, Harrell preferred his college offense and that style of play. He hated the WCO verbiage. He thought NFL coaches took a weird pride in making things more complicated than they needed to be.

In 2014 Harrell decided to quit playing football and start coaching it. He was hired by Leach as an assistant at Washington State. Harrell was an offensive analyst in 2014 and became WRs coach in 2015.

Harrell left WSU to become the offensive coordinator at North Texas. UNT was one of the worst offenses in the league prior to Harrell’s arrival. They became one of the most productive offenses in 2017 and 2018.

That success got Harrell the OC job at USC for the 2019 season. The Trojans finished 20th in the nation in yards and 6th in passing yards. That might not sound great, but you need context. USC lost their starting QB in the season opener. The backup got hurt later and the Trojans had to turn to a true freshman. Harrell had all three QBs ready to play and the team had success no matter who was under center. Also take into consideration the fact that the team was learning the Air Raid offense for the first time.

Harrell has had success at multiple college stops. He’s had success with mediocre talent and star players. He knows how to coach.

Is he the right fit for the Eagles? Can he succeed in the NFL? This is a projection and that always makes things more complicated.

Doug Pederson has spent 24 years playing or coaching professional football. He knows the WCO inside-out. He knows NFL offenses inside-out. The Eagles don’t need a veteran coordinator with a strong NFL background. They could choose to go that direction if the right candidate is out there, but they don’t need to find that guy.

It would make a lot of sense to add someone like Harrell. Pederson can’t teach the Air Raid offense. He’s never been part of that scheme or style of play. There is also something to be said for embracing different ideas on terminology and style of play.

When you think about college ideas coming to the NFL, it is easy to flash back to Chip Kelly. His offense was great at first, but struggled as defenses adjusted to it. There are differences in Kelly and this situation. Kelly’s offense was based primarily on the run game and the speed of the offense.

The Air Raid is primarily a passing offense. The goal is to put players in space so they can make plays. It is more like basketball on grass. The offense also uses speed as a way to wear down defenses.

Kliff Kingsbury coached the Arizona Cardinals last year and brought his version of the Air Raid to the NFL. Like Harrell, Kingsbury played for Leach at Texas Tech. The Cardinals were dead last in the NFL in yards and points in 2018. Kingsbury turned things around in his first year.

The Cardinals were 16th in scoring and 21st in yards in 2019. They had a rookie QB, mediocre OL and odd assortment of offensive weapons. Kingsbury was able to get his players to embrace the scheme and play well. As he gets in more talent, that offense should only get better.

When Kelly had his NFL success, the Eagles had a dominant runner (LeSean), an explosive receiver (DeSean), an outstanding TE (Brent Celek) and a dominant OL. He also had Nick Foles playing out of his mind. That success was more on the star players than it was Kelly.

I think the Air Raid can work in the NFL, if mixed with other ideas. A good point of comparison might be the tw0-minute offense that every team runs. Teams run basic plays when they are in hurry-up mode. They rely on players to make plays. The Air Raid has the same principles. Keep it simple. Let players execute.

Clearly you can’t do that 60 plays a game for 16 games a year. But you can mix in those ideas and have them enhance your offense.

One of the big selling points for me is that the Air Raid attack generally brings the best out of WRs. If you think about the biggest weakness of the Eagles offense under Pederson, it has been the WRs. Harrell could help change that.

There would be risk in hiring Harrell. He’s never coached in the NFL. He did play in the league, but coaching is a whole other ball of wax. There could be a tough time mixing in Harrell’s ideas with the Eagles offense. There is also the possibility that Harrell could do a great job. If that happened, would he become a head coaching candidate? You don’t want to avoid good candidates for fear of losing them in the future, but there is something to be said for stability on a coaching staff.

There is no perfect candidate for the Eagles. I would rather see Pederson take a chance on someone like Harrell than an NFL coach. College football is where some of the best coaching gets done and where incredible innovation takes place.

Take a chance on Harrell and see how he could help improve the Eagles offense.

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One Comment on “More on Harrell”

  1. 1 Eagles News: “I just don’t think it’s a good idea for [Alshon Jeffery] to be in the building” – My Blog said at 5:33 PM on January 20th, 2020:

    […] More on Harrell – Iggles BlitzThere would be risk in hiring Harrell. He’s never coached in the NFL. He did play in the league, but coaching is a whole other ball of wax. There could be a tough time mixing in Harrell’s ideas with the Eagles offense. There is also the possibility that Harrell could do a great job. If that happened, would he become a head coaching candidate? You don’t want to avoid good candidates for fear of losing them in the future, but there is something to be said for stability on a coaching staff. There is no perfect candidate for the Eagles. I would rather see Pederson take a chance on someone like Harrell than an NFL coach. College football is where some of the best coaching gets done and where incredible innovation takes place. Take a chance on Harrell and see how he could help improve the Eagles offense. […]