Andy Reid gave both Doug Pederson and Pat Shurmur their first NFL jobs, with the Eagles. Reid, whose Kansas City Chiefs were upset by Tennessee in the wild-card round of the playoffs this year, has watched Eagles coach Pederson and Vikings offensive coordinator Shurmur advance to Sunday's NFC championship game with different quarterbacks from the ones they expected to run their West Coast attacks at the start of the season.
Reid thinks this is pretty darned impressive.
"I think both of them have done phenomenal," Reid, the Eagles' coach the last five times they made it this far in the playoffs, said this week. "That shows you a little coaching," to be able to make such an adjustment.
Reid said that as he watches games he sees each man setting the board for his quarterback, Case Keenum in Minnesota and Nick Foles here, doing things early that will pay off later.
"You just want to kind of set things up during a game. You can kind of watch where it starts and where it ends up finishing. You can see their minds kind of working it as they go. It's pretty amazing," Reid said, from his offseason home in his native Southern California. "If I'm an owner and I'm looking at that, I'm going, 'That's a pretty amazing job that they've done.' It's not as easy as it might look" with a quarterback the attack was not designed around.
One subtext to Reid's observation: Shurmur, briefly the head coach of the Browns, is expected to become the Giants' head coach when the Vikings' season ends.
Reid said Pederson would have his vote, if Reid were asked to cast a ballot for NFL coach of the year.
You could see Reid's point about setting things up last Saturday in the Eagles' victory over Atlanta. Pederson was run-heavy early, which opened up the underneath for Foles in two second-half field goal drives.
Reid said he sees Shurmur and Pederson as being very similar.
"I think they're both calm heads. I think they're both very intelligent," he said. "I think they're both very good teachers. Good people. Care about the players, they're players' coaches, but obviously, they're not afraid to put the hammer on you if they need to. I think both of them have developed that, and do that pretty well.
"Their general philosophy, I guess, would be very similar, on how you call a game, and how you attack certain defenses."
In fact, Eagles tight end Brent Celek said "they run the same offense" but are different as play-callers.
Reid said he sees in both men an ability to adapt to what defenses are doing – they don't come into games with rigid notions about, say, how many times they have to run the ball that day.
"You got to work off the strength of your players and the weakness of the defense. This offense takes a lot of timing. There's a lot of flexibility there, that a lot of offenses don't [have]," he said.
Reid noted that Pederson sees the game through a quarterback's eyes, and that Shurmur, as a former center at Michigan State, has a similar orientation, at least when it comes to looking at protections. Reid said that Shurmur's involvement with his son Kyle's career – Kyle is a rising senior starting quarterback at Vanderbilt, and an NFL prospect – has sharpened that focus.
Speaking of quarterbacking, it was Reid who offered Foles a backup spot in 2016, when Foles was contemplating retirement, after the Rams drafted Jared Goff and then granted Foles' request for his release. Of course, in 2012 it was Reid who drafted Foles, in the third round with the Eagles.
"I'm a Nick fan," Reid said. "I think you have to do certain things with him. He doesn't have the mobility Carson [Wentz] has got, but he's got a great brain. You've got to take care of the protection. He needs to know all of his ins and outs on that. He and [center Jason] Kelce, they've got to have a good grasp of that, so any problems, he can get out of with his mind more than his feet.
"He throws well on the move, which people don't realize. You give him that short area, tight end box area, and he can move around a little bit. He was a great basketball player. All those little slick passes, those are all easy for him."
Reid's NFL head coaching tree is impressive, and growing. Sean McDermott joined the list last year, Matt Nagy this year. Reid said he has a simple test for knowing when a protege is ready to leave the nest. It has to do with making strategic connections, beyond what a common opponent has been able to do against an upcoming foe.
"With these young coaches, that's when I know they've kind of got it; when they can come to me, and it's not something that they found that another team did against the team that you're playing. But they go 'You know what, this team's doing this. We might be able to just kind of move this here and that there and actually create something.' That's when you kind of know they've got it, they can do it on their own.
"Real good coaches all continue to develop. The work is never done; you're like a farmer. … [The league] is always changing. If you're fluid, then you're helping create that change. To keep defenses off balance. Move people around. 'Try this, because I've got a quarterback who can really handle it, or a running back who's smart, so I can move him all over the place.' Whatever it might be. You're always experimenting in different directions, and both those guys have that ability."
Reid said he didn't want to venture a guess as to Sunday's outcome.
"[The teams are] similar, I think they both have really good defenses. I think their offenses are similar. It has a chance to be a pretty good game. I don't know what direction it goes," he said. "I have no idea. Flip a coin on it."