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Press Taylor’s ‘exhaustive’ approach has set him up to succeed as Eagles quarterbacks coach

The new Eagles quarterbacks coach has a meticulous system of files for his library of plays and the kind of temperament that has some predicting a bright future.

Quarterback coach Press Taylor speaks at the Eagles' NovaCare Center Philadelphia, Pa., Monday June 11, 2018.
Quarterback coach Press Taylor speaks at the Eagles' NovaCare Center Philadelphia, Pa., Monday June 11, 2018.Read moreDAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer

When the Taylor family went on vacation, 8-year-old Press would pack the car.

"We would just leave the luggage to him," Sherwood Taylor, Press's father, said. "Everything was organized down to the last item on his list. There are very few people as organized."

In Press' bedroom, for example, every piece of clothing had a place. His older brother Zac, now the quarterbacks coach for the Rams, was the opposite.

"Zac was happy if there was a pile of clean clothes to choose from," Sherwood said. "With Press, you weren't sure if anyone actually lived in his room."

Despite their differences, Press would follow in many of Zac's footsteps. The Taylor brothers weren't necessarily preordained to become football players and coaches, but Sherwood did both and the apple often doesn't travel far from that tree.

But Press stands alone from his father and brother in many ways, especially in terms of his meticulousness.

"The word is anal," Sherwood joked.

Press' Eagles colleagues use "detailed," "thorough" and "exhaustive" to describe the team's new quarterbacks coach — words that rarely have a negative connotation in coaching. And Taylor's preparation, in the form of files on a flash drive (call it anal, if you will), is already renowned in the halls of the NovaCare Complex.

He started compiling plays as a graduate assistant at Tulsa and added significantly to his offensive reservoir in the five years he's spent on the Eagles' staff. Taylor's biggest contributions generally came behind the scenes but he was thrust into the forefront when he was credited with digging up the trick play that developed into "Philly Special."

>>READ MORE: Press Taylor is living his life in the fast lane after unearthing the "Philly Special"

A few weeks after the Super Bowl, Taylor was tabbed to replace John DeFilippo, who left to become the Vikings' offensive coordinator. It was a natural progression for the 30-year-old – he had previously been the Eagles' assistant quarterbacks coach before spending a year with the wide receivers – but it could also be just the beginning.

Of the NFL's 29 offensive coordinators – the Rams, 49ers and Texans don't fill the position – 24 are former quarterbacks coaches, either in the pros or college. And of the 18 offensive-minded head coaches, 15 of them used to oversee the quarterback room.

Taylor still has plenty to prove before he can be considered for that type of promotion, but he couldn't be walking into a better situation. He has one of best young quarterbacks in the game — if not the best — in starter Carson Wentz, and the reigning Super Bowl MVP in backup Nick Foles.

>>READ MORE: The Gospel according to Carson Wentz

As the Eagles look to defend their title, Taylor — along with former receivers coach Mike Groh, who replaced Frank Reich as offensive coordinator — has big shoes to fill. But Taylor is ready, according to many who have worked with him, and he's poised to follow the career path of the league's quarterbacks coaches that have come before him.

"Press is a rising star. He's got a really brilliant mind for the game and he's a great worker," Reich said in February, not long after he became the Colts' head coach. "Press would always be welcome on my staff anytime. Or I'll probably be working for him someday."

Taylor and his brother share higher aspirations, but they understand the NFL can be fickle. Zac was briefly the Dolphins' interim offensive coordinator but lost his job when most of the Miami staff was fired following the 2015 season. He bounced back with a college gig, then took a job with the Rams as assistant receivers coach. Zac, like his brother,  was promoted to quarterbacks coach this offseason.

"I've kind of learned, yes, you want to be driven, you want to have these career goals, but at the same time, you want to take a step back and breathe in the exciting times you're experiencing in the present," Zac said. "And I know Press feels the same way."

But that hasn't stopped the Taylor brothers from planning for possible futures as head coaches. Both are prepared in case they are eventually interviewed, according to their father. They have packets that share their coaching philosophies, the types of assistants they would hire and the schemes they would run.

Press recently listed as influences the wide-ranging variety of coaches he's worked with in Philly – from Pat Shurmur and quarterbacks coaches Bill Lazor, Bill Musgrave and Ryan Day, who worked under Chip Kelly; to current Eagles coach Doug Pederson and his staff.

"That's sort of a who's who of quarterback coaches throughout the league. For me, it's been great to just essentially be a fly on the wall, ask those guys a million questions," Taylor said. "I like to think I take the best elements of those guys that fit my personality and try to implement them into my coaching style."

>>READ MORE: Doug Pederson's life changed after the Super Bowl, but he feels he hasn't

Who you know

Taylor's greatest influences? He cites his father and brother. Sherwood played safety at Oklahoma for Barry Switzer's late-1970s teams and coached for the Sooners and Kansas State in the early 1980s. But he left coaching not long after his second child, Kathryn, was born and diagnosed with Down syndrome.

Kathryn's needs influenced the family's decision to move back to Oklahoma, but Sherwood also knew that if he kept coaching he would likely subject his family to a nomadic lifestyle and he'd be forced to spend days away from his children. By leaving that world behind he would not only get to watch his children play sports, he would be able to coach them.

"He's a very patient person. He had a way of simplifying the game for my brother and me," Press said. "It was never we'd come in and just watch a football game. It was always, 'Hey, did you notice what happened here in the second quarter of this game?' He was always coaching situations, but you never felt like you were being coached."

The Taylors grew up on a cul-de-sac in Norman where a group of neighborhood boys played a continuous stream of sports. Football was Zac's No. 1 sport, and he was always the quarterback, while Press, five years younger than his brother, was more versatile.

Press was the point guard in basketball and the center back in soccer. He eventually earned the starting quarterback spot in high school, but he played other positions as well.

Sherwood coached his two sons in football and basketball through junior high, but their experiences were different.

"If you told Zac to do something once, he'd correct it and you never had to tell him again. With Press, he'd do something totally on his own and come by and say, 'See, my way worked,' " Sherwood said. "He was more innovative, but he was more frustrating because he was successful doing it his way."

If he wasn't successful, you would know it.

"There were times in the car when nobody had any conversations on the way home because he would be pretty upset about having lost," Sherwood said. "His club soccer team won three state championships and they lost one and he was not happy the rest of the day."

Whether it was learning from his stoic brother — "You never knew if he won or lost," Sherwood said of Zac — or simply maturing, Press realized that being visibly upset was a hindrance, especially at quarterback. Winning most of the time helped.

Press followed his brother to Butler County (Kan.) Community College, where he won back-to-back NJCAA national championships.

It was there that the two brothers' paths split up. While Zac finished his collegiate career as a two-year starter at Nebraska, Press spent his remaining years at Marshall, mostly as the backup quarterback.

Press caught the coaching bug and applied for graduate-assistant jobs across the country. His father's friendship with then-Tulsa head coach Bill Blankenship — a former opponent — helped Press get his foot in the door with the Golden Hurricane.

Sherwood quit coaching, but he said he never tried to talk his sons out of doing it. He did, however, offer a few words of advice.

"If this is what you want to do, you're the first one to be there and the last to leave," Sherwood said. "And meet as many people as possible, because I always told them it's more about who you know than what you know in coaching."

For Zac, marrying the daughter of Mike Sherman, the former Green Bay Packers and Texas A&M coach, helped him land his first coaching job. After three years of toiling under his father-in-law at the college level, he left for the Dolphins. Press was visiting his brother in Miami when he had a chance meeting with Oregon coach Chip Kelly, who was visiting. That chance led to the latter hiring the former.

"That meeting – didn't think much of it," Press said.

Kelly did. When he got the Eagles gig, assistant offensive line coach Greg Austin mentioned Press – Austin had played alongside Zac at Nebraska – and Kelly hired him to be an offensive quality-control coach. His tasks were manifold, but the amount of film Press watched allowed him to add play after play to his files.

"He was building it from the first day at Tulsa and never stopped," Sherwood said. "I'm always bringing something up to him and saying, 'What about this?' And he's like, 'No, we've already seen that.' He's well ahead of anything I could think of."

He has a plan

When Kelly was fired, Press was one of the few assistants still under contract. But that didn't guarantee him a spot on the new coach's staff. He said he kept tabs on who the Eagles were interviewing for the top spot and began reaching out to anyone who had a connection.

"I wanted to stay with the Eagles," Press said. "I saw the talent we had in the building, how the organization was run from the top down. It was just something I wanted to be a part of."

When Pederson got the job, he wasn't necessarily looking for experts in the West Coast offense. He brought in a modified, Andy Reid version of the offense that had cribbed spread concepts and run-pass option plays from the college game.

And Press wasn't brought up in a West Coast system. But Press spent hours talking with his brother Zac, who learned the scheme from Bill Callahan when he played at Nebraska.

Pederson said he saw Press as a "cerebral-type" coach with vast knowledge of various systems. But it isn't all in Taylor's head. When asked to break down an opponent's tendencies, for instance, his presentations are exacting.

"His reports are thorough, they're detailed, they're well thought-out," Pederson said. "He has a plan that's part of my philosophy. As coaches, if you're going to put something together, let it be well thought-out and put some thought into it and have good reasons for putting it together."

Press' extensive files allow him to call up any play with just the push of a few buttons. When Reich asked him for gadget plays for the postseason, he had already compiled a stack that included a play the Bears ran successfully against the Vikings in 2016.

>>READ MORE: Eagles' RPOs have league defenses searching for an antidote

That play, of course, would eventually become known as "Philly Special," and Press' involvement would be first mentioned by Reich immediately following the Super Bowl victory. As pivotal as that play was, and as important as Press' role — however small — was in its calling, he now has the potential to have a greater impact on the Eagles.

Wentz and Foles are a coach's dream in many respects, but Press must contend with the former's return from major knee surgery and he must massage the latter's return to a backup role. Fortunately, everyone involved believes the transition will be seamless.

"We've seen Press behind the scenes the last couple years and how hard he works," Wentz said. "A lot of guys have a ton of respect for him both as a person and as a coach, and I know that's where I sit. So far, it's been great. He understands the game extremely well and we're very like-minded both on and off the field."

Press isn't a screamer. When he has a point to make or wants to challenge his charges, per Wentz, he'll do it in a one-on-one setting or in the film room. He also has his Christian belief in common with Wentz, Foles and third-string quarterback Nate Sudfeld.

As serious as Press is about his job, football and faith, he can lighten the mood. Not long after fourth-string quarterback Joe Callahan was acquired this offseason, Press had him rank pictures of his and the other quarterbacks' dogs.

"That was kind of my initiation … and a little stressful for me," Callahan said. "It's tough to rank other people's dogs. The funniest thing is, three of the dogs are related. I think one's the mom."

Press' dog, Bronx — his wife's name is Brooklyn — won.

"I think Carson took it the hardest," Callahan said. "His dog came in third."

Press likes competition. While he and Zac stopped playing basketball against each other long ago after one too many heated exchanges, they brought an element of their rivalry back with the "Taylor Bro Trophy."

The "big and obnoxious" prize, as Zac called it, sits in Sherwood's office. Each time the brothers' teams play each other, a plate gets added for the winner.

Zac won first when the Dolphins beat the Eagles in 2015, but Press knotted the score last year in Los Angeles. The Eagles visit the Rams again in December.

"Hopefully," Zac said, "we have a lot more on the line than the trophy."

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