If Chip Kelly's playbook was a pamphlet, Doug Pederson's is more like 'War and Peace'

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford will have a lot more freedom under Doug Pederson. Bill Streicher/USA Today Sports

PHILADELPHIA -- Most of what you need to know about the Philadelphia Eagles’ offense is in the play calling.

Remember Chip Kelly’s sideline placards, with pictures of cheesesteaks, Rocky Balboa, and Ben Franklin? Players would look over to the sideline, interpret the right play from the confusing array of signs and then line up without huddling. The quarterback would call for the ball and the Eagles would run the play.

In Doug Pederson’s offense, play calls are wordy. The quarterback gets the call via his helmet speaker from the sideline. He then goes into the huddle and repeats the call exactly, making sure to get all 10 or 12 words in the correct order. Each word gives the other players specific instructions about the play call, the alignment, the blocking scheme and so on.

If Kelly’s playbook was a pamphlet, Pederson’s is more like "War and Peace." There are many more plays, and each comes with variations and options depending upon the defensive alignment. Wide receivers will go in motion, forcing defenders to move and perhaps reveal whether they are in man-to-man or zone coverage. Everyone on the offense is expected to read that information and adjust the play accordingly.

Meanwhile, Pederson will use a variety of snap counts. While Kelly was all about getting the ball snapped quickly, Pederson’s quarterback can take his time and try to fool defenders with hard counts and other tricks. During organized team activities, offensive players were already observing the advantage it gave them. A hesitant defense is not as quick off the ball as a defense that doesn’t have to worry about snap counts.

“I put more on the quarterback in this system, and it's kind of what I've been accustomed to,” Pederson said last week. “Even when I was a player with coach [Andy] Reid, he put everything on the quarterback and we had to learn it that way.”

That is why Pederson, like Reid, signed a veteran backup who was well-versed in the offense and could help everyone learn how to run it. Pederson played the role of on-field coordinator for Reid. Chase Daniel is playing it for Pederson.

“This is part of the reason why Chase is here," Pederson said, "to teach that verbal communication with Sam [Bradford] and for them to dialogue and bounce these situations and the terminology back and forth.”

The good news is that Bradford has some experience in this kind of offense and he enjoyed it. As a rookie in St. Louis, his offensive coordinator was Pat Shurmur, who came from the same Reid coaching tree as Pederson.

As offensive coordinator with the Eagles last year, Shurmur served as interim head coach for the final game of the season. In the few practice days between when Kelly was fired and that final game, Shurmur added some plays that gave Bradford the ability to audible out of the original play call depending on what the defensive look was.

Bradford enjoyed that and handled it well, according to Shurmur and other Eagles players. Bradford's football intelligence is one of his strengths. It makes sense to run an offense that takes advantage of that rather than an offense that relies entirely on the play call from the sideline.

“There is a lot of freedom,” Bradford said. “Obviously, with that freedom, there comes a lot of responsibility. You’re in charge of getting into the right play and getting out of a bad play. You’re responsible for everything out there.

“Last year with Chip, playing at the tempo we did, it was hard to really do that. I think there’s benefits to each, but it is nice knowing that when you get to the line of scrimmage, if you realize 'Hey, this is a bad play against this coverage,’ I have the ability to get us into something better.”

With Kelly, the sheer quantity of plays was important. If you have a bad play called against a particular defense, it might still work out because of how quickly you line up and run it. If the play doesn’t work, you’re running another one before the defense can even process that information.

That is not the way Pederson’s offense works. It is more cerebral and requires coordination between the quarterback, the center and all the skill position players. Time will tell if Pederson’s way is better than Kelly’s, but it’s already clear that the two offenses are drastically different.