Shift In Eagles' Offensive Coaching Hasn't Ruffled Feathers Bill Musgrave, Just 30, Has The Reins. Dana Bible Will Keep The Title Of Offensive Coordinator.

Posted: October 20, 1998

The coup was completed quietly, with a minimum of bloodshed.

By Sunday, which ended with a 13-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers, 30-year-old Bill Musgrave was in effect the Eagles' offensive coordinator. Dana Bible, hired for the job in January, retained the title but not much more.

``This is not about fault,'' head coach Ray Rhodes said yesterday. ``It's not about a fall guy. I take full responsibility for this football team.''

When Rhodes had to replace Jon Gruden, who left for the Oakland Raiders at the end of last season, Bible was the only candidate interviewed for the job.

Rhodes made the hire largely on the recommendation of Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham, for whom Bible worked for three years.

About that time, Rhodes also called Musgrave, who spent last year as Oakland's quarterbacks coach. But Musgrave had a chance to resume the playing career that ended in 1996 with a dislocated shoulder (caused, incidentally, by San Diego linebacker Junior Seau).

``Ray talked briefly to me,'' Musgrave said. ``I indicated I was going to try to play football again. I got a call to play, and I decided to get in shape and give it a go. Even when I was 100 percent healthy, I could only throw marginally well. But my shoulder hurt, and I didn't make it.''

The Indianapolis Colts waived Musgrave on Aug. 24. By then, after several dismal preseason outings, Rhodes was already having doubts about the state of his offense. He called Musgrave and offered him what was described at the time as an entry-level coaching job.

``I was in Indiana after being with the Colts,'' Musgrave said. ``Ray called. He said, `Are you still interested in coaching?' I said, `You bet I am.' I jumped at the chance. I've got goals and dreams of my own. I didn't know what the status of things were when I flew here from Indiana.''

Things were bad. By the time Musgrave officially signed on, the Eagles had lost their season opener, 38-0, to the Seattle Seahawks. The moment Musgrave arrived, the whispers began: He was really here to take over the offense if Rhodes decided to take it away from Bible. Rhodes and other members of the organization vehemently denied that.

Six weeks later, despite those denials, the whispers proved to be true. During the Washington game last week, Musgrave called some of the plays. After that game, Rhodes

decided to make the switch. Although he has acknowledged only that Musgrave did some game-day play-calling, it's clear that Musgrave did much more.

``I tried to devise different plays,'' he said. ``It wasn't just calling plays. I kind of put together my own game plan. I went over it with [Rodney Peete] and tried to get our guys in the best position to be successful.

``I told them the night before the game we're going to get everybody their touches and spread the ball around and let the chips fall where they may. I think that's a goal of most good coordinators going into a game.''

While Musgrave acknowledged disappointment in the offense's performance against San Diego, he said he believed the game provided a glimpse of how things will be different under his stewardship.

``I'm hoping they'll be quite a bit different, that we can spread it around and be a little bit more cre-

ative and use formations to create some more mismatches,'' Musgrave said. ``We really had our work cut out for us yesterday, going against the No. 1-ranked defense. It's hard to see the positives. You want to come out with the win there.''

The situation is as awkward as anything the Eagles have faced in the recent past. Rhodes gave Bible only six games to build a respectable offense with a wildly inconsistent offensive line, poor quarterback play, no tight-end game, unproven running backs, and a glaring lack of speed at wide receiver.

Rhodes, clearly feeling the heat in his fourth season as head coach, has already changed quarterbacks, benching Bobby Hoying in favor of Peete. Although Peete threw two killer interceptions in San Diego, Rhodes said Peete would remain the starter.

``I think it was a distraction for us this week, and hopefully we'll have some continuity for the rest of the season and not talk about it anymore,'' Hoying said. ``It's an unfortunate situation with Dana because I think he's a good coach. When you're not winning games - just like with me being benched as a starter - something is going to happen. And it's hard to take sometimes.''

Bible said Sunday that he would continue to work just as hard to help get the offense on track. He is expected to continue sitting in the coach's booth on the press-box level. Musgrave will remain on the field, calling the plays.

``Dana is a team player,'' Rhodes said. ``He wants to win just like all of us. I don't think anybody is going to be jumping for joy at something like that, but he's a team player and he'll do anything he can to help us

get this thing done.''

``Dana's a classy guy,'' Musgrave said. ``We have a good working relationship. Fortunately, it's been fine on that front.''

And while it would seem Rhodes has replaced an inexperienced NFL coordinator with an even more inexperienced coordinator, he pointed out Musgrave's pedigree in this style of offense. Musgrave spent four seasons in San Francisco and two more in Denver as a backup quarterback.

``He's got a great amount of knowledge from studying this offense for years as a player,'' said Gary Kubiak, the Broncos' offensive coordinator. ``It's a tough situation out there. But the thing about him is, he's smart enough to make the most of it. Even though he's a mild-mannered guy, he's got a fire in him to compete. That's why he played for so long. Just his knowledge in general will impress the players.''

``I was fortunate enough to be with Mike Holmgren my rookie year,'' Musgrave said. ``When he went to Green Bay, Mike Shanahan showed up. It was fun to be around him as he took the offense to another level when we went to the Super Bowl in 1994.

``He was nice enough to bring me along when he went to Denver. I'll be forever grateful, because I got to see the best at work and see his thought processes when it came to game-planning. Before we had a quarterback coach [in San Francisco], I coached the quarterback. I was with Shanahan in the booth, talking to either Steve Young or Steve Bono. That kind of helped me know the mechanics'' of calling a game.

Musgrave is ambitious about his coaching career. He said that, despite the awkwardness of the circumstances, he viewed all of this as a great experience. And he isn't concerned about being called offensive coordinator.

``Ray's never talked to me about it,'' Musgrave said. ``I'm not concerned about titles. I just want to win some football games.''

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