Studying New Philadelphia Eagles Quarterback Sam Bradford


Aug 23, 2014; Cleveland, OH, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) warms up before the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

For all we know, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly could be fooling us all.

Or, he really doesn’t know what the future will hold.

Case in point: Had you asked Chip Kelly a week ago if he planned for the Eagles to sign former Dallas Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray, and he was answering honestly, he would have said, “no.” A few days later, after Frank Gore had a good cry, Chip and DeMarco got on the phone, Murray flew to Philadelphia and the rest is recent history.

So, when Chip Kelly tells us that Sam Bradford is going to play quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles, there are three possibilities:

1) He’s telling us the truth

2) He’s lying and really does have plans to move Bradford, which is fine, because he’d gain nothing by revealing those plans.

3) He’s telling the truth as of now, but really Bradford is just as available as anyone. Let’s imagine it’s draft day and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers call up and say, “Hey, Chip, we’ll give you the No. 1 pick. All we want is Sam Bradford.” There’s no way Chip doesn’t pull that trigger.

But we’re going to operate under the first premise here, that Chip Kelly means what he says and that come September, Sam Bradford is the starting quarterback for your Philadelphia Eagles.

Just what are they getting here?

Let’s get the injury stuff out of the way with the help of our friends at Wikipedia:

– 2007, concussion against Texas Tech. He returned a week later.

– 2009, 3rd degree AC joint sprain. Bradford missed three weeks, but reinjured his shoulder a few weeks later and underwent season-ending surgery. He then entered the NFL Draft and the St. Louis Rams made him the first pick.

– 2011, high ankle sprain. Bradford only played 10 games and this lingering injury stuck with him during a lousy season.

– 2013, left knee ACL in Week 7. Bradford missed the rest of the season.

– 2014, left knee ACL in third preseason game. Bradford missed the rest of the season.

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This guy is 27 years old and, wow, that’s a lot of injuries. So, why would the Philadelphia Eagles take the chance? And why would there be so many teams interested? According to multiple reports, the Rams were offered a first-round pick for Bradford, but coveted Foles. At his news conference after the trade, Chip Kelly said he had already been offered a first-round pick for Bradford, too.

The answer is pretty simple: Guys who can play quarterback at a high level are rare, and when healthy Bradford has demonstrated an ability to do that. In 2010, Bradford’s rookie year, he threw for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns. In 2012 he threw for 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns. And through the first six-plus games of 2013, prior to his first ACL injury, Bradford threw for 1,687 yards with 14 touchdowns against four interceptions.

The dude can play – when he can play, that is.

Look back at some of the stuff people said about him prior to the 2010 NFL Draft:

Peyton Manning-like accuracy

– Oustanding job of anticipating routes

– Capable of making all the throws

– Great decision-maker

– Understands timing

– Very quick release

– Places ball in stride of receiver

If Chip Kelly were to list out the traits he was seeking in a quarterback, every one of those would be there. The only thing missing is “mobile quarterback,” and when it comes to Kelly that might be a myth anyway.

Bradford is crazy accurate, which is something Kelly desires in a quarterback perhaps more than anything. His 58.6 completion percentage for his career doesn’t do Bradford justice, and Chip said as much during his press conference:

“I think everybody’s a byproduct of what’s around you and kind of where you are. But I think when you’re assessing individual players, I’m watching skill set: ‘How does he throw the ball, can he make this throw, can he make that throw, have you seen him throw the out, have you seen him throw a comeback, have you seen him throw a dig, have you seen him throw a deep ball?’

“Sometimes when the quarterback throws the ball directly where it needs to be and the receiver drops it, is that the receiver’s fault or is that the quarterback’s fault? So what does it go down as for the quarterback? That’s 0-for-1, and he doesn’t gain any yards on it.

“So I think there’s a lot of different things that happen when you study an individual player. I don’t think you can look at somebody, especially at that position, and say sheer statistics tell you what that player is. A quarterback could be extremely erratic, but he’s got some wide receivers that make circus catches all the time. Or the quarterback throws a 1 yard swing pass that turns into an unbelievable run and in the books it’s 1-for-1 for 80 yards. Well he didn’t throw the ball 80 yards, the running back did a heck of a job.”

In my opinion, Chip was speaking about both Bradford and Foles here and stating his belief that Foles was more a product of the players and plays around him, while Bradford has been the victim of bad luck and bad teammates.

Bradford doesn’t turn the ball over, either, with a 2.2 percent interception percentage. That speaks to his accuracy as well as his decision making, and he’s done that over a much larger sample size than Foles.

But numbers are, well, numbers. They can be made to say whatever a person wants. Film, however, doesn’t lie.

Here are Nick Foles’ highlights from his record-setting 2013 season.

Here is a 31-minute video of Sam Bradford, titled “All of Bradford’s throws over 15 yards.”

The second throw in Bradford’s video speaks to Kelly’s point. Bradford couldn’t have thrown that ball any better (against the Eagles, by the way), and his receiver just flat dropped it.

But looking deeper you can see a huge difference between Bradford and Foles. Bradford has different throws. There’s the quick drop, bullet pass. There’s the deep ball thrown into double-coverage, but to the receiver’s shoulder away from the defender. There’s the touch pass down the sideline (that his receiver dropped, again).

The more I watch this video, the more I see what Chip Kelly is after. When healthy, Bradford can play and play very, very well.

Let’s be honest here and ask if you saw the same out of Nick Foles? Right around the 4:10 mark of the Bradford video there is a play where he drops back, surveys the field, bounces up in the pocket and fires a bullet to his receiver, who then turns it into an even bigger play.

Right around the 4:30 mark of the Foles video is a comparable kind of play. I see the ball jumping out of Bradford’s hand in one clip, and floating out of Foles’ hand in the other. The ball speed is different. The motion is different. The trajectory is different. The speed is different.

That’s not to say Nick Foles isn’t a good quarterback. I believe he is. But he has limitations. We know he doesn’t throw a great deep ball and his other passes are, well, soft. In some cases that’s great, but it seems like an all the time thing for Foles. If he needs to reach back and fire a bullet, he doesn’t have that club in his bag.

The Eagles are taking a risk with Bradford, but given what we’ve seen out of Nick Foles for the last couple of seasons, is it any bigger risk than sticking with him? With Bradford, you know what you’ve got if he’s healthy. With Foles, we still don’t know.

Kelly is after some measure of certainty here. It’s why he resigned Mark Sanchez. The body of work is there. You know what you have, and if Bradford goes down he can turn to a veteran with a set of skills that are well documented.

Foles is an enigma. It would not surprise me if he goes on to be the next Peyton Manning, or the next Bobby Hoying. Kelly isn’t a patient man and has no desire to watch that story unfold, but you can bet if he projected more to the Manning side, Foles would still be here.

Sam Bradford is now the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. And when you look at all of the information available, that might be exactly what they need.