Revisiting the Sam Bradford Acquisition


In the minutes leading up to the 2015 free agent period, Chip Kelly executed, ostensibly, the most controversial and heavily scrutinized maneuver of the offseason, acquiring Sam Bradford in return for Nick Foles and a 2nd round pick. The merits of this transaction have been argued since the time of the trade, and the uneven results that Bradford has yielded have done little to quell the insatiable bloodlust of the lynch-mob.

This result driven analysis is, however, inherently flawed and short sighted, lacking context and depth of thought. The true results of the Bradford experiment are tentatively “to be determined;” any other definitive judgement is premature and incapable of defining the acquisition by the sum of its parts.

Philadelphia Eagles fans are understandably exhausted by the search for a franchise quarterback (whom is integral to building a perennial winner and Super Bowl contender). Since the departure of Donovan McNabb, the organization has seen the eras of Kevin Kolb, Michael Vick, and Nick Foles all come and pass, with no direct progress towards achieving the ultimate goal. It’s no surprise that this exhaustion has evolved into frustration and, in some cases, anger towards the organization in one way or another for fans who have waited decades for a championship. Much of this misplaced aggression has been directed towards Sam Bradford and Chip Kelly in recent weeks, who have been bombarded with relentless criticism.

Kelly in particular deserves little, if any, criticism in this regard. He has been the general manager of the team for a grand total of 10 months; an insufficient amount of time to perform an adequate quarterback search, or to effectively develop one. When Kelly seized personnel power, he was afforded very few options with very little time in regard to developing a potential franchise quarterback, those of which were essentially as follows:

1) Ride with Nick Foles and/or Mark Sanchez at starter.

2) Draft a quarterback.

3) Make a trade.

As we all know, Kelly went with option 3, trading for Sam Bradford and foregoing the other 2 options. Many are quick to criticize this decision, however, considering the other options it’s hard to find fault with Kelly’s thought process. Nick Foles is a dead end; a fundamentally and physically flawed passer whose shortcomings are largely irreparable. Mark Sanchez is exactly what last season’s 8 game stint would suggest; a capable spot starter and top-tier reserve who has ability, yet not franchise quarterback material. The draft, on the other hand, boasted a pair of franchise caliber passers, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, but both were firmly out of reach of Philadelphia.

So, Kelly made a move. He packaged a sunk asset in Foles with a somewhat valuable future 2nd round pick to take a stab at greatness. The prospect of acquiring Bradford far from guaranteed the Eagles anything, however, it did guarantee them a better opportunity at success than any of the aforementioned options. Without a franchise quarterback a team has little to no chance of competing at a championship level, and until a team acquires said quarterback, it’s imperative that it exhausts every resource in its search of one. If Kelly neglects this duty to the organization, he is failing as both a head coach and as a GM. Not only was Sam Bradford the best option available to Kelly, he was the only obtainable piece with a chance of fulfilling the role of franchise quarterback.

Many have debated the value of the 2nd round pick in proportion to the 7 weeks of Sam Bradford’s production, however, they’re going about evaluating the trade value in the wrong way. Yes, the return on investment is ultimately the deciding factor in determining the yield of the trade, however, the magnitude of the implications behind this particular trade should be considered. Not all trades are created equal, and as such, should be judged individually, not by a uniform standard.

Beyond that, no matter how frustrated the fan base is with the excuses made for Bradford during his 7 week Eagles tenure, it doesn’t invalidate them. Bradford is still returning to form following a prolonged absence, and has had anything but a consistent supporting cast to assist him. Like it or not, these past 7 weeks have hardly provided an equitable opportunity for Bradford, and are altogether a poor barometer in judging his performance. Most quarterbacks have difficulty fully recapturing form until their second season following a devastating injury, so it’s likely that we’ll only glimpse Bradford’s full potential in the waning weeks of the season.

In the mean time, while Bradford has not performed as well as the staff would have hoped, he is trending in the right direction (as I have covered in recent weeks). This past week was perhaps Bradford’s most inspiring performance to date, despite a wholly uninspiring stat-line. The sheer volume and significance of the dropped passes in Carolina were more damaging to Bradford’s perceived performance than in any other game this season. Eliminate the drops and the public perception of Bradford’s performance would drastically change; the affect of the process of results based evaluations greatly skews reality. Bradford is hardly perfect, but he’s progressed on a weekly basis from a fundamental stand point, and should continue to trend upwards as the progression of time creates space between the present and his most recent injury.

Moving past Bradford’s performance and circling back to the theoretical risk reward behind the trade, it’s important to maintain perspective. In the NFL, the mere opportunity of obtaining a franchise quarterback can be incredibly costly. Washington forfeited 3 firsts and 2 seconds for the rights to RGIII, while other organizations such as Chicago and Oakland have given up similarly costly packages of picks for Jay Cutler and Carson Palmer. By comparison, the deal for Sam Bradford is peanuts, and while he may never reach the potential that Kelly envisioned when dealing for him, the loss of a 2nd round pick in the process of searching for a franchise quarterback is largely inconsequential.

The trade for Sam Bradford was a well calculated and prudent measure that posed a much more appealing alternative to the other available options. In the grand scheme of things, Bradford may prove to be a sunk cost, however, his acquisition was well justified given the scope of the quarterback landscape. Though some are quick to come to sweeping conclusions based on his 7 week performance, this process is far from reaching its course. Judgement should be suspended in the mean time.

Next: How Can the Eagles Take the Next Step in 2015?

More from Inside the Iggles