Eagles Wake-Up Call: Bradford And the System

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

Sam Bradford. Photo courtesy of USA Today.

PHOENIX, Ariz. — Today’s question comes from reader George via email:

 A lot of people are saying one of the reasons Chip might have been interested in Bradford is he excelled with the version of the spread he ran in Oklahoma.  I’m not a college football guy, could you guys write a bit about what Oklahoma did with Bradford and how it compares with the sort of offense Kelly has been running and expects to run with Bradford?

Nick Wagoner of ESPN.com talked to Bradford back in 2013 about the type of offense he ran at Oklahoma. With Bradford at the controls, the Sooners’ coaching staff  moved from a more traditional scheme to an up-tempo, spread attack.

“Our offense changed dramatically,” Bradford said. “We went no-huddle, fast break. We had 11 personnel, 10 personnel, smaller, faster and spread it out to start throwing the ball a lot more. I remember that first spring, I really wasn’t sure I was going to like it because I had never run the no-huddle before. It seemed like everything happened too fast but the more we did it, the more comfortable I got with it. It turned out; it was probably the best move we made because we were really good at it.”

The concept wasn’t terribly complicated, though it might have seemed that way at first. [Former offensive coordinator Kevin] Wilson wanted Bradford working from the shotgun but with elements of the West Coast offense mixed in. Bradford would take snaps in the gun but the concepts were designed for him to make quick reads and get the ball out to the Sooners’ assortment of playmakers, who could turn short catches into big gains.

“He was the point guard who was distributing,” Wilson said. “He was very instinctive, very good mind.”

Mark Sanchez has used the term “point guard” on a number of occasions when talking about the role of the quarterback in Chip Kelly‘s system. Oklahoma’s offense, as described by Bradford, sounds very similar to the one Kelly has implemented in Philly: a spread, up-tempo attack with West Coast elements to the passing game; the quarterback operating out of the shotgun and making quick reads to get the ball to the skill position players out in space.

This highlight video shows some of those concepts at work (and working well):

Bradford’s accuracy and quick trigger are on display there. The clip also shows Bradford operating with little traffic at his feet and often with wide open receivers at his disposal. As Sheil did a great job of explaining in his All-22 breakdown, Bradford has not responded particularly well on this level when conditions deteriorate.

When Bradford won the Heisman Trophy in 2008, Oklahoma ran more offensive plays (1,089) than any other team in the country. He threw 50 touchdowns to eight interceptions that year, completing 68 percent of his throws. He appeared in just three games in ’09 because of an injury to his throwing shoulder. The following offseason he was selected by the Rams No. 1 overall and went on to play under three different offensive coordinators in St. Louis (Pat Shurmur, Josh McDaniels, Brian Schottenheimer), none of whom ran a style that resembled the Sooners’ attack as much as the Eagles’ offense does.

While doing his research on Bradford, Kelly said that he talked to Wilson and Oklahoma head coach Bob Stoops. We know that Kelly takes a quarterback’s college resume into account. He didn’t even watch any pro tape on Sanchez before signing him last offseason, he said, relying more on the data he collected on the QB from his pre-New York days. In this case, Kelly watched every single one of Bradford’s NFL snaps. Clearly, the conclusion he came to after studying the quarterback’s entire body of work is that Bradford is a fit for this system.

“I think it’s similar to what I did in college at Oklahoma, so I’m extremely excited to be here and ready to get rolling,” said Bradford. “I think making quick decisions, getting the ball out of your hand. A lot of the run-pass options are similar to what we did in college — obviously not me running the football, but the running backs with some of the quick game — and then pushing the ball down the field in play-action. There is just a lot of carryover into what we did at Oklahoma, and I think my skill set fits that perfectly.”


A round-up of tributes to Eagles legend Chuck Bednarik.

An Eagles-related note from Penn State’s pro day and more in Weekend Reading.

Sheil with more on the loss of Bednarik.

“I thought it was like a panic move.” LeSean McCoy on the DeMarco Murray/Ryan Mathews signings.


Geoff Mosher believes Bradford is staying put:

Kelly said he called some of Bradford’s former coaches at Oklahoma, including former Sooners offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, who’s now the head coach at Indiana. Bradford won the Heisman while running Wilson’s spread offense.

Kelly also said he had conversations with Dr. James Andrews, the orthopedic surgeon who performed Bradford’s knee surgeries.

Unless Kelly is lying through his teeth, that’s an awful lot of research and investigation put into a guy who’s just a trade chip for another guy.

So I’m of the belief that Kelly acquired Bradford as an insurance policy in case he can’t get Mariota, and I’m also of the belief that he’s not getting Mariota. I think Mariota goes No. 1 to Tampa Bay and I’d be stunned if he slipped past No. 2 to Tennessee.

Jeff McLane on the state of the receiver position:

Matthews could see his numbers jump in his second season in the slot. And Kelly also mentioned underutilized tight end Zach Ertz and “Swiss army knife” Darren Sproles as ball-catching options to help replace what left with Maclin (85 catches, 1,318 yards, 10 touchdowns).

But there is little evidence to suggest that Cooper and Huff will be top producers on the outside. Of the 141 receivers who ran more than 100 routes last year, Cooper was 106th in yards gained per route run (1.02) and Huff was 119th (0.92).

At this point in his career, Cooper is what he is. Huff still has room to grow, but he didn’t look like a receiver who could be a consistent downfield threat as a rookie. Not having Jackson to blow the top off defenses hindered the Eagles running game in 2014. Imagine it without Maclin.


Sheil and I are in Arizona for the owners meetings. Jeffrey Lurie and Kelly are both expected to talk this week. We’ll have it all covered for you.