Eagles Wake-Up Call: Bradford And the Stretch Run
Hard to believe there are still five games left.
The Thanksgiving loss had such an air of finality to it, it’s almost unthinkable that nearly a third of the schedule remains. But the march indeed continues, starting with a trip to New England to face what is sure to be an angry (if injury-depleted) Patriots team.
The next month-plus will primarily be about Chip Kelly, of course, and whether he’s capable of healing a fracturing locker room and restoring faith in his program. That’s issue number one, two and three.
But how Sam Bradford finishes is no small matter, either. This is a quarterbacks league after all, and the Eagles must once again choose how to proceed in their quest to find one.
“The only model to me that correlates to having big success in the NFL is having a Hall of Fame, franchise quarterback,” said Jeffrey Lurie back at the owners meetings in March, shortly after acquiring Bradford for Nick Foles and a 2016 second-round pick. Lurie told reporters that Bradford was the team’s highest-rated quarterback coming out of college since Peyton Manning, and explained that he was a talent that would not otherwise be available if not for the injury history.
Leading into the season, there was guarded optimism that betting on the quarterback’s upside might pay off. Right before the opener, Lurie said he’d found Bradford to be “everything you’d want as a quarterback and as a face of the franchise, potentially. Everything you’d want.”
Like most things regarding the 2016 campaign, it has not quite gone as hoped. Bradford threw 10 interceptions over the first seven games and went 4-4 as a starter before getting knocked out of the game against Miami with a concussion and separation of his non-throwing shoulder.
Bradford revealed that it was the third concussion of his career. The injuries continue to pile up, raising further concerns about investing in a quarterback that hasn’t been able to stay upright.
The Eagles nevertheless appeared to be willing to do so — at least at the right price. They were in talks with Bradford’s representation about a new deal prior to the season, one that would pay him like a franchise quarterback if he performed like one. Bradford’s camp had their sights set higher, and a deal was never reached. His current contract will expire at the end of the season.
While he hasn’t been stellar, proper context is needed when evaluating the 28-year-old. This team, as we’re starting to see, is a mess. The offensive line has major issues and the playmakers have failed to make plays. Missed assignments; incorrect reads; drops, drops and more drops. Even with all that, Bradford is on pace for career highs in both completion rate (64 percent) and yards per attempt (6.86). He was playing well over his last three games before getting hurt; left the Miami game with a good stat line (19/25, 236, TD) and a three-point lead. The Eagles have been outscored 97-34 in the two-plus games in his absence.
Is that a total coincidence?
An interesting question to ponder as the Eagles get ready for the final leg of what has turned into a disastrous season. Yes, they’re technically still in it because of the lousy state of the NFC East, but no one is fooled by that. It’s not about the dangling carrot of a potential playoff berth by default, but rather about how to position this team so that it has a reasonable chance of being a contender moving forward.
It’s about the coach and it’s about the quarterback. One will get the bulk of the headlines, but the other, as Lurie knows, is just as critically important.
WHAT YOU MISSED
Worst offseason move by Kelly? Josh tackles that and more in our latest Mailbag.
“We made them tap out. … guys just looked like they didn’t want to play anymore.” Did Eagles players quit?
WHAT THEY’RE SAYING A couple interesting tweets from Ian Rapoport:
Adam Schefter told 97.5 The Fanatic last week that he doesn’t believe USC is in play.
Some good stuff in Roob’s 25 Random Points.
4. Before Thursday, I couldn’t imagine any scenario where Kelly wasn’t back next year. But what the Eagles did in the span of five days is simply unprecedented. They became the first NFL team in 47 years to lose back-to-back games to teams with losing records by 28 or more points. They became the second team in NFL history to allow five touchdown passes in consecutive games. They became the first Eagles team to give up 45 points back-to-back. It’s no longer whether Kelly can do anything to get himself fired. It’s now, can he do anything to save his job?…
7. OK, this one is almost impossible to believe. I know the game has changed, but are you kidding me? Here you go: The Eagles have allowed 45 points under Chip five times. They allowed 45 points four times under Dick Vermeil, Marion Campbell, Buddy Ryan, Rich Kotite, Ray Rhodes and Andy Reid … combined.
Kelly will address the media at 1.