Bradford Talk is All Lip Service
PHILADELPHIA (973espn.com) - Buyer beware if you are eyeing that No. 7 Eagles jersey with the extra-roomy sleeves this Christmas season and took Chip Kelly's comments on Monday as anything more than lip service.
The Eagles coach heartily endorsed his starting quarterback Monday less than 24 hours after the team's second straight win, a 23-20 triumph over Buffalo.
"We've always wanted Sam here," Kelly gushed despite the dozens of reports that had Marcus Mariota as the apple of his eye back in April. "We wouldn't have traded for him if we thought he was going to be here for (only) a year."
Despite that, jumping the gun and assuming Bradford, who is on the last year of his rookie deal he signed with St. Louis, is Kelly's long-term plan at the position remains specious.
(Listen to John McMullen discuss Sam Bradford's future in Philadelphia)
Despite incremental improvement throughout the season Bradford still seems ill-suited for Kelly's preferred style of offense and uncomfortable with a lot of the zone-read mechanics as well as the inability to audible out of things at the line of scrimmage.
There were reports that the Eagles tried to work out a long-term extension for Bradford before the season but those were overblown.
While Philadelphia certainly wouldn't have been adverse to a team-friendly deal that would have afforded the organization more of a safety net, Bradford's camp correctly measured the landscape of the league as a whole and realized a dearth of quarterbacks meant big money for Bradford if he was able to traverse the 2015 season relatively healthy.
The Eagles still have some options because they could always franchise Bradford after the season if another suitor comes calling and the team is sure they can't improve on him for '16. But, that scenario is likely to reach somewhere around $20 million for next season, a significant jump from Bradford's already healthy $13 million stipend.
Right now, though, it's about winning the NFC East and Kelly's words on Monday were about buoying the confidence of the only QB who can get the Eagles to accomplish that goal.
Taking that a step further and assuming Kelly will care about what was said on Dec. 14 if a better fit for his offense like say Colin Kaepernick is indeed available in the offseason is more than likely off base.
Bradford, however, does deserve plenty of credit credit for making the most out of a trying situation for him. He's 5-1 as the Eagles starter in the last six games he's finished and his numbers have slowly risen despite an average offensive line, a subpar running game and a poor group of receivers.
"I just see improvement from Sam on a weekly basis that gets you excited about him," Kelly said. "I thought he threw the ball extremely well (against the Bills). We could have helped him a little bit better -- I thought we had too many drops that would have extended a lot of things for us. I think Sam has improved in all aspects."
The former No. 1 overall pick is now completing 63.2 percent of his passes for 2,664 yards with 14 touchdowns and 11 interceptions. Meanwhile, his functional mobility has improved as he's gotten more comfortable on his twice-repaired ACL.
"I just think Sam as a whole has progressed as the season's gone along," Kelly said. "It takes a long while to play quarterback in this league; there's so many things you have to get.
"When we got Sam, we knew it was going to take time. You look at any quarterback playing at a really high level right now and they've been playing in the same system for years, not for months, and that's what Sam's case is. He's just been playing in our system for months."
Months turning into years is a two-way street, however. Kelly not only has to want Bradford, the QB has to yearn for the coach, and bet on that dynamic changing pretty dramatically by February.
On second thought, though, he can pull the trigger on that No. 7 jersey just hold off on the name because it very well could read Kaepernick in '16.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973espn.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @JFMcMullen.