On Second Thought, Chip Kelly is Expecting too Much of Sam Bradford
PHILADELPHIA - Like him or not Terrell Suggs made an excellent point after the Eagles dispatched of his Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.
"If you want to run the read option with your starting quarterback that’s had two knee surgeries, that’s on you," the unrepentant star pass rusher said.
Suggs, of course, is public enemy No. 1 in Philadelphia after diving at Sam Bradford's surgically-repaired left knee five plays into the 40-17 Birds win. The signal caller, who is attempting to return from consecutive ACL injuries, was visibly shaken but was able to weather the hit, which drew a personal-foul flag, and responded by completing three of five passes for 35 yards on a 12-play, 84-yard scoring drive that was punctuated by a 14-yard Ryan Mathews touchdown run.
“I think that (going at the knee) was what he was trying to do," Bradford said. “I was a little upset. I'm not sure I can repeat what I said to him.”
Left tackle Jason Peters went even further.
“I'm pretty sure he planned it," the big man said. "We practiced against them all week, and I'm pretty sure he was thinking about it. I really don't know him personally. He talks a lot. I think he is that kind of player -— dirty, and takes shots at quarterbacks.”
Dislike Suggs all you want but the intimidating edge player is hardly the only rusher who is going to take a run at Bradford if the Eagles continue their devotion to zone-read principles.
"That’s not my responsibility to update you on the rule," he said. "I could have (Bradford) harder than that. I eased up. I asked (referee) Jerome (Boger) if he knew the rules in the preseason. On the read-option there I got the quarterback. It's not my job to be reading. It's his job to read me."
And trust me Suggs knows of what he speaks.
I was in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII when Suggs spooked 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick by ignoring the play-fake time and time again and just taking shot after shot at the QB.
Three weeks before the big game that year Kaepernick had rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns against the Green Bay Packers in his first playoff game, setting the NFL single-game record for rushing yards by a quarterback as well as turning All-Pro Clay Matthews into a indecisive top, who spun from misstep to misstep while hesitating every time San Francisco went to the read option.
John Harbaugh and Dean Pees saw that performance by the Pack and made a simple request of Suggs when the Ravens met Kaepernick and Co., ignore the run and take aim at the quarterback no matter what.
The Ravens' coaching staff also lobbied the officials before and during the game, peppering them with the rule Suggs was speaking of -- a quarterback remains subject to being hit like a runner until he is “clearly out of the play,” according to NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino.
Now granted that wording leaves things up to the interpretation of the referee on any given week and Bradford is not nearly as mobile as Kaepernick.
Officials generally protect immobile QBs more but so what? At no time is 15 yards worth losing your starting quarterback.
And to make matters even worse. Blandino, the boss of those officials, took Suggs' side on Monday morning.
“If the quarterback has an option, he’s considered a runner until he either clearly doesn’t have the football or he re-establishes himself as a passer,” Blandino said on NFL Network. “So (the play is) not a foul by rule.
"It’s something that we’ll make sure that we cover with our game officials because the defensive end coming off the edge, he doesn’t know if the quarterback is going to keep it, he doesn’t know if he’s going to take off and run or drop back and so we treat the quarterback in that instance as a runner until he clearly re-establishes as a passer or until he clearly doesn’t have the football.”
Remember the Ravens didn't game plan for Bradford on Saturday night. Imagine if they had and Suggs was out there for 60 minutes.
Being a slave to a scheme that puts an oft-injured quarterback in harm's way against players like Suggs on a consistent basis is reckless.
-John McMullen covers the Eagles and the NFL for 973ESPN.com. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JFMcMullen