What Does the Future Hold for Sam Bradford?
Last week in the Week 5 win over the Saints, it painted some of the picture of what we have seen from him during his short Eagles stint - moving down the field at will all game, but squandering two early scoring chances with badly-thrown interceptions in the first half.
"Bradford continues to make the kinds of mistakes that are inexcusable for a quarterback at this juncture of his career," ESPN NFL reporter Sal Paolantonio said on the Sports Bash on Sal Pal Friday.
"Five games back, I get that."
"Two ACL's, I get that."
"New offense, I get that."
"But those two picks in the end zone you can't blame that on any of those three things," Paolantonio continued. "You can't rationalize those throws with 'this guy doesn't know the offense,' you can't rationalize those throws with 'this guys still coming back from a knee injury', you just cannot - so I am not ready to give Sam Bradford franchise tag kind of money."
But is the reason Bradford has struggled been, he isn't very good? Is it the talent around him, specifically wide receiver, isn't very good? Is it the struggles the offensive line has had in the run game, making the team vert one dimensional? Is it the dropped passes that have affected drives? Is it he is still rusty, after sitting out all of last season and all but seven games during the 2013 season with two ACL injuries?
What are the real reasons for his inconsistent play? Is it just who Sam Bradford, the former No. 1 overall pick, is as an NFL quarterback?
(Listen to this week's Sal Pal Friday when we discussed Bradford and more)
Maybe his inconsistency is tied to the inconsistency he's had in an offensive. While in St. Louis he played for three separate offensive coordinators, Pat Shurmur, Josh McDaniels and Brian Schottenheimer and now in Philadelphia he is playing for Chip Kelly.
Five years in the NFL, four different offensive systems.
He was the NFL offensive rookie of the year in 2010 under the direction of Shurmur's offensive, but struggled in 2011, learning McDaniels system, then suffered an injury that limited him to just 10 games.
In 2012, Bradford returned from injury, but again had to learn a new offense, this time fro Schottenheimer, putting about modest numbers of 21 touchdowns, 13 interceptions and 3202 yards passing. In 2013 he started to take off passing for 1687 yards, 14 scores and just four picks in seven games before an ACL injury took the rest of his season. He looked much more comfortable in year two of Schottenheier's offense.
Could it be that simple, the Bradford will be fine, he just needs to feel more comfortable in the offense, which Eagles coach Chip Kelly admits, when talking about Eli Manning comes with time.
"I just think it's his second year in [Giants offensive coordinator] Ben McAdoo's system and you can see there's a comfort level in Eli in the whole system," Kelly explained. "Not only has he only thrown two interceptions, he's only been sacked four times. He's getting the ball out of his hand quickly. He can recognize how people are defending their team. If coverage is rolled one way, he's automatically going another way. "
"So it's not like some guys aren’t throwing a ton of interceptions, but they haven't had a lot of attempts. He's had a ton of attempts, so there have been opportunities to pick and there have been opportunities to sack him, but those haven't happened, because I really think his comfort level is very, very good in that offense right now, especially being in the second year for him."
Maybe that what will happen with Bradford, just like it did in his second year in Schottenheier's system.
"Good point," Paolantonio stated on the Sports Bash when I asked him if this was Kelly's built-in excuse for Bradford's inconsistency. "I've got to give your props, no one else has picked up on that but you, but that is really, very, very true. "
"I have always thought that the Sam Bradford project here was a two year project and finally we heard a little bit from Kelly that gives us an indication that he's ready to say that, that people need to sort of back off on Sam."
Bradford appeared comfortable at times in the Eagles offense, specifically when the running game was working, he was able to move out of the pocket and make plays, showing the talent that NFL talent evaluators see in him when he fired a 41-yard touchdown to Josh Huff in the second quarter, and he capitalized on a Drew Brees' fumble with a 13-yard strike to Brent Celek in the third.
But even these beautiful plays don't have the Eagles fan base embracing Bradford or as their quarterback of the future.
"The problem with that is Eli Manning is in year two of a new offense after winning two Super Bowls. So its not a fair comparision with regards to Eagles fans verses Giants fans - Giants fans were willing to be a little more patient with Eli cause the guy has two rings.
So is Kelly indirectly trying to sell Eagles fans on the idea to give Bradford a chance, that he will be much better and comfortable in year two of this offense?
"I think you're right Mike," Paolantonio said. "I think Kelly is trying to sell us on the idea that this is a two year process. And what Bradford is going through is not dissimilar to what Eli Manning has gone thrown in the last two years - but he is being a little disingenuous because Eli Manning has won two Super Bowl titles. "
Bradford has a one year deal, he can become a free agent after his one season in Philadelphia and make some big money on the open market. But the question I asked Paolantino and listeners this week - Will Sam Bradford get that second year in Chip Kelly's offense?
"While it's too early for me to give a definitive answer, but based on what I've seen, I would never sign him to the kind of long term deal that he's looking for. I know Bradford and his agent are looking for the kind of money that suggests this is the franchise quarterback for now and going forward, which means the Eagles need to make a substantial investment in a guy who is still unproven,"
If he isn't here in Philadelphia, will he get big money to play somewhere else?
"Im not sure about that," Paolantonio stated when talking about other teams ability to sign him in the off season. "He needs to play a lot better and I realize there are a lot of teams that have money and the salary cap is going up big time.
Do the Eagles franchise him and give him another chance to get comfortable playing in this offense?
"You could do that," said Paolantonio. But franchise quarterbacks, you're giving him $20 million.
Think about this though, if Bradford isn't back and Chip Kelly is still the coach, Chip would be moving on to his sixth different starting quarterback in just four years - a recipe for failure in the NFL.
The mystery of Sam Bradford continues.