It was huge news when the Eagles acquired Sam Bradford less than 1 1/2 years ago, and it was even bigger news when they got rid of him on Saturday morning (see story).
It’s a historic move, a bold move, an almost unbelievable move. Teams just don’t trade their starting quarterback eight days before opening day. Especially when the backups have a combined one career touchdown pass for two yards.
But hey, this is the Eagles and it’s certainly never boring around here.
So the Bradford Era ends, the Carson Wentz Era starts and the Chase Daniel Era most likely will never happen.
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With that said, here are 10 observations on Bradford, on Wentz and on a trade that abruptly changed the course of a franchise that's now gone 55 years without a championship and seven years without a postseason win.
1. My initial reaction Saturday morning to the trade was: “You can’t trade your quarterback eight days before the season. You just can’t.” It was probably within 15 minutes that I realized the trade was brilliant. Because when you’re offered a first-round pick — and more — for Sam Bradford, you take it, no matter when it is. You take it and run like hell as fast as you can. I have to admit I was kind of curious to see what Bradford could do in Year 2 here. And I’m pretty sure he would have had a decent year. But I’m also pretty sure it wouldn’t have ended in a Super Bowl win or even a playoff berth. So why bother? I’ve been writing all summer that the sooner the Carson Wentz Era starts the better. Now it’s starting, and I can’t find any reason to believe that’s a bad thing.
2. While I was on the field at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis last Saturday waiting to co-host Quick Slants with Derrick Gunn before the Eagles-Colts preseason game, I watched Wentz go through a grueling 60-minute workout on the field. Wentz was inactive for the game with his rib injury, but for an hour he fired mid-range passes to David Watford, Cayleb Jones and Marcus Johnson, for an hour he rolled out and dropped back and moved around in an imaginary pocket. For an hour he looked every bit like an NFL quarterback. Howie Roseman watched much of that workout, and Doug Pederson, Frank Reich and John DeFilippo watched parts of it as well. Watching Wentz that evening you just felt you were watching something special. Hard to explain, and I understand that you’re not going to trade your starting quarterback because of a workout a rookie had. But something changed in the last few weeks. Roseman even talked about it on Saturday, how far Wentz has come recently. Even while he was unable to play or practice, his stock rose inside the NovaCare Complex to the point where the Eagles were comfortable unloading Bradford. I have a hunch that grueling workout that left Wentz an exhausted sweaty mess on the same field where he impressed the Eagles so much six months earlier at the NFL Scouting Combine had some role in all this.
3. It’s interesting to me that of the 18 quarterbacks in NFL history who have won seven or more games as rookies, 11 are active. And six of those 11 came in the last five years — Andy Dalton in 2011, Andrew Luck, Russell Wilson, Ryan Tannehill and RG3 in 2012 and Geno Smith in 2013. That’s more than in the entire decades of the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s … combined. So something has changed. Guys are ready faster. The transition for some reason has become easier. Part of it is the influx of pro-style offenses in college, but then you have a guy like Joe Flacco who played 1-AA football — like Wentz — and went 11-5 as a rookie with the Ravens with a passer rating over 80. Of the 27 rookie QBs in NFL history that have had a passer rating over 75 (based on 250 or more attempts), 18 of them — two-thirds — have been since 2008. For whatever reason, the transition has become easier, and there is no question that’s one of the reasons the Eagles believe Wentz — with his off-the-charts football intelligence — can pull this off.
4. It’s interesting to note where Bradford ranks in Eagles history in several categories. Among quarterbacks who threw 500 passes in an Eagles uniform, he’s first in accuracy (65 percent), fourth in passer rating (86.4 percent), fourth in interception percentage (one every 38 attempts) and by far first in yards per game (266). In just one year, he’s got the eighth-most 300-yard games and the third-most games with 300 yards passing and 65 percent completion percentage.
5. But the one thing about Bradford that has always bothered me the most is his touchdown percentage. He just does not throw touchdowns. He’s accurate, he’s smart, he gets the ball down the field (I know you don’t believe this but it’s actually true … the numbers prove it). But he just doesn’t get it in the end zone. Of 38 active quarterbacks who’ve thrown 1,000 or more passes, Bradford ranks third from the bottom — 36th — in TD percentage at one every 29 pass attempts, ahead of only Blaine Gabbert and Chad Henne. Adding all quarterbacks in NFL history who’ve thrown 1,000 passes, Bradford drops to 198th out of 227. If you can’t get the ball in the end zone, none of the other stats matter. And that’s been Bradford’s Achilles’ heel his whole career.
6. A few words on Chase Daniel. I hated the move from the moment the Eagles made it. I hate the whole notion of a coach signing his friends or people he’s close to and familiar with instead of the most qualified guy. The idea that Daniel’s familiarity with Doug Pederson’s offense is somehow worth the $7 million he’s being paid this year is absurd. And the fact that the Eagles thought a quarterback who’s thrown one touchdown pass in six years was experienced enough to be a capable backup was just silly. Pederson tried to sell us on Daniel as No. 2 all summer, even as he struggled at practice and struggled for the most part in the preseason games. Daniel is fairly accurate on short passes but who wasn’t? This preseason we saw a quarterback who struggles with pocket awareness, can’t get the ball down the field and throws bad interceptions. I can’t imagine him coming in and winning games. And I guess the Eagles can’t either or he would be their starter. If the plan all along was to bring along Wentz slowly, it wouldn’t matter if Sam Bradford were here or not. He would be behind whatever veteran was here. The fact that the Eagles couldn’t wait to demote Daniel behind Wentz speaks volumes.
7. Who would you rather have … Quarterback No. 1 or Quarterback No. 2?
Quarterback No. 1: 37-35 career record, 4-2 in the playoffs, 57 percent completion percentage, 202 passing yards per game, one TD every 26 attempts, one INT every 27 attempts.
Quarterback No. 2: 25-37-1 career record, 0-0 in the playoffs, 60 percent completion percentage, 235 passing yards per game, one TD every 29 attempts, one INT every 44 attempts.
Tough call, right? Quarterback No. 1 obviously has had far more playoff success and has a better touchdown percentage, and Quarterback No. 2 is more accurate and throws fewer interceptions
Quarterback No. 1 is Mark Sanchez, who the Broncos released and the Cowboys claimed at no cost. Quarterback No. 2 is Sam Bradford, who cost the Vikings a first-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick.
8. How will Bradford do in Minnesota? The Vikings ranked No. 5 in the NFL in points allowed last year, and they feel like with that defense, with Adrian Peterson running the ball and with Bradford simply managing the game, distributing the ball, being smart and avoiding mistakes, they are primed for a deep playoff run. It’s a lot to ask a guy to come in eight days before the season and play at a high level. It’s going to take Bradford time to learn what will essentially be a fourth offense in three years. And in a division with the Packers, you certainly aren’t going to have an easy route to the playoffs. Realistically, you better be thinking wild card. Maybe this sounds crazy, but I actually think Bradford will play OK in Minnesota. In Philly, he’d have to be a superstar to get this team to the playoffs. With the Vikings, a lot of that pressure is off. If he can just go out and avoid mistakes, they’re a 10 or 11-win team. And there’s no question what seems like an impossible transition will be easier thanks to Pat Shurmur, who holds the title of Vikings tight ends coach but is now in his third city with Bradford. The two speak the same football language, and he’ll be a huge help for Bradford figuring the offense out.
The thing about Bradford is that he teases you with his ability and accuracy and athleticism. Then he falls just short. He always seems to do just enough to make you think that next year he’ll be really good. And maybe he’s just fated to being a mediocre quarterback his entire career and never getting a team to the playoffs. But I’m going to go the other way. I say Bradford, finally with a team that actually wants him, has a career year and the Vikings get to the playoffs. You can make a compelling case that none of that will happen, but I’m going on some hunches here. Will be fascinating to watch.
9. Let’s put Bradford’s 17-month stay in Philadelphia in perspective: He earned $23,998,119, won seven games, threw 19 touchdowns and completed 346 passes. That’s $1.26 million per touchdown, $3.43 million per win and $69,358 per completed pass.
10. Finally, this: It’s really remarkable how few good quarterbacks the Eagles have had in their existence. Since 1950, only six quarterbacks have won 10 games for the Eagles and also had a winning record: Donovan (92-49-1), Jaws (69-67-1), Randall (63-43-1), Norm Van Brocklin [19-16-1], Nick Foles (15-9) and Rodney Peete (15-9). Only three won 20 games with a winning record. Only Jaws and McNabb have won more than one playoff game. That’s why this move had to be made. The Eagles’ only possible route to greatness right now is through Carson Wentz, and the sooner process starts, the better idea the franchise will have of exactly where it is. Nobody knows if Wentz will win a Super Bowl. But I think we all knew that Bradford wasn’t.