The Eagles' decision to trade for Sam Bradford was not a popular one. At the time, a mere 16% of 8,854 voters said they approved of the swap that sent Nick Foles and a 2016 second round pick to St. Louis.
Since then, however, the deal has started to make more sense. Now, you can say I'm just trying to talk myself into it and/or Stockholm Syndrome is setting in, but I truly don’t believe that’s the case.
A big reason why the Bradford deal was so disliked at the time was that it just wasn’t what people were expecting. A large contingent had their hearts and minds set on Marcus Mariota. In hindsight, we now know Kelly reuniting with his former quarterback was never possible. The Titans wanted him at No. 2 overall so they drafted him and that was that.
Finding a franchise quarterback in the NFL is really hard. The options are severely limited. Kelly gave Nick Foles more than a fair shot to be his guy and he obviously failed the test. For as much success Foles had under Kelly, it was clear the coach felt he wasn't a legitimate franchise cornerstone. It seems fair to say Kelly saw Foles as a product of his system, which is probably the truth.
Kelly and the Eagles were forced into a tough spot where they know they needed to upgrade at quarterback but didn't have many options. There are never really any real solutions in free agency. The 2015 NFL Draft was looking extremely thin at quarterback.
Acquiring Bradford was really the only viable alternative. Kelly did a good job of explaining why in an interview with CSN Philly from earlier this month:
"New England, Pittsburgh, Green Bay — [Tom] Brady, [Ben] Roethlisberger, [Aaron] Rodgers. It all starts with the quarterback. And then you have to build the roster around that. And we’re trying to, and we think Sam’s got potential, we think Mark [Sanchez has] potential.
"We’ve got to build it around it, but when you look at all the winning organizations … if you want to play with the odds as we want to play, it’s got to be with a quarterback situation and then the only way you’re going to get a quarterback is you got to be really not very good so you finish in the top 1-2 in the draft. If we’re not very good and we finish with the top 1-2 in the draft, I don’t think I’m going to be here, so we better find another way to find a quarterback. And that’s what we did with Sam."
Kelly highlights the key dilemma of the Eagles' search for a franchise quarterback. They're just too good to be in position to draft a cornerstone guy. And unlike Sam Hinkie and the Sixers, Kelly doesn't have the luxury of tanking to find his franchise player. He's entering the third year of his five-year contract and there is pressure to win now. He can't just "kick the can down the road" as some have suggested.
Look, the Bradford trade was far from a slam dunk move. There is just so much risk with him. The injuries are the obvious concern. Then there's the complicated contract situation. Even if those things check out, it remains to be seen just how good he'll be in Philadelphia. What if he plays well and is merely "good enough" to keep around but not to the level where he can get the Eagles over the hump? Quarterback purgatory is the worst place to be.
I don't know if Bradford will lead the Eagles to a championship win. There are reasons to be optimistic; he's not a completely lost cause. But the odds are definitely stacked against him. Even Kelly admits it might not work out.
""You have to make educated decisions based on the information that you have and sometimes you’re right, and sometimes you’re wrong. But I think the one thing everybody’s got to know is we’re going to continue to try to make this thing a championship operation and that’s what this deal is all about.""