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Busting five big myths about the Eagles 2015 season

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Appearances can be deceiving.

Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The NFL offseason is even longer than the actual season, and to pass the time one of the things we do as fans is rehash old arguments. The 2015 Eagles gave us plenty of material to argue about, and some of the talking points will continue for the forseeable future. But some are just plain nonsense, repeated so often they have become myths. Chip Kelly being a good coach was the biggest myth of the 2015 season, but there were some other large ones that also need to be busted.

Sam Bradford was good after returning from injury

When Chip Kelly traded for Sam Bradford in March of 2015, Bradford immediately polarized the fan base. His 2015 season did not change things. After a pre-season that had people thinking the Eagles were Super Bowl contenders, he got off to a miserable start. For the first seven weeks of the season, he was one of the worst QBs in the league. His season can be cleanly and conveniently split into two halves: the first seven weeks of the season prior to the Eagles Week 8 bye, and his last seven games after it. Proponents of Bradford have argued that in the second half of his season, Bradford improved to level that was worthy of a long-term contract extension, showing his potential as a "franchise QB". Bradford did improve, but nowhere near that level when compared to other QB's best seven game stretches of the 2015 season.

QB Comp Att Comp % Rank Yards Rank Y/A Rank TD-INT Rating Rank
Russell Wilson 154 217 70.97% 3 1906 19 8.8 4 24-1 132.8 1
Kirk Cousins 161 220 73.18% 1 2036 7 9.3 1 16-2 122.1 2
Cam Newton 141 223 63.23% 25 1879 20 8.4 6 22-2 119.0 3
Tom Brady 199 289 68.86% 8 2410 1 8.3 7 20-1 115.8 4
Matthew Stafford 181 255 70.98% 2 1937 15 7.6 20 17-1 113.5 5
Aaron Rodgers 138 204 67.65% 12 1568 27 7.7 16 15-2 110.9 6
Andy Dalton 149 224 66.52% 15 1957 14 8.7 5 16-4 110.3 7
Carson Palmer 145 222 65.32% 20 2012 9 9.1 2 16-5 108.9 8
Tyrod Taylor 124 176 70.45% 5 1436 29 8.2 9 11-4 106.2 9
Drew Brees 208 295 70.51% 4 2408 2 8.2 8 17-6 105.9 10
Derek Carr 167 261 63.98% 23 2033 8 7.8 11 19-4 105.7 11
Alex Smith 126 182 69.23% 7 1381 30 7.6 21 9-1 105.6 12
Eli Manning 178 264 67.42% 13 1933 17 7.3 25 17-4 103.9 13
Philip Rivers 209 307 68.08% 10 2350 4 7.7 15 16-5 101.3 14
Teddy Bridgewater 133 196 67.86% 11 1462 28 7.5 23 8-2 99.1 15
Blake Bortles 163 263 61.98% 28 1996 10 7.6 18 18-6 98.7 16
Ben Roethlisberger 175 267 65.54% 19 2356 3 8.8 3 14-8 98.5 17
Marcus Mariota 147 224 65.63% 17 1795 23 8 10 13-6 98.3 18
Brian Hoyer 144 230 62.61% 26 1673 25 7.3 27 14-4 97.6 19
Jay Cutler 166 253 65.61% 18 1972 12 7.8 12 11-4 97.1 20
Sam Bradford 176 258 68.22% 9 1959 13 7.6 19 10-4 97.0 21
Ryan Tannehill 161 245 65.71% 16 1911 18 7.8 13 13-6 96.8 22
Brandon Weeden 97 140 69.29% 6 1043 32 7.5 24 5-2 96.8 23
Josh McCown 165 254 64.96% 21 1987 11 7.5 22 11-4 95.2 24
Jameis Winston 130 217 59.91% 30 1685 24 7.8 14 10-3 94.0 25
Ryan Fitzpatrick 165 276 59.78% 31 1934 16 7 30 16-5 92.9 26
Matt Ryan 186 278 66.91% 14 2101 5 7.6 17 9-5 92.6 27
Brock Osweiler 156 251 62.15% 27 1821 22 7.3 26 9-5 87.8 28
Joe Flacco 187 292 64.04% 22 2059 6 7.1 29 10-6 87.7 29
Blaine Gabbert 163 257 63.42% 24 1846 21 7.2 28 8-5 87.1 30
Matt Hasselbeck 148 241 61.41% 29 1591 26 6.6 32 9-5 84.6 31
Nick Foles 110 187 58.82% 32 1310 31 7 31 7-5 81.6 32

Bradford's 68.2 completion percentage was 9th best, but he attempted the 11th most passes, for the 13th most yards, giving him a below average 19th in yards per attempt. His 10 TDs in seven games limited his passer rating to 97.0, which on the surface looks fine but in reality was worse than 20 other QB's best seven game stretch. Compared to his peers over a similar sample, Bradford was mediocre at best.

Sam Bradford was hurt by drops

"Ah," you might say, "but Bradford had a lot of drops." Sam Bradford was certainly the victim of some terrible drops, but so is every QB. Per Pro Football Focus, Bradford had 41 drops in his 14 games. That was the highest percentage of dropped passes for any QB, which obviously made Bradford look worse than he really was. But how much worse? The average amount of drops a QB suffered was 30. If we gave Bradford 30 drops by adding 11 completions to his season, and gave him an average amount of yards (11.5) and touchdowns (0.05, we'll be generous and give him another TD) per reception for those new found catches, it wouldn't significantly move the needle.

Comp Att Yards Rank Y/A Rank TD Rank Rating Rank
Actual 346 532 3725 18th 7 25th 19 22nd 86.4 25th
Normalized 357 532 3852 16th 7.2 16th 20 20th 89.7 19th

With an average amount of drops, Sam Bradford was just an average quarterback.

The defense didn't wear down late in the season

When Chip Kelly was hired by the 49ers, San Fransisco fans were understandably excited. Just about any coach would be an improvement from Jim Tomsula, and to go from Tomsula to Kelly was as big of an 180 as the 49ers could do. In selling themselves on Kelly, 49ers fans have talked themselves into believing that Kelly's fast paced, high snap count offense did his defense no harm. Those claims are unjustified. In terms of snap counts, the Eagles defense played two more games than the average team, and in December that workload caught up with them.

2015 Def DVOA Pass DVOA Rush DVOA 2014 Def DVOA Pass DVOA Rush DVOA 2013 Def DVOA Pass DVOA Rush DVOA
1 9.70% 44.90% -23.60% 1 9.90% 46.80% -41.60% 1 27.70% 42.30% -9.40%
2 2.00% 22.70% -19.60% 2 -18.90% -10.20% -26.30% 2 13.60% 36.50% -20.20%
3 -43.90% -54.10% -15.40% 3 26.10% 55.60% -20.00% 3 2.30% 25.50% -17.10%
4 1.40% 23.90% -28.00% 4 -8.00% -15.20% -2.30% 4 40.50% 66.30% 12.60%
5 -28.60% -44.00% 2.10% 5 28.10% 40.10% 3.90% 5 5.70% 12.30% -9.70%
6 -55.60% -75.70% -21.90% 6 -48.30% -63.50% -28.50% 6 11.70% 20.70% -8.90%
7 -4.90% -45.50% 21.20% 7 6.80% 19.90% -14.20% 7 -8.90% -0.60% -26.30%
8 9.40% 23.80% -6.80% 8 -20.30% -43.00% -0.10% 8 21.80% 42.70% -4.10%
9 -14.00% -10.10% -20.40% 9 -38.60% -48.60% -27.40% 9 12.00% -1.70% 31.60%
10 35.10% 84.80% 0.20% 10 28.40% 45.90% 0.00% 10 -15.40% -6.60% -26.60%
11 41.80% 70.60% 2.80% 11 -13.20% -6.20% -25.20% 11 5.40% 0.00% 9.80%
12 -10.60% -16.20% 0.00% 12 -51.50% -86.20% -13.50% 12 -8.10% -13.60% 1.70%
Avg -4.85% 2.09% -9.12% Avg -8.29% -5.38% -16.27% Avg 9.03% 18.65% -5.55%
13 2.30% 9.50% -6.00% 13 2.50% 35.00% -22.80% 13 -21.00% 16.70% -47.00%
14 30.30% 17.30% 41.60% 14 3.20% 50.60% -31.30% 14 37.70% 80.70% -1.80%
15 38.30% 56.50% 3.50% 15 24.60% 53.90% 1.70% 15 -55.20% -46.40% -72.50%
16 25.10% 21.30% 29.20% 16 4.60% 16.10% -14.40% 16 -10.90% 6.60% -51.00%
Avg 24.00% 26.15% 17.08% Avg 8.73% 38.90% -16.70% Avg -12.35% 14.40% -43.08%

(In DVOA, negative is better for defenses)

In 2014 and 2015, the Eagles defense was pretty good for the first three months of the season, a top ten unit. But as December rolled in and the snap counts piled up, the defense suffered. In 2014 the defense played as poorly in December as it did well from September to November. In 2015 it played at a level that if prorated over the course of an entire season would barely be better than the Saints atrocious 32nd ranked defense (26.1%). Pass defense was the biggest culprit, the high snap count directly affecting it. The Eagles defense absolutely played worse late in the season, it just fell off so sharply that looking at the 2nd half as a whole is misleading.

This is, along with the hiring of Jim Schwartz and the move to the 4-3 defense, a reason to be encouraged that the Eagles defense will be even better in 2016: barring a total collapse by the offense, they won't be among the league leaders in snaps played, and so will be fresher throughout the season, in particular December and January.

Byron Maxwell was a bust

Free agents who switch teams on big contracts almost never live up to them, and when the Eagles gave Byron Maxwell a 6 year, $63 million contract with $25 million guaranteed, he was immediatley overpaid. When Julio Jones roasted him all game long in the season opener, memories of Nnamdi Asomugha were hard to escape. But those early season struggles ended when Maxwell returned from injury in Week 4.

via Pro Football Focus

The coaching staff adjusted their usage of Maxwell and from Week 4 on he played about the same as his one season as a starter in Seattle.

Comp Att Yards TD INT Rating
2015 Oct-Jan 30 53 472 1 2 76.9
2014 55 85 679 1 3 78.5

Maxwell is overpaid, but from October on, he played pretty well.

DeMarco Murray was out of place in shotgun

Like Maxwell, DeMarco Murray was never going to live up to his huge contract. But Murray was down right awful, one of the biggest free agent busts ever. One of the criticisms of his performance was that he struggles running the ball out of the shotgun, which he had to do almost exclusively in Philadelphia after taking the bulk of his carries out of formations in Dallas that put the quarterback under center. But the numbers don't back this up. During his time in Dallas he did carry the ball out of the shotgun, and did extremely well.

Eagles Att Yards Y/A
Shotgun 166 594 3.6
Under Center 27 108 4
Cowboys Att Yards Y/A
Shotgun 116 583 5
Under Center 818 3943 4.8

DeMarco Murray didn't struggle running out of the shotgun in 2015 because of a lack of fit or not being used to it. He struggled running out of the shotgun in 2015 because he was awful all year.