What Philadelphia Eagles coach Chip Kelly exactly saw in quarterback Sam Bradford seems unclear, unless like St. Louis he had an unwanted quarterback to trade, and Bradford was the best he could do. After a promising rookie season, injuries and overall inadequate play, including a seeming inability to make plays downfield, Bradford hasn’t progressed at all in Kelly’s offense. He has had only one “good” game this season, and his 26-46, 205 yards, no TDs and one interception against Carolina has been rule rather than exception, regardless if the defenses he faced were good, bad or indifferent.
The problem is that Bradford is a one-dimensional pocket passer and entirely predictable. He had what is a slightly below “average” completion percentage with the Rams (when he was actually on the field), and one may note that his yards-per-completion was even lower than the average. When his completion percentage is down with the same YPC, as he is with the Eagles, efficiency in the passing game obviously suffers. Tom Brady can get away with low YPC because his completion percentage and typical yardage per pass is consistent enough to move the chains.
Some will say that Bradford is still “new” to Kelly’s offense. This explanation simply doesn’t wash. He’s had at least as much time to “learn” the system as Mark Sanchez did last season, and Sanchez showed if not a “mastery” of the system, an ability to function adequately in it. In fact, Sanchez can clearly be seen now as a better fit in the system. Last season in nine games he had an 88.2 passer rating, completed 64 percent of his passes, averaged over 270 yards passing per game, and threw 14 touchdown passes, although 11 interceptions obviously was a reason for his many detractors to continue to detract him. Sanchez can also do things that Bradford apparently can’t do, like use his feet (he scored 13 career touchdowns compared to Bradford’s 2), and throw downfield (7.8 yards-per-pass compared to 6.4).
Bradford through seven games has a 76.4 passer rating, 9 TD passes and 10 interceptions. Unfortunately for Sanchez, none of this matters, because for whatever reason his detractors have their own dark reasons in the back of their minds that they don’t want to stain their own reputations with publicly, and they don’t want to give Sanchez the same consideration they give quarterbacks with lesser skills. His reputation is unfortunately tied to his years with the Jets, which under Rex Ryan put a low priority on the offense, as can be seen now in Buffalo. Instead of being allowed to develop, he was simply thrown into the starter’s role expecting miracles to happen, and the team only regressed personnel-wise after Sanchez’s second season.
Not only that, but the Jets didn’t have a coherent offensive identity to begin with—even Brett Favre the season before couldn’t quite “master” it with the same personnel)—having neither a star-quality running back to establish a running attack, nor talented non-headcase receivers to provide a confident consistency in the passing game; one may recall that a wild Favre had such a receiver in his early years, Sterling Sharp, who would have had a Hall of Fame career had it not been cut short by a neck injury.
Sanchez’s career seemed to find a personal renaissance in Kelly’s offense-first philosophy, and his overall play improved dramatically, at least statistically. No doubt this demonstrated he had abilities that could have been improved upon had he started his career in a professionally supportive environment on a team that already had a ready-made supporting cast and “system.”
The question now is why commentators and analysts are not talking about what a poor fit Bradford’s “skill set” is in this offense, and the equal probability that Sanchez’s does, and how long is this charade going to continue; it is already surprising that Bradford has remained upright this far into the season.