It’s been an interesting week in Philadelphia as Chip Kelly has remade the Eagles in just a matter of days. He has upgraded the team at inside linebacker and cornerback. After trading LeSean McCoy, he solidified the running back position by acquiring DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews. And despite popular sentiment, he has upgraded the quarterback position for the Eagles.
Sam Bradford has plenty of question marks around him due to his health. Physically, though, he is more talented than Nick Foles in just about every way. He has a stronger arm. He is a more accurate thrower. He has a more compact delivery with fewer moving parts. He has a quicker release. He has more disciplined footwork, both in his drops and pocket movement. Basically, Bradford has more potential upside than Foles.
If Bradford can stay healthy (and we all know that is a big if) he is the better quarterback. He is also a better fit for Chip Kelly’s passing game. Bradford thrived in a similar system in college at Oklahoma. Given his physical skillset and ability to make quick decisions, he can maximize the offense more than Foles can.
Still, there are obviously a lot of risks with bringing in Bradford. Questioning the move is understandable. Why trade 2 draft picks and your younger/cheaper quarterback who has a better career stat line for a player who missed 25 games in the last 2 seasons because of 2 ACL tears? How can we possibly say that the Eagles are better off at the quarterback position than they were a year ago? The answer, believe it or not, is the re-signing of Mark Sanchez.
Sanchez, at his best, is an average quarterback. However, last season he proved that he has the ability to run Chip Kelly’s offense effectively. He actually ran it a little better than Foles did in 2014. They had comparable TD/INT ratios, but Sanchez had a higher completion percentage (64.1% to 59.8%), more yards per pass attempt (7.83 to 6.95), and a higher QB rating (88.4 to 81.4). The Eagles scored 29.3 points per game when Foles started, and 30 points per game when Sanchez started.
Sanchez is the insurance policy for the Eagles. If Bradford doesn’t play well or gets injured, Philly has a quarterback who can perform just as well or better than Nick Foles, which should lessen the blow of losing Foles in the first place. Not to mention, the Eagles can get draft pick compensation in 2016 if Bradford doesn’t play or takes less than 50% of the snaps this season. If Bradford does pan out, though, then the Eagles have someone whose ceiling is higher than that of Foles or Sanchez. The absolute best-case scenario is that they found their franchise quarterback.
It isn’t easy to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL, and they’re rarely acquired through free agency. Chip Kelly clearly did not believe he had one in Nick Foles, and unfortunately for the Eagles, Aaron Rodgers and Andrew Luck weren’t available for a trade. So Kelly needed to be imaginative to upgrade the position. He needed to make a move for a risky player. As he said in his press conference on Wednesday, he understood the risk. Bradford was only available because of his injury history. But his upside is the best of any other options out there.
For all we know, Chip Kelly might still be trying to find a way to get Marcus Mariota. But if that dream never gets realized, then Kelly has still managed to increase the potential upside at the quarterback position by acquiring Sam Bradford. He did this while also retaining a player in Mark Sanchez who can perform just as well as the player they gave up to get Bradford. When you look at it from that perspective, it’s a little easier to see why Kelly made this move.