Thanks to Howie Roseman sending Sam Bradford to Minnesota, the 2016 Philadelphia Eagles season became more interesting than anyone thought it would be.
Staring into the abyss of a lost season with a team in transition, a quarterback with one foot out the door (and the other on a banana peel) and no first round pick waiting next spring, Eagles fans everywhere were searching in vain for a reason to be excited about the next 17 weeks.
Then … it happened.
Around 11 AM on Saturday morning, word began to spread that the Birds had dealt QB Sam Bradford to Minnesota for a 2017 first round pick and a conditional fourth rounder in 2018. This was stunning on a few levels. So, let’s talk about it.
In the offseason between the 2014 and 2015 seasons, it was painfully evident that Eagles head coach Chip Kelly was trying to find a way to acquire a draft pick that was high enough to bring his former collegiate QB Marcus Mariota here to run his offense. Kelly’s patience with the statuesque Nick Foles had clearly worn thin and, entering his third season, Kelly was showing signs of desperation. When he traded Foles to St. Louis for the oft-injured former No. 1 overall pick Bradford, nobody believed that the mercurial Kelly had at last found the perfect pilot for his unique machine. At first, some thought he had found a way to get the Rams’ first pick as a stepping stone to moving up and getting Mariota. But … no. In fact, he had sacrificed an additional second rounder of his own. Then, it was theorized that perhaps the Cleveland Browns or Tennessee Titans coveted Bradford. Again … no. Alas, Kelly would have to make do with Bradford, including mumbling all the clichéd platitudes while still working furiously behind the scenes to find a miraculous path to his dream reunion with Mariota.
Imagine the Birds as the shlubby nerd in an ‘80’s high school movie. Hopelessly besotted with the homecoming queen (Mariota) they invite their cute, but not that cute, platonic friend (Bradford) to The Big Dance in hopes of somehow making the queen take notice. When it doesn’t work, they have an awkward evening with their tom-boyish gal pal, all the while blissfully unaware of her blatant affections. Now, in the movie, the light bulb would go on and they would fall in love. But, in our story, the Eagles tell Bradford after the season to go talk to every other team in the league and see if anyone else is interested.
While Jeffrey Lurie was busy handing the reins back to Howie Roseman, who seemed to have spent the last 10 months vetting possible replacements for Kelly even though they hadn’t fired him yet, Bradford was learning that the only team in the league that would give him the dollars and playing time to which he was accustomed might just be the Birds. Bradford and the Eagles agreed to a ‘second date’ and, as so often happens with terrible movies, we had a sequel on our hands.
This time there was a twist, the boss (now played by new coach Doug Pederson) pressures the shlubby nerd to date his homely daughter (Chase Daniel) not realizing that he has already discussed a second date with the gal pal. Before any of that awkwardness can be truly explored, there is this strange scene at a yard sale where the nerd is selling off some old things that don’t fit any more (Byron Maxwell, Kiko Alonso, etc …). Suddenly, a new girl shows up (Carson Wentz). She’s mysterious and alluring, but no one is sure if she’s for real. This red-head from North Dakota catches our nerdy hero’s eye. He forgets all about the plans he has with his gal pal, as well as the date his boss arranged with the homely daughter and focuses all his efforts on this curious ginger. Before you know it, **CLICHÉ ALERT** he has three dates on the same night and he has to figure out how to get what he wants without breaking any hearts.
The 2016 season was now beginning to look like a long walk down a grey hallway. One look at the gaping holes on both sides of the ball made it clear that this team would not be raising the Lombardi Trophy in February. They had given Bradford a two-year deal which was structured in a way that would let them release him after one season without much of a financial penalty or cap consequence. So, he was basically a lame duck. The price paid to acquire the No. 2 pick and Wentz guaranteed that the future of the franchise would be built on his shoulders … just not this season. Few who objectively looked at this team predicted more than seven or eight wins. Frankly, it was hard to see this season as much more than this team spinning its wheels in a muddy bog while trying to clear the way for the kid.
So, after doing everything wrong, all it takes is one twist of fate to make everything work out. The Minnesota Vikings, a team on the come that was hoping for great things in the inaugural season in a new stadium, suddenly lose their young stud QB Teddy Bridgewater to a catastrophic knee injury. Fans and sports radio hosts alike immediately begin theorizing about dealing Bradford to the now desperate Vikings. The team is hushed as days pass. Reserves, ‘bubble boys’ and inventory bodies just waiting to be cut play the final preseason game and the 53-man roster begins to take shape. Eagles fans would resign themselves to the fog of mediocrity, a 7-9 season, no playoffs and an NFL Draft in their own back yard with no first round pick to welcome in their own inimitable way.
Then … it happened.
A quarterback that nobody wanted as a free agent, a player who would more than likely be released at season’s end, was now worth a first and a fourth. This was like getting double the Blue Book value for the Oldsmobile that was rusting on your lawn. His $18 million cap hit was gone with him. No longer would his presence cloud the future or possibly stunt Wentz’ growth.
The question was never if Bradford was a good quarterback. He clearly possesses the requisite skills. The issue was always is he the right quarterback. He never was. First, because Kelly acquired him for all the wrong reasons and, secondly, because they brought him back this offseason as a stop gap while they tried to figure out what to do next. That question will now be left to the good people of Minnesota.
There will be those who anoint Roseman as a genius for this deal. That remains to be seen. In his press conference after the deal was announced, Howie claimed that they had no intention of moving Bradford, but the offer was just too good to pass up. While that sounds like spin or ‘saying the right thing’, it sort of makes sense. This organization had been laughably shortsighted in every move they had made to this point involving Bradford. So, it would follow that someone would have to wave this deal in front of their face for them to see its value.
Which brings us to the final scene in this awful movie, where the shlubby nerd inexplicably ends up with the alluring red-head. The boss is ok that his daughter got snubbed and, like Duckie in Pretty in Pink, Bradford hooks up with the Christy Swanson-esque Vikings. Ugh … cue the Howard Jones song for the end credits.
All kidding aside, this really is the most astounding and unexpected of outcomes. Instead of a meaningless, somnambulant season, we can now look forward to an accelerated time table for Wentz, a first round pick next spring and a team with an actual plan for the future.
Ok, that last one might be pushing it a little …