When the St. Louis Rams selected Sam Bradford No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft, they probably didn’t envision that the biggest stamp the former Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma would make on the league was forcing the issue of a rookie wage scale. At the time, his six-year, $78 million contract had the most guaranteed money in NFL history ($51 million) and a year later one of the staples of the owners agreeing to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement was the implementation of a rookie wage scale that capped the value of rookie contracts.
That was a part of the beginning of Bradford’s legacy in the NFL, but that was never supposed to be the entirety of it. Unfortunately, a contract he hadn’t earned and heartbreaking injury after heartbreaking injury are all Bradford have to show for five seasons in the NFL.
Now, with Philadelphia suddenly representing the land of second chances for discarded first-round draft picks (Bradford, Mark Sanchez and Tim Tebow) and former No. 1 overall recruits (Matt Barkley), Bradford hopes he can shake a reputation that doesn’t feel deserved considering the unbelievable run of bad luck he’s had on the injury front and the supporting casts he’s had when healthy in St. Louis.
At 27 years of age, there’s still time for Sam Bradford to salvage a respectable career out of the time he potentially has left, but with this second chance comes the sobering reality that it’s likely his last as an NFL starter. Of course, that’ll be something he has to earn in a camp with brand names like Tebow, Sanchez and Barkley, but if we’re being honest with ourselves, in the 49 games we’ve gotten out of Bradford in his NFL career, he’s shown more promise as an NFL quarterback than any of the four no matter how hard you champion for Sanchez and Tebow because of wins their previous employers dragged them to.
Bradford’s success as a college quarterback was predicated on playing fast and getting the ball into the hands of his playmakers quickly and efficiently with accurate short and intermediate passing and Chip Kelly is presenting an opportunity for him to do the same. Kelly seems hellbent on proving the world that his system isn’t some novelty, it’s a practical application of strategy that allows you to take advantage of the fact that if the offense controls the tempo it likely controls the game.
You can’t make as outlandish a claim (inferred or otherwise) without understanding how to mold your personnel to fit that system. And when he went out and traded for Bradford, it was a declaration to the rest of the NFL that “this is a deal that gives us an extremely large amount of value” but it also said, “This is a guy we can win with.”
Of course, whether Kelly’s ability to treat players like commodities by buying low (Bradford and Kiko Alonso) or selling high (LeSean McCoy) actually works or not is yet to be determined, but if you’re looking for one last chance to shine, it’d be hard to imagine landing in a better situation than with a coach willing to stake his reputation on your ability to lead a football team. For that reason alone, Sam Bradford is going to have every opportunity to win this job and if he does, he’ll have the tools to succeed.
Yes, gone are McCoy and Jeremy Maclin, but add Ryan Matthews, DeMarco Murray and Nelson Algoholor to a cast that already includes Jordan Matthews, Darren Sproles, Zach Ertz and Brent Celek and you’ve got enough weapons at your disposal to win in the NFC East. And there simply isn’t an offense that’s more user-friendly than the one Chip Kelly has designed.
Get the ball out of your hands quickly and accurately and you’ll likely stay healthy, and that’s been Bradford’s biggest obstacle all along.
If Sam Bradford is ever going to shake being the Golden Goose that laid an egg, Philadelphia is the place he’ll do it. If not, well at least he got paid.