The Sam Bradford Fiasco in Philadelphia
One point is lost in this Sam Bradford fiasco in Philadelphia: Nothing ever, ever, ever is guaranteed in football. To prove that, let’s go back in time to the 2006 draft, 10 years ago this week. The Arizona Cardinals, picking 10th overall with an aging Kurt Warner on their roster, chose USC’s Matt Leinart as their long-term quarterback of the future.
“A gift from heaven,’’ coach Dennis Green called Leinart.
Then football happened. Leinart wasn’t as good as everyone thought, and there was a coaching change after his rookie year, and Leinart didn’t like new coach Ken Whisenhunt. Warner rallied, determined to keep the starting job. By the third year of the Leinart experiment, the job was Warner’s full-time, and he led them to a Super Bowl.
If Bradford, a former first overall pick, is better than Carson Wentz (the Eagles’ presumed pick at No. 2 this year), he’s going to be the starting quarterback in Philadelphia as long as he outplays the kid. Or Bradford’s going to play well enough this year to prove to the rest of the league that he deserves a shot to be some team’s long-term guy. Bradford has done no such thing yet. He’s been very good since entering the league in 2010 at making money—and not nearly as good at playing football. That is not a knock on Bradford. It is simply a fact. He’s had three injuries that have kept him out of extensive action, and it is not possible yet to judge how good he is, or whether a team should mortgage its salary cap on him.
On Monday night, Bradford’s agent, Tom Condon, explained Bradford’s thinking on Sirius XM NFL Radio: “Sam wants to play somewhere where he’s going to stay for a long time if he plays well. He wants to be the guy. He does not view himself as a stopgap quarterback.”
Every quarterback wants to be “the guy.” But Bradford simply hasn’t proven beyond a doubt that he deserves to be that guy. That’s why the Eagles gave him a two-year contract and not a five-year deal. The following numbers underscore the problem with Bradford and Condon talking as if he’s a well-established starting quarterback. In career quarterback rating, here are the 54th, 56th and 58th ranked players in NFL history:
What I would say to Bradford:
1. You have earned the right to be ticked off that the Eagles are going to draft a quarterback intended to beat you out.
2. You have not earned the right to go on strike over it.
3. You have been paid massively and so far have not produced to justify what the Rams and Eagles have paid you.
4. You control your fate. Be the best quarterback in camp, and you’ll play. Compete.
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Now for your email:
ON TOM BRADY’S SUSPENSION
If New England cheated, and as you said there is enough circumstantial evidence against them, they tried to gain an unfair advantage in the AFC Championship Game. This isn’t killing one ant with a sledgehammer. This is protecting against the perception that a multi-billion dollar enterprise is on the level. Mr. Goodell is protecting the integrity of his league. If he is willing to go after Mr. Brady one thing is clear, then we as football fans do not have to worry about a Tim Donaghy scandal or a Bud Selig head-in-the-sand approach to issues that are perceived as threats against the integrity of the game. New England may or may not have cheated, but if the perception was allowed to linger that they cheated one game away from the Super Bowl, then it hurts the league far more than Deflategate could. I for one, as a fan, applaud Mr. Goodell for his actions. Say what you want about his approach, but it will be a deterrent to anyone trying this again.
— Jason Peeples
Thanks for writing. I did not say there was enough circumstantial evidence. I said: “There is significant and damaging circumstantial evidence,” and, “I’ve never been convinced that it is clear and overwhelming.” So let me make that clear. You say, “New England may or may not have cheated,” and that is exactly my point. Without incontrovertible evidence, I don't think it’s fair to slam a franchise and a player the way Goodell did.
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You missed a couple of huge points in your defense of Brady. 1) It was not split 2-2 on judges. You have to weigh the judges with respect to their appointed court. Saying the trial judge weighs the same as the appellate judge is like saying Division III football is the same as the FCS. They might be playing the same game, but at wildly different levels and speeds. 2) Your reasoning behind the Wells report and what it actually states is flawed. There is a reason why you run a test several times while conducting an experiment. A successful experiment will always have outliers (i.e. a couple of results higher or lower than the stated range of levels). The fact that the AVERAGE was outside this predicted range, even by the smallest of amounts, shows that something was going on. It's not like accounting or counting change. The range should account for a reasonable statistical bias or errors. Anything outside of that is a giant red flag (pun intended). The only thing more damning would have been if all the measurements were the exact same. I agree that all of the games should have been monitored in the 2015 season, but only because I strongly believe that would have proven the science completely valid. Please consider my motivation in writing this is due to the science involved and not my location.
— Tony, Indianapolis
I respect your positions here, Tony. But it was split 2-2. Four American jurists considered this case. Two sided with Goodell. Two sided against Goodell. If you're going to reduce the importance of Richard Berman and elevate the importance of the appeals court judges, then why not increase the importance of the chief judge of the appeals court, who ruled against Goodell, and stridently so? Wouldn't he be like Bill Belichick, and the other two appeals-court judges the Patriots' coordinators, let's say? Point is: Four judges are four judges. It's 2-2. And because it was a 2-1 vote in the court of appeals, the NFL wins. I understand how the justice system works; my point is that while the NFL won this round, it hasn’t been completely vindicated. As to your other point, do you really want one team to get the stiffest sanction in the history of the National Football League (and it's not particularly close) over footballs being two-hundredths of a pound lighter than science says they should have been? And don't you think there's a good reason why the league didn't reveal the results of the tests with the footballs in 2015? Why wouldn’t the league have done so, if it made their case look strong? With the attention paid to this case, and the damaging shadow cast on both the league for the holes in the investigation and on the Patriots for the circumstantial evidence, the league owed it to the public and the Patriots and their own investigation to be transparent with the results of the football tests during the 2015 season.
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PANTHERS WERE RIGHT TO LET NORMAN WALK
I think the Panthers were right to let Josh Norman walk. He’s basically had one great year since he was drafted in 2012. There are four players (Marcus Peters, Reggie Nelson, Trumaine Johnson, and Kurt Coleman) that had more or the same number of picks last year as Norman has had in his entire career: six. The vast majority of those picks came last year. Norman didn't rack up picks like Revis or Sherman before teams stopped throwing in his direction. I think the odds are much better that the Panthers avoided overpaying a one-year wonder than letting a franchise cornerstone leave. And which team has the most notorious track record of overpaying free agents? Washington.
— Brian Gambrell, Columbia, S.C.
Brian, those are fair points to make. But you cannot un-see what Norman showed in 2015. He was absolutely outstanding. He and Luke Kuechly were the keys to a Super Bowl defense, and it’s going to be an interesting test for the Panthers to scotch-tape the corner position together with Bene Benwikere returning from knee surgery and no other sure thing back there. As I wrote on Monday, I do not think it’s dumb to have an “In Gettleman We Trust” attitude here, because he’s done so well filling the roster with quality non-star players. But do not minimize what Norman did. In his one superstar season, he was a top-three NFL corner, and those are not easy to replace, regardless of how they got to the roster in the first place.
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WHY DOES THERE HAVE TO BE MORE TO THE STORY?
In regards to Josh Norman and the Panthers, why does there have to be something more to this situation? After seeing how Gettleman operates, and how he values positions, the move is not all that surprising once it became obvious no long-term deal would be made. He does not believe in shutdown corners, as he has publicly stated; he believes in a pass rush. Also, Norman is turning 29 this year, with most cornerbacks dropping off somewhat around 30. While he was able to turn free agency into the biggest CB deal in the league, the Panthers were hardly the only team to balk at his asking price and demand for a five-year contract. Jacksonville, for one, a team with need and tons of cap room, backed out immediately after hearing his requests. Gettleman and the Panthers simply do not value cornerbacks that highly, and history has proven them more right than wrong. In 2013, they went 12-4 with Captain Munnerlyn and Melvin White as their starters. They had 60 sacks that year.
All good points. But it doesn’t mean there’s not more to the story, as Andrew Brandt suspects there is.
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Wouldn't a players’ strike over the commissioner's arbitration issue have a great chance of working? The players would easily be able to win the court of public opinion—most people agree Goodell sucks at that part of his job. Nobody would want replacement players, including Goodell's overlords (the owners). The networks would HATE it and let’s face it, they could pressure the NFL on this because they would lose so much money. If they limited it to that issue I think they could get a quick win. Too late to help Tom Brady though.
— Dave B. Bend, Oregon
How can players strike four years before they would begin discussions on a new deal? They signed it. They’ve got to live by it. Wouldn’t that hurt them in the court of public opinion?
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50 PERCENT OF QUARTERBACKS MAKE IT
To further support Brian Billick’s claim. Of the quarterbacks taken first and second overall in the same draft in the last 25 years:
|1st Pick||2nd Pick|
Like you did, I will leave out Winston and Mariota.
Hits (4): Luck, McNabb, Manning, Bledsoe
Jury still out, but not looking good (1): RGIII
Misses (3): Couch, Leaf, Mirer
That is basically 50/50 ON THE TOP 2 PICKS IN A DRAFT! History shows that one of these two guys will probably become a bust!
— Rusty Loyd
I have great readers. Thanks, Rusty. Such an interesting point you make.
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MORE ON BILLICK’S THEORY
Your testing of Brian Billick's theory in The MMQB misses a really important point. A successful draft pick is about the team, not the player. Especially in the context of Brian’s quote. Jim Plunkett was not a successful draft pick for the Patriots. He was also not a good trade acquisition by the 49ers. He was a great free-agent pick by Oakland. St. Louis was not successful with their selection of Sam Bradford (who may still turn out to be a successful player). Jacksonville and Washington were not successful with their selections of RGIII or Blaine Gabbert. If you look at the successful-for-the-team-that-drafted-them metric, I think Brian Billick becomes much more correct.
That’s interesting, but I think you also have to factor in what a team gets from the player it invested such a high pick in. If you do, that has to impact players such as Plunkett and Bradford. For instance, I think a few quarterbacks could have flourished for the Raiders. So Plunkett, who didn’t succeed for the Patriots or Niners, shouldn’t become an exalted all-time player for what he did in Oakland alone; the career trajectory has to include all teams, not just one.
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THE EAGLES’ QB SITUATION
I enjoyed the article recently regarding the potentially crowded and expensive situation with the Eagles’ quarterback position. The comment on Chase Daniel being a Doug Pederson favorite got me thinking a little bit. Given the limits of coach/player contact in the new collective bargaining agreement, would it be shrewd of a coach to hire a backup quarterback that knows and can teach his system to new players prior to the start of camp? In the scenario I imagine, Pederson (himself a career backup) and GM Howie Roseman sign Chase Daniel to be the backup quarterback and to work as an offseason quarterback coach to Bradford and the eventual rookie quarterback they draft. The high-paying backup quarterback contract signed by Daniel would be easily explained by the unwritten additional responsibilities associated with coaching the other quarterbacks. Please let me know your thoughts.
— Ben Beattie
Ben, that’s a really interesting point, and an interesting concept. The only problem I see is this: If you’re Chase Daniel, and you still hope to have a career as a starting quarterback in the NFL, why (even if the team signing you is going to make you really rich) would you sign with a team that wanted to use you primarily to make the players you’re competing against better? In other words, why sign with a team that has a goal to make you obsolete?
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ON THE BROWNS’ DRAFT
Cleveland moving up for Paxton Lynch is unrealistic. And to be frank, the last thing we need in Cleveland is another project quarterback that doesn't have any weapons to throw to. It would be more realistic if weapons were in place to help develop him and help him be successful. Best player available for the first round, and priority and need for the remainder, starting with a wide receiver taller than 6-0. Our cornerbacks on the roster can help us sustain this season. Don't expect it to be a sexy draft.
— Michael Padilla
I appreciate your email, Michael. But this is what I would wish for if I were a Browns fans, in order:
1. The front office and coaching staff should set a draft board, and live by it.
2. I wouldn’t care if we had a left tackle we loved already (Joe Thomas). If the best player on the Cleveland board when the first pick comes up is a left tackle, take him. The best teams take the best players, consistently, except in a situation of grave need for a position with a team that’s close to winning big. The Browns are not in that situation.
3. Read 1 and 2, again and again, over draft weekend.
Cleveland’s problems all stem from the fact that they’ve lurched from regime to regime, and have never established consistency. Jimmy Haslam will be doing fans a grave disservice if he says anything on draft weekend to Sashi Brown and his staff other than: “Just pick the best player when our turn comes up.”
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