Sam Bradford never should have publicly demanded to be traded from the Philadelphia Eagles. The brief, two-week hiatus from football workouts by Bradford accomplished nothing except further alienating a fan base that had already cooled on Sammy Sleeves. His agent, Tom Condon, filled the airwaves with bluster about how disrespectful the Eagles were and how Bradford wasn’t a placeholder, but to no effect. The Eagles’ acting general manager Howie Roseman stated that Bradford would not be traded and was expected to be the starting quarterback in September. Only mild interest from the Super Bowl champions in Denver was reported, and was rebuffed by Roseman. When Denver drafted Paxton Lynch in the first round of the draft, Bradford was out of suitors and out of options.
But as wrong as Bradford was in thinking that a public trade demand would be a successful strategy, he deserves credit for aborting this mess before more damage was done. It takes a strong man to admit when he was wrong. Ask Chip Kelly if he was wrong – about anything – and you’ll never get an admission of error.
It is understandable that Bradford felt slighted when the Eagles moved up to take Carson Wentz with the second pick the 2016 NFL draft. When Bradford signed his two-year deal in March, the Eagles allegedly told him he would be the starter, but that the team might draft a quarterback and that he would be expected to help groom the rookie. At that point, the team held the 13th pick in the draft. Just over a week later, the Eagles moved up to pick number eight in a trade with Miami. Then, the team traded a haul of draft picks to Cleveland to move all the way up to the number two pick they used on Wentz. The difference between a quarterback taken 13th or later and one taken 2nd are monumental, and Bradford felt betrayed. Whether or not he was told explicitly that he could earn a long-term contract and franchise-quarterback status with the Eagles, it is clear this was his impression of his standing on the team. With the arrival of Wentz – bought at a high price – Bradford knows he has no long-term future in Philadelphia.
It’s easy for fans and media to forget the human being underneath the jersey, especially when that human being is making $18 million to play a game and sometimes has meme-tastic crazy-eyes, but Bradford genuinely believed he could earn franchise quarterback status in Philadelphia and wanted to accomplish that. When that door was slammed shut just weeks after he signed his contract, of course he was upset – anyone would be. If there was a chance, however remote, to become the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, a team with the best defense in the league, why wouldn’t he try to make that happen if there was no future for him Philadelphia? If Denver could win the Super Bowl with a broken-down, noodle-armed Peyton Manning and Brock Osweiler, they would certainly be favorites to repeat with Bradford at the helm. His mistake was to go loud – to holdout and publicly demand a trade when interest in his services this off-season was tepid, at best. Backroom negotiating and quiet testing of waters would have resulted in far less harm to his reputation.
But Bradford realized that he miscalculated, and moved quickly to reverse course. This holdout situation could have dragged on all summer. He could have burned his bridges and vowed to retire if he were not traded. There would be, and already was, growing pressure to trade Bradford for whatever slight compensation could be had, just to excise the distraction of his non-presence from the franchise. Bradford, by swallowing his pride, taking a loss in his failed power play, and reporting to voluntary workouts in May, can learn coach Doug Pederson‘s offense, get in the necessary reps, and be prepared to lead the Eagles when the 2016 season begins in September. His media session next week will be uncomfortable for him. He will be booed in camp and in preseason games. He may even be booed on opening day against the Browns, but what would have been a throwaway season with Chase Daniel as QB1 now has a chance to be intriguing. The Eagles have a chance to make the playoffs in 2016 with Bradford and, I for one, believe that is something to be excited about.
So feel free to criticize Sam Bradford for his blundering attempt to jump ship to greener pastures, but give him props for returning, taking his lumps, and giving fans a reason to look forward to the Eagles’ 2016 season, not just 2017 and beyond.