The NFL off-season was filled with talk about Chip Kelly and Marcus Mariota, the match made in heaven that was so good it couldn’t possibly happen — and it didn’t. Now they’ve moved on to talking about Kelly and Sam Bradford. Kelly’s the coach so desperate for a headline, he traded for a QB coming off of two ACL tears in the same knee — or the coach so desperate to be different, he signed Tim Tebow. Much of the critique leveled at Kelly thus far has been attacking the fact that he traded a very solid QB in Nick Foles for a QB who, despite showing great promise, is consistently injured.
In his article for ESPN, Phil Sheridan described how Kelly views the risk of trading for an injury prone quarterback like Bradford. Sheridan quoted Kelly as saying, “I don’t know any quarterback that hasn’t missed time … our research in terms of dealing with guys with two ACLs, there’s a 10 to 12 percent chance of re-injury. That’s an 88 to 90 percent chance that they’re going to be successful.” Those numbers are very interesting, as they go against the common thought process that players who are injury-prone will continue to get injured.
The other thing to keep in mind is that Bradford will have better talent around him than he had in St. Louis. The combination of a strong offensive line, talented skill position players, and a passing game based on quick passes and screens will give Bradford a much better chance of staying healthy than he had in St. Louis.
As Sheridan detailed, “… [Kelly] looked around and saw that elite quarterbacks only occasionally changed teams … usually because they were injured.” Also quoting Kelly, who has much bigger expectations for Bradford than most people might have thought, “We looked at everything … if you’re not going to pick No. 1 or No. 2, how do you go get a quarterback? … Drew Brees switched teams because of injury. We went down that route.” Although Kelly was not drawing a direct comparison between Bradford and Brees, it can be drawn.
At least, on how they play the game, Brees and Bradford share many similarities. Both players are at their best when allowed to stand in the pocket and throw short to intermediate timing routes. Both quarterbacks can make plays from outside the pocket when they need to, but are more at home throwing from the pocket. Bradford has also shown — although in limited fashion — the type of decision-making skills needed to be a successful west coast offense quarterback.
Bradford’s accuracy and quick decision making makes him the ideal quarterback for packaged plays as well as short passes and screens. The Bradford/Brees comparision can also be seen in the way that Kelly and Sean Payton‘s offenses are similar, with both coaches using short passes to spread the defense from sideline to sideline. Once the defense is spread out that wide, it creates seams down the middle of the field. Kelly uses these seams to run the ball for huge gains, while Payton has traditionally used it for deep passes over the middle to tight ends, slot receivers, and running backs — very similar methods, very different offenses.
Everything this offseason, from trading LeSean McCoy and Foles to attempting to trade up for Marcus Mariota and signing Tim Tebow has proven one thing — Chip Kelly is going to go according to his plan, no matter how crazy it seems. At the end of the day, if Bradford stays healthy, he’ll likely be a star for the Eagles and make Kelly look like a genius. If he doesn’t, perhaps Tebow can pull it off.
Top photo by Kevin Cline