It wasn’t supposed to happen this quickly. Maybe if Sam Bradford suffered an injury midway through the season. Maybe if the Eagles didn’t have a chance to make the postseason come November. Maybe then Carson Wentz would start, but it doesn’t matter anymore. Wentz will make his first career start in his first career game. So it begins.
When Bradford re-signed in Philadelphia, it was the right move. It’s a tough act, balancing winning and rebuilding. The Eagles trusted their defense strongly, as they should. The second they traded up to draft Wentz, parting ways with several draft picks in the process, it felt as though Philly declared themselves as rebuilders. Bradford wanted out, and fans thought it would be best if Wentz would start right away. But Howie Roseman had different ideas. His blueprint was for Wentz to basically redshirt this season, because the Eagles, as constructed on defense, had a chance to make the playoffs.
Who knows what value Bradford would’ve garnered next offseason. Maybe he played really well, leading the Eagles to a nine-win, division-clinching season. A team could’ve parted with a first rounder, and extended Bradford to make him their team’s future. But it feels like most teams have their quarterback in place, or at least they will after next year’s draft. Circumstances change always, and the moment Teddy Bridgewater blew out his knee during practice the Vikings had to do something drastic to salvage their season. Minnesota acquired a talented quarterback. Many, many people think Bradford stinks. He’s overpaid. He’s overrated. He’s never made the playoffs. Bradford’s not worth a first round pick, let alone a conditional fourth rounder. But Bradford will help Minnesota tremendously. The Vikings, because of their defense and Adrian Peterson, have a real chance to win the NFC. It might not feel that way right away, since Bradford will learn his third new offense in 14 months. But Bradford, even if he doesn’t start until Week 2, will figure out Norv Turner’s offense.
Experts and fans alike have different viewpoints of players than teammates. Bradford provided a spark towards the end of last season, and it’s not just because he made some nice throws in big-time wins. He was a leader down the stretch. A guy who wasn’t known for his talk in St. Louis delivered pre-game speeches that lifted his teammates. Ultimately Bradford didn’t do enough to make the postseason, and who really knows what happens with the Eagles if he had. Malcolm Jenkins believed in Bradford, as CSN Philly’s Reuben Frank reported. Jenkins doesn’t care about a 2017 first round pick, and he sure as hell doesn’t care about a conditional 2018 one. And that’s what makes dealing Bradford hard, especially eight days away from opening day. Bradford has an ideal situation now. No one feels bad for him. There’s no excuse after Bradford grasps the playbook. The Eagles defense will play confidently no matter who quarterbacks the team, but that doesn’t mean they’d rather have Bradford running the show this season.
With Wentz starting, the expectations change from a fan perspective. Playoffs, although possible in such an unknown division, appear unreachable. But the Eagles coaching staff truly believes Wentz can lead this group to a playoff berth as early as this season. Wentz will sink or swim this season. Wentz would’ve been fine sitting for the year. He would’ve improved his understanding of a new offense and grow stronger in the weight room. The best experience, however, remains real-life experience. Actually playing, throwing interceptions, misreading coverage, making good plays, figuring out NFL defenses and everything else that comes with being a quarterback that’s how a player gets better.
Just last week the Eagles beat the Colts easily. Bradford, in typical third preseason game fashion, looked sharp, and ready. It wasn’t Super Bowl expectations like after last season’s third preseason game, but people expected Philadelphia to compete in the NFC East. Things changed in Minnesota, which led to things changing in Philadelphia. Roseman obviously received two draft picks for Bradford, but despite how some view Philly as clear winners in the trade, it’s important to understand the courage it took for Roseman and Pederson to make that deal. And it’s because they trust Wentz.
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