Hop into the DeLorean… we’re taking a trip into the future.
It’s January, 2016 and the regular season in the NFL has just concluded. The playoffs are about to start and there’s Sam Bradford, preparing to lead the Eagles to their second wild card appearance in the past three years. The Rams, meanwhile, missed the postseason after Nick Foles helped engineer a .500 season.
It would be a nightmare scenario for Rams fans to finally watch Bradford put together a winning season and lead his team to the playoffs, yet in a completely different city. And while some hate to admit it, that scenario is entirely possible. Chip Kelly’s system is as quarterback-friendly as they come, and plays to Bradford’s strengths as a signal-caller. Just like at Oklahoma, he’ll have the ability to make quick reads and get the ball out of his hand quickly, or turn around and hand off to a talented running back in DeMarco Murray.
But even if that nightmare were to become a reality, the Rams still made the right decision in trading Bradford. First and foremost, none of us have the benefit of hindsight when it comes to making difficult decisions. If we did, the definition of “risk” would be useless. In that snapshot in time, the Rams made a decision to unburden themselves of Bradford’s contract and injury history, all while acquiring a capable starter in Foles and a second-round pick in 2016. It was the right decision at the time, just as it will be the right decision a year from now even if Bradford soars (sorry for the pun) and Foles fails (sorry for the alliteration).
Even if Bradford does soar (last time, I promise), there was no guarantee that he was going to post similar production in this city, with this Rams team, under this coaching staff. In order to have success, he may have needed a different environment under a completely different coaching staff. His 2015 season in Philadelphia and his hypothetical 2015 season in St. Louis aren’t mutually exclusive. Just because he’s able to stay healthy and productive with the Eagles doesn’t mean he would have done so in St. Louis.
And what if Bradford does have success in Philadelphia: what do the Eagles do then? If he leads the Eagles to the playoffs it might be an easy decision to sign him to a contract extension. But those two blown ACLs aren’t erased from his medical history. Handing an injury-prone quarterback another fat contract based on one good year doesn’t seem like a shrewd business decision.
This is why I used the term “unburden”. The Rams have completely unburdened themselves from the Bradford situation. The free agent options at quarterback were brutal and this year’s draft class is shallow at the position. They were stuck. Bradford was the best option and even with that being the case, the Rams would have had to hold their breath that he would stay healthy for an entire season. His contract also would have prevented them from eventually addressing needs along the offensive line and/or adding quality depth like Nick Fairly.
But now Bradford is Kelly’s problem (at least until he swings another trade that nobody sees coming). I don’t mean to be flippant: I felt bad for Bradford when he tore his ACL again after working his ass off to get ready for training camp last year. It wasn’t fair. In fact, his entire career in St. Louis wasn’t fair. It was as if the football gods used him as their go-to whenever they were in need of a cruel laugh.
I hope Bradford does succeed in Philadelphia.
But even if he does, the Rams made the right decision. Foles is still largely an unknown. His 2013 season was a thing of beauty, but turnovers and accuracy woes doomed his 2014 campaign long before the broken collarbone did. From a skill set standpoint, Bradford is a better passer than Foles if we’re comparing apples to apples.
But we’re not comparing apples to apples because one of those apples has browned in several places. The fact that Bradford has only played seven games the last two years, coupled with the reality that Foles won’t be running Bill Walsh’s West Coast Offense (which is to say the Rams’ offense is not complex), it was a no-brainer trade for the Rams.
I’ll say the same thing next year regardless of what transpires this fall.