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At least Chip found the Eagles a franchise QB

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After a week of upheaval, the Eagles offered a reminder of both the problems and the potential that their next head coach will inherit.

Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.
Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford.Read moreDavid Maialetti / Staff Photographer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. - After a week of upheaval, the Eagles offered a reminder of both the problems and the potential that their next head coach will inherit.

You are plenty familiar with the problems: a front seven that is neither big enough in the middle nor fast enough on the edges; cornerbacks who require regular help on both sides of the field; an offensive line that has struggled to block between the tackles, wide receivers who either struggle to get open or drop balls when they do.

The potential is much shorter. But what it lacks in quantity, it makes up for by existing at the game's most important position.

Of all of the ironies involved in the Eagles' decision to jettison coach Chip Kelly and reinstall Howie Roseman at the top of the food chain due in large part to the perceived failure of Kelly's offseason roster reconstruction, a willingness on the part of Roseman and Lurie to make a long-term commitment to Bradford would certainly register high marks on the well-would-you-look-at-that-o-meter.

After all, one can make a case that Kelly's decision to part with Nick Foles and a second-round pick - plus a significant chunk of salary-cap space - in exchange for Bradford was his most counterintuitive move of the offseason. Bradford was coming off a second straight ACL tear and Foles had put up better career numbers, not to mention an exemplary 2013 season in which he threw for 27 touchdowns and just two interceptions as the Eagles made the playoffs in their first season under Kelly.

Yet Bradford has flourished even as the rest of his team has foundered, his 2 1/2-game absence with a separated shoulder looking increasingly costly the better he has played. If all you had was the tape of his 30-for-38, 320-yard, two-touchdown performance in a 35-30 win over the Giants, you would have made him the top pick in the draft all over again. He made every throw an NFL quarterback needs to make: every trajectory, every velocity, every location.

His 25-yard pass to Jordan Matthews midway through the second quarter was a thing of beauty, releasing it before the receiver had cleared the second level and dropping it into his hands over the leaping arms of Giants middle linebacker Jasper Brinkley. In the second quarter, he laced a throw outside the numbers to Zach Ertz for 19 yards with just over five minutes remaining in the first half, which set up an easy, 4-yard over-the-shoulder touchdown lob to Matthews to give the Eagles a 21-13 lead. In the fourth quarter, he dropped a beautiful parabola into Brent Celek's breadbasket for a 24-yard gain.

"He got hurt for a two-game span there and you saw how much it affected us," Matthews said. "I think it really showed how much he does mean to this offense and to this team . . . "

His final numbers on the season aren't overwhelming. Bradford finished the year with 346 completions in 532 attempts (65 percent) for 3,725 yards, career highs for accuracy and yardage. He threw 19 touchdowns against 14 interceptions. But the numbers might have looked a lot better if his receivers had not been plagued by the drops (in a fitting end to the season, Matthews dropped a beautiful rainbow early in the game that likely would have gone for a long touchdown). Besides, evaluating a quarterback is more about process, and Bradford showed throughout the season - even early on, when people insisted on focusing on a handful of bad throws instead of his overall body of work - that he makes those around him better.

"I think the longer I was out there, the more comfortable I became," Bradford said. "Early in the season, I just missed some throws I wasn't used to missing."

Anybody who thinks otherwise is someone who still does not have a firm grasp on the reality of life in the NFL without a franchise quarterback like Donovan McNabb (and, frankly, they probably didn't have a grasp on reality when he was here, either). It's a life where a team has to make due with its best option until it drafts a guy who turns out to be a keeper. You don't let a competent quarterback leave on his own terms, and Bradford has shown himself to be much more than competent.

The Eagles seem to understand this. At Jeffery Lurie's press conference the day after Kelly's dismissal, the team owner included his quarterback among a handful of players he went out of his way to mention as examples of talent he felt could thrive in any offensive system. While Bradford is scheduled to become a free agent, he doesn't have complete autonomy. The Eagles should use their franchise tag on him, which would give the team some critical leverage. Even if he changed his tune on his desire to remain with the franchise, the Eagles could work out a sign-and-trade with his preferred destination in exchange for draft picks.

While Bradford has said repeatedly he wants to return, he acknowledged yesterday that the next head coach is "definitely going to be a factor."

"I think it obviously depends on who they hire and what offensive system he wants to run, if he feels like I fit and I feel like I fit," he said.

There's a chance the next head coach could retain Pat Shurmur as offensive coordinator. Or Shurmur could be the head coach himself.

Whatever the case, Bradford has gone from being a question mark to being an asset for the Eagles' next coach. In a league where a coach's fate more often than not depends on the presence of a long-term solution under center, it'd be a hell of a circumstance for Bradford to turn out to be somebody else's guy. Maybe the only thing more amusing would be for DeMarco Murray to win 2016 NFL MVP while crediting his remarkably fresh legs.

On Twitter: @ByDavidMurphy

Blog: philly.com/Eaglesblog

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