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Eagles Have A Decision To Make On Bradford


Standing at the podium before a throng of media at MetLife Stadium, Sam Bradford spoke candidly about his future. Set to become a free agent for the first time in his six-year NFL career, the 28-year-old just finished his first season in Philadelphia and now has a massive decision on his hands - to re-sign with the team that traded Nick Foles and a second-round pick for him in March or to test the unrestricted waters of the open market.

For Bradford, a former first overall pick whose career to this point has been marred by a pair of unfortunate knee injuries, there is still much to parse before a choice is made. The biggest variable, of course, is the man the Eagles will choose as their next head coach.

On Tuesday, the Eagles released Chip Kelly, their head man in each of the past three seasons, citing underwhelming results (namely a 6-9 record this season) and a downward trajectory as their reasons for doing so. Now, the team is in the market for a new full-time head coach, just their third this millennium. Bradford admits that the team's choice will play a role in his plans once free agency hits in mid-March, but he added that so too will Philadelphia's new head coach have a decision to make about him.

"I think the quarterback/head coach relationship is extremely important in any organization," Bradford said. "That's definitely going to be a factor. It obviously depends on who they hire and what offensive system he wants to run, and if he feels like I fit, and I feel like I fit in that system."

In Sunday's 35-30 win over the Giants in north Jersey, the Eagles were led by interim head coach Pat Shurmur, the team's offensive coordinator since Kelly's arrival in 2013. During the 2011 and 2012 seasons, he had served as head coach of the Cleveland Browns, and in the two years prior to that he served as the offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams, the team with which Bradford began his career.

The veteran quarterback finished the game with 320 yards on 30-of-38 passing, throwing two touchdowns and one interception. After the game, he praised Shurmur's leadership and expressed his support for the veteran coach, should the Eagles decide to consider him for the head spot on an indefinite basis.

"It reminded me a lot of my rookie year, and it brought back some good memories of being out there with Pat calling (plays)," he said. "He wasn't in an easy position today. I think what he did this week, the way he led this football team was remarkable. ... I think he called a great game today, and I think the guys really bought into him."

Bradford's career to this point has been relatively tumultuous, with coaching changes, injuries and last spring's trade to Philadelphia robbing him of the stability one might expect a quarterback selected first overall to enjoy. In fact, his only consecutive years playing in the same offense came in 2012 and 2013, under head coach Jeff Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. This year, Bradford struggled early on before turning things around later in the year as he became more comfortable.

"The last year I played in St. Louis, the half season, was the first time, the only time, I'd been in the same offense (for multiple seasons) in my career," he said. "I felt like I was much more comfortable out there. I felt like I was playing at a much more consistent level each week, and I think that things were really starting to take off. And then I think I kind of picked that back up after the bye this year."

Looking at Bradford's before- and after-bye splits is impressive to say the least. In his first seven games this year, he completed 62.0 percent of his passes for 1,766 yards, nine touchdowns and 11 interceptions, earning a 76.4 passer rating. But in his last seven games this year, after the team's Week 8 bye, he completed 68.2 percent of his passes for 1,959 yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions, good for a 97.0 passer rating.

His 65.0 percent completion percentage on the season set a franchise record, and his five 300-yard games tied a record shared by Donovan McNabb (2004) and Sonny Jurgensen (1961). In 14 games, he threw for 3,725 yards with 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, earning an 86.4 passer rating in the process.

Heading into the offseason, the Eagles have a handful of important decisions to make, and their commitment to Bradford is near the very top of that list.

The Eagles traveled to New York to face the Giants in their final game of the 2015 season. View the full gallery here...

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