Doesn't matter who starts between Sam Bradford, Mark Sanchez


It doesn’t matter. Not really. Not from any meaningful football perspective. It’s (semi) important for storylines and day-to-day media coverage. But beyond that it doesn’t matter even though we’d like to pretend otherwise.

When Chip Kelly met with the media on Monday, he declined to provide information about Sam Bradford’s progress and whether he’ll play against the Lions on Thanskgiving. Bradford, who sat out Sunday’s loss to the Buccaneers with a concussion and a shoulder injury, was limited in Monday’s practice. On Tuesday, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur met with reporters. Following the boss’s lead, Shurmur also declined to give any real update. Not that his reluctance stopped the media assembly from trying to pry information out of him. Here’s how the beginning of the presser went:

Q: Pat, what’s the plan at quarterback this week?

A: We’re going to get them ready to go and start one of them.

Q: Which one?

A: We’ll see. We’ll see. We won’t learn any more today because today is a walkthrough.

Q: If he’s medically cleared, is Bradford the guy?

A: We have to see. Right now, for me to speculate, I don’t want to lead anyone down the wrong path. I don’t know. I really don’t know … we have to see who’s healthy and then we’ll make that decision.

Q: When will you make that decision?

A: When we can. We don’t know today. They’re not going to be moving around. It’s a walkthrough … I’m not trying to mislead you. You guys are snickering.

Reporter: Chip’s not going to tell us anyway.

That went on for a while. You could hear a few people laughing while it happened. It was an amusing exchange, but nothing was going to come of it. The reporters on hand had to ask those questions. It’s their job. And Shurmur had to duck and dodge. That’s his job. Fine.

For their part, Bradford said he’s cleared the concussion protocol but his shoulder might still keep him out. He was able to walk through with the team on Tuesday. Sanchez said he’s preparing as if he’ll start, but he does that anyway, and he added “I know as much as you guys.” Which isn’t much.

But here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter who starts. Not really.

Let’s play a fun game where you look at some stats and try to figure out which quarterback they belong to and which guy is better.

Player A: 255.2 passing yards per game, 1.1 TD-to-INT ratio, 82.4 QB rating.

Player B: 275.2 passing yards per game, 1.16 TD-to-INT ratio, 85.6 QB rating.

Player C: 209.7 passing yards per game, 1.16 TD-to-INT ratio, 75.9 QB rating.

Which guy do you want? Would any of those quarterbacks give the Eagles some sort of clear advantage? Or do the numbers appear more or less interchangeable?

Player A is Sam Bradford as a starter with the Eagles. Player B is Mark Sanchez as a starter with the Eagles. Player C, just for fun, is Nick Foles as a starter in his final season with the Eagles. None of them played especially well for the Birds. You could sub one in and one out and get pretty much the same results.

There’s a tendency in Philadelphia to gravitate toward the other guy, to long for someone else at quarterback. It’s understandable. With a few notable exceptions in their history, the Eagles have not been blessed with amazing and consistent play at the position. Clamoring for the guy wearing the ball cap and carrying the clipboard is a natural byproduct of discontent. But in this particular instance, the debate about Bradford and Sanchez and which one is better suited to play is sort of silly. You don’t lose or gain much by playing one or the other. Do you?

“No,” Shurmur said.

But does the play calling change? Do they feel more comfortable doing certain things with Sanchez that they wouldn’t do with Bradford?

“Maybe one or two things,” Shurmur said. “But for the most part it’s the same preparation.”

It’s the same because, despite the fact that Sanchez is more mobile and Bradford has the bigger arm, they’ve both proven to be average (and that’s being charitable) NFL quarterbacks. Both have had turnover/interception issues with the Eagles. Both have made critical mistakes at crucial times this year, particularly in the end zone. Insert one. Extract the other. Whatever.

Which only makes the offseason moves by Kelly more maddening. Trading Foles wasn’t the problem. Trading a second-round pick for Bradford was something much harder to understand and defend, especially when Kelly already had Sanchez on hand to put up the same uninspiring numbers. Bradford is 4-5 as a starter for the Eagles. So is Sanchez. But Sanchez didn’t cost them a high pick. The only positive here is that Bradford, in one of the worst business decisions in recent memory, bet on himself and declined to sign an extension with the Eagles before the season began. The Eagles should send him something nice to thank him.

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