The Brittle Bradford Bristles

By Jason Keidel

Even by the super-soft standards of the modern athlete, Sam Bradford is pushing it. If your employer offered you $35 million over the next two years — with $11 million just for signing the contract and $22 million guaranteed — it’s not likely you’d complain about your place on the totem pole.

Bradford’s reaction? Demand a trade. The Eagles had the audacity to draft a quarterback, presumably to replace Bradford, whenever that time comes. But rather than see this as a challenge, a chance to prove his worth and show the Eagles they don’t need another passer, he folded like a lawn chair.

It turns out Bradford’s ego is as brittle as his bones. Carson Wentz is hardly John Elway. He wasn’t paraded as the next face of the franchise, the new emblem on the NFL shield. Wentz wasn’t even invited to NYC as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy. He didn’t even play Division I football. And North Dakota State isn’t exactly a football factory, a conveyer belt of QBs. Carson Wentz is a crapshoot, at best.

But rather than boast or buckle down, Bradford bristled, his feelings irrevocably bruised.

Bradford’s first contract was the richest for a rookie in league history. In 2010, he signed for 6 years at $78 million, including $50 million in guaranteed money. That was before he took his first NFL snap.

Bradford has made nearly $100 million over 6 years. He’s played in 63 of the 96 possible games, with no playoff wins or appearances. He has done nothing of note and still gets high-end QB money.

Bradford’s NFL record is 25-37-1. His best season came in 2012, when he went 7-8-1. He tossed 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions and completed 59.5 percent of his passes. His total QBR was 49.46. Yet there’s such a dearth of decent QBs in the NFL, Bradford is considered an upper-echelon player.

Bradford has since rescinded his trade demands. But the damage is done. You can’t moonwalk from your infantile demands and expect players and management to forget. His accidental message is that he’s unreliable. At the first whiff of adversity, Bradford will bail on his team.

Had the Eagles sold the farm for Aaron Rodgers, then you demand a trade. You go MIA during OTAs. But to shudder at the notion of a rookie entering camp, then you’re just as insecure as you are self-absorbed.

If you’ve heard pro football players recall their careers and muse profoundly their best years and best teammates, they’re simpatico on a single quality — reliability. To a man, they all say the best teams were selfless and served the team ethic. They never had to worry about the guy next to them, no matter the weather, score or standings. The football maxim says the best ability is availability.

So not only is Sam Bradford an injury-addled quarterback who’s knees can buckle and burst at any moment, he’s just announced that he can’t accept anything less than being the unquestioned leader of the franchise. That makes him anything but the leader of a franchise.

Football players often say football is a business, that they don’t begrudge another player holding out for his money under the guise of providing for his family. But Bradford got his money, even though he hardly earned it.

Folks often laugh at any suggestion that Tim Tebow get another shot at a starting QB gig in the NFL. But Tebow’s work ethic and singular devotion to his craft is never questioned. Teammates and coaches adore him and admire his epic devotion to football. He’s also done something Bradford hasn’t. Played in a playoff game, and won one.

The Eagles had Tebow, and cut him. They had Bradford, and signed him to a two-year, $35 million extension. Maybe it explains why the Eagles have only been to two Super Bowls in 50 years, and haven’t won a single playoff game since 2008. Tebow has.

Jason writes a weekly column for CBS Local Sports. He is a native New Yorker, sans the elitist sensibilities, and believes there’s a world west of the Hudson River. A Yankees devotee and Steelers groupie, he has been scouring the forest of fertile NYC sports sections since the 1970s. He has written over 500 columns for WFAN/CBS NY, and also worked as a freelance writer for Sports Illustrated and Newsday subsidiary amNew York. He made his bones as a boxing writer, occasionally covering fights in Las Vegas, Atlantic City, but mostly inside Madison Square Garden. Follow him on Twitter @JasonKeidel.

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