One school of thought (and I am in this camp) held that Bradford performed better in the second half of the season than in the first. There were a couple of reasons for that. Bradford had torn his left ACL twice in the previous two years, so it’s safe to assume that it took a little time for him to get completely comfortable on a football field. And while he was dealing with that adjustment, he also had to get comfortable with new teammates and an entirely new offensive scheme.
The other school of thought was that the first school was full of excuse-makers for Bradford. His numbers were better in the second half, but they weren’t all that good. More to the point, the Eagles went 4-5 after their bye week.
Bradford missed two of those games with injuries, which, of course, is one of the things his critics are quick to point out. It is true that in December the Eagles lost consecutive games to Arizona and Washington, both at home. If Bradford had beaten Washington at the Linc, the Eagles would have won the NFC East title.
Meanwhile, ESPN Stats & Information compiled a pretty compelling set of data. Looking at those numbers, it seems the first school was closer to being right about Bradford.
Through Week 8 of the season, Bradford had the worst QBR in the NFL: 29.6. His 10 interceptions were third most in the league at that point.
Although those numbers show how Bradford performed in a new offense while he was still gaining confidence in his leg, they do not show how badly the Eagles’ entire offense was operating for the first half of the season. The running game, led by a mystifyingly ineffective DeMarco Murray, was wretched as well.
In the second half of the season, Bradford threw four interceptions in six games. He had the league’s third-best completion percentage. Bradford played well on third downs (61 percent completion rate, 56 QBR), when facing pressure and using play-action.
Yes, it would have been more impressive to earn a playoff berth than to complete 77 percent of his passes when using play-action. But the important thing is that Bradford played markedly better in the second half of the season. If the numbers had been reversed and Bradford’s play had deteriorated the second half of the season, there would have been no way to defend signing him to a new contract.
The Eagles considered Bradford’s improvement when they decided to sign him to a new deal. But they also traded up to draft Carson Wentz. So, Bradford will get the chance to build off his strong second half under new coach Doug Pederson, but the Eagles have an escape plan if things don’t go well.