Eagles’ new coach Doug Pederson: Sam Bradford is a top-notch QB, a perfect fit

When the Philadelphia Eagles made the decision to cut ties with head coach Chip Kelly, there were many question marks surrounding impending free-agent quarterback Sam Bradford’s future with the team.

In new head coach Doug Pederson’s opening press conference on Tuesday, he made it clear that he believes Bradford is not only a perfect fit for his offensive system, but also a top fit for any team.

Bradford is set to become an unrestricted free agent in the new league year after playing out the 2015 season with a $12,985,000 base salary. Bradford posted career highs in passing yards (3,725) and completion percentage (65 percent), but the former can at least partially be attributed to his checkered injury history.

If the Eagles choose to go forward with Bradford as their starting quarterback, they will first have the option to place the franchise tag on him — this would ensure that Bradford is an Eagle for at least the 2016 season. Last season, the NFL’s franchise tag for quarterbacks was upwards of $18 million, and that number could rise again in 2016 after several franchise quarterbacks signed new long-term contracts.

If the Eagles prefer to lock up Bradford to a long-term contract, they could face a competitive market. Although Bradford threw for just 19 touchdowns with 17 turnovers in 14 games, he played his best football during the second half of the season, when he threw for 10 touchdown passes and just four interceptions. The free-agent quarterback market will be barren, as it has been the past few years, and this also could work to drive up Bradford’s price.

After spending big money in free agency last offseason, the Eagles will have to make a difficult decision on Bradford for 2016 and beyond.

Pederson’s communication and leadership skills gave him the inside track on becoming the Eagles’ new coach, said owner Jeffrey Lurie, who stressed a few times the importance of those qualities in his decision to pick Pederson, who spent the past three seasons as offensive coordinator under former Eagles coach Andy Reid in Kansas City.

"Checked the box on everything we looked at from football intelligence, overall intelligence, strategic thinking, communication skills, collaboration skills, genuineness, comfortable in your own skin, leadership abilities," Lurie said Tuesday. "Those were the obvious ones. It was pretty easy."

Pederson accepted the position last week and was officially named the coach on Monday, two days after the Chiefs were eliminated from the playoffs. The 47-year-old former backup quarterback is back for his third tour of duty with the Eagles.

He started his first NFL game for Reid’s Eagles in 1999, grooming Donovan McNabb in his rookie season. He got his first job as an assistant coach in the NFL under Reid in Philadelphia in 2009.

"I understand the culture and the passion of Philadelphia. I get it," Pederson said.


"I experienced that firsthand. And now coming back, I understand what it feels like to win in this city. This city hasn’t won and this organization hasn’t won in quite some time.

"It’s my job to turn that around. And you do it one day at a time. You do it one player at a time and you do it one coach at a time."

Lurie said the Eagles began with a list of 25 candidates that was narrowed down to 10.

They interviewed six because four of the 10 didn’t become available. Among them was two-time Super Bowl champion Tom Coughlin, who stepped down after 12 seasons coaching the New York Giants.

Pederson followed Reid to Kansas City in 2013. The Chiefs were 31-17 in the regular season with two playoff appearances in 2013 and 2015.

The offense didn’t rank higher than 21st in total yards in any of Pederson’s three seasons, but overall it was first in the NFL in rushing touchdowns (54), third in yards per carry (4.6) and seventh in total yards rushing (6,018).

Pederson also is credited with developing quarterback Alex Smith, a former No. 1 overall pick by San Francisco. Smith had three consecutive 3,000-yard seasons, threw the second-fewest interceptions among quarterbacks with more than 1,000 attempts (20) and ranked fourth among all quarterbacks with 1,183 yards rushing.

Pederson played for Don Shula, Mike Holmgren and Reid. He played behind Brett Favre, Dan Marino, McNabb and Jim McMahon.

"One thing that I (learned from) Coach Reid over the years, being with him, is his consistency and his message of family first, of trusting one another and you can’t sacrifice hard work," Pederson said.

"And listen, we cranked through training camps. Our training camps were tough. Our practices were tough. But he never wavered from that and I think that consistency has made him a successful football coach and those are the things that I want to bring here, the things that I learned from him that I can use here in my journey."

Pederson played 10 NFL seasons almost exclusively as a backup quarterback. He was with Miami, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Cleveland. He was 2-7 as a starter for the Eagles. The following year with Cleveland, he went 1-7 as a starter.

The Eagles finished 7-9 this past season. Kelly was 10-6 in each of his first two seasons and won a division title in 2013 before going 6-9 this season. He was hired to coach the 49ers last week.

Pederson doesn’t look at the Eagles as a rebuilding team.

"There’s some talent here and I do believe that you can put yourself in a position to not only win the (NFC) East, but have a chance to get yourself into the postseason and then go deep into the postseason," Pederson said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.