Eagles fans have a lot of reasons to be frustrated about their team in the wake of Sunday's blowout loss to the Broncos. The offense stinks, the defense stinks, the special teams unit stinks… you name it, someone’s complaining about it.
But I think I might have a tiny little ray of hope to offer from my corner of the local sports landscape. Because if the Eagles keep playing this badly, there could be a big reward. And if you head to the Linc on Saturday, you’ll see that reward in person.
(I thought about writing "if they keep imitating the 76ers," but I won’t go that far.)
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is one of the best signal-callers in college football. He’s coming to Philadelphia this weekend to play Temple.
Though he’s just a junior, Bridgewater already has pro scouts’ mouths watering. He was the Big East’s offensive player of the year in 2012, as the Cardinals racked up an 11-2 record. The campaign was capped off by a win over powerhouse Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Bridgewater was named the MVP of that game as he completed 20 of 32 passes for 266 yards.
Now Bridgewater is a darkhorse candidate to win the Heisman Trophy. If Louisville runs the table in the American Athletic Conference - which is a real possibility, given their weak schedule - the buzz will only grow.
Consider the big numbers Bridgewater has posted so far in his career.
2011 (13 games): 296 pass attempts, 191 completions (64.5%), 2129 yards (7.19 per attempt), 14 touchdowns, 132.4 quarterback rating
2012 (13 games): 419 pass attempts, 287 completions (68.5%), 3718 yards (8.87 per attempt), 27 touchdowns, 160.5 quarterback rating
2013 (four games): 110 attempts, 79 completions (71.8%), 1214 yards (11.04 per attempt), 14 touchdowns, 204.7 quarterback rating
There are a couple of warning signs about Eagles fans giving Bridgewater too much hype. One is that Louisville’s offense isn’t all that fast-paced. This year, the Cardinals rank 101st among NCAA I-A teams in plays run per game against other I-A teams. Last year they ranked 63rd, and in 2011 they ranked 89th.
(The stats exclude games against I-AA teams, since they’re almost always lopsided blowouts.)
If Bridgewater’s good enough - and so far in his career there’s been plenty of reason to think he is - he’ll be able to adapt to Chip Kelly’s offense. He definitely knows how to read the game and react to it, which Kelly would surely like.
But the biggest caveat of all about Bridgewater is one that has a particular link to Kelly.
Louisville plays in a bad football conference. They did in the Big East and they do so now in the American. They routinely beat up on lesser teams, and in particular lesser defenses.
Chip Kelly’s Oregon teams did that a lot in the Pac-12. When they came up against better defenses in bowl games, the Ducks struggled. It’s why they lost the 2010 Rose Bowl to Ohio State and the 2011 BCS title game to Auburn.
Yes, I know Oregon had a shot to beat Auburn at the end, but the Tigers kept the Ducks’ offense in check almost all night. Oregon averaged 552.8 yards of total offense per game that season, and Auburn held them to 449.
Oregon’s wins in the 2012 Rose Bowl and 2013 Fiesta Bowl were much higher-scoring: 45-38 over Wisconsin and 35-17 over Kansas State, respectively.
All of this is related to why it was so important that Bridgewater and Louisville beat Florida in the Sugar Bowl. Last season, the Gators gave up the fifth-lowest yards per game average in Division I-A, 287.46; and the 12th-lowest passing yards per game average, 192.0.
Bridgewater and Louisville recorded 336 total yards against Florida, including 266 passing yards. Those were both well above the Gators’ average.
Normally I’d be one of the last people to say you should judge a player off just one game. But because of Louisville’s weak schedule, there aren’t many opportunities to measure Bridgewater against top defenses.
Louisville certainly won’t see a top defense Saturday. Temple has given up an average of 323.5 passing yards per game this season. I like Matt Rhule a lot, but he’s in for a long afternoon against the Cardinals.
Of course, a lot of Temple fans are Eagles fans too. So if you head to the Linc on Saturday, just remember that Teddy Bridgewater might play in Philadelphia again next year. And you might be rooting for him instead of against him.