Hiding Behind the Money, the Frauds of the Sam Bradford Holdout

Sam Bradford’s short-lived holdout came to an end this week. Like the majority of holdouts these days, Bradford’s failed before it ever really had a chance to succeed. The NFL’s fine system and the structure of their contracts mean that players simply can’t force the team into doing something that the team doesn’t want to do.

This holdout wasn’t remarkable in that sense. Bradford didn’t win and he was never expected to win, it was simply a matter of how long he would force the issue.

What made this holdout remarkable was the reasoning. Most holdouts come about because of money. Players are underpaid, or at least feel like they are underpaid, so they sit out in the hopes of getting a new contract. Some players want more guaranteed money, some players want stipulations to prevent teams from using the franchise tag, some want all that and a rise in pay. The wider audience doesn’t favor these players.

Holding out for money is painted as abandoning your teammates, not fulfilling a contract you agreed to or simply being greedy. The prevailing sentiment never considers that players are severely underpaid compared to their worth. That they are severely underpaid compared to their bosses because of a salary cap and monopoly on the market. Instead the prevailing sentiment is crafted around comparisons between NFL players and those who watch them from the stands or their couches at home. We compare our salaries to theirs and justifiably feel aggrieved.

We never feel aggrieved in relation to the billionaires, only the millionaires, because the billionaires run our teams. The billionaires are naturally pushed onto the side of the fans because they want the same thing, even if for different reasons.

Bradford wasn’t holding out for money. Bradford was holding out for football reasons. Yet we treated him the same way we treat all players who hold out, negatively. When Bradford went back to the Eagles this week, we didn’t treat it as a sad event. Another loss for the relative minnows in this dispute. We treated it as a celebration, an opportunity to further attack a player who wasn’t fulfilling the terms of his contract or staying loyal to his team/fanbase.

Part of this reaction is the general perception of Bradford. As a first overall pick who has never been to the playoffs, has had his career hit by multiple injuries and has become very rich in the process, everything that happens with Bradford is prefaced with this. If Bradford walked into a room and said the same sentence in the same situation as the other 31 quarterbacks in the league, the reaction would always hinge away from the norm.

In this scenario, Bradford was largely on the side of right.

When the Eagles traded five top-100 picks over the next three years for Carson Wentz, they ended any quarterback competition. Wentz wasn’t drafted to compete with Bradford, he was drafted to assume his role. There is no scenario in which the Eagles can justify investing that much capital in a backup quarterback. At 28 years of age, Bradford wasn’t ever expecting to be a one-year bridge quarterback despite signing a relatively short contract.

This situation would be hugely different if the Eagles had just drafted a quarterback in the first round without trading up. Spending a first-round pick on a quarterback to compete after signing a veteran to a big contract would set up a fair fight. Both players would have similar levels of investment behind them to create an even competition. That’s simply not the case when you give up as much as the Eagles gave up to get Wentz. That is where comparisons to Drew Brees and Philip Rivers fall apart.

Team success is how quarterbacks are measured. If Bradford plays very well individually but his team doesn’t win, it’ll still be easy for the Eagles to move on to Wentz. Having traded away so many picks and highlighting so often how Chip Kelly gutted the roster of talent, it’s unlikely that the Eagles will win a lot of games over the coming seasons. If they do, it will help Bradford’s chances of holding onto the starting spot but his chances will still be close to zero. His only hope is if the franchise can win a Super Bowl with him as the starter.

Wentz will probably take over the starting role within eight games of the upcoming season.

It’ll probably happen within eight games of the upcoming season because first-round quarterbacks don’t sit anymore. Bradford knows that as well as the rest of us.

This holdout highlighted our fraudulence. We side with the billionaires over the millionaires because it suits us. We can pretend that it’s about money, we can say it’s about fulfilling your contract(which is a downright insulting suggestion in a league with non-guaranteed contracts and annual roster cuts) or being loyal to your teammates. We can say whatever we want, we’re just as selfish as those we deride for being selfish.

Probably more so since we’re not the ones tearing ACLs and getting concussions.

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