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December 29, 2015

Eagles' Shurmur the latest to say he wants Bradford back next season

Eagles NFL
101115_Bradford_AP Matt Rourke/AP

Hopefully Sam Bradford won't forget which tunnel to run through on Sunday.

Over the last few weeks, Philadelphia Eagles head coach Chip Kelly has expressed interest in bringing quarterback Sam Bradford back next season, citing the fact that they wouldn't have traded for the former No. 1 overall pick if they only saw it as a one-year relationship.

Following their 38-24 loss to Washington on Saturday, Bradford echoed those sentiments, adding that having a second year in the same system can go a long way towards elevating his level of play.

“You know, I’ve enjoyed my time here," Bradford said. "I’ve enjoyed being in Philadelphia. I think throughout my career, I’ve learned that learning new offenses every year, it’s just hard to continue to improve. You are always learning. You are learning new verbiage, learning new plays, learning new systems. And I would really like to stay in the same one and have the opportunity to play a second year.”

That's a feeling with which offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can relate.

Shurmur was the offensive coordinator in St. Louis back in 2010, when Bradford won AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. However, they would not get that second year together because Shurmur was hired that offseason to be the head coach of the Cleveland Browns. Re-signing Bradford would give the long-time Eagles assistant a second chance at that missed opportunity.

This season, Bradford has a career best in completion percentage (64.0), yards per attempt (6.9), and yards per game (261.9). He's also 298 yards from setting a career high in yards (3,702) and four touchdowns shy of his career high (21), despite having missed two-plus games. But if he gets a chance to stay in this system, Shurmur sees those numbers going up.

"I think where Sam's at, a second year in any system is going to be important," Shurmur said Tuesday. "This year he got himself to the start line ready to play. I think this offseason is going to be important for him because now he has a base understanding of what we're doing schematically. He knows, for the most part, the players he'd be playing with.

"And it will be a great offseason for him because now he can focus on Sam and getting his strength and his body and all the things to the point where he wants to be. Anytime you're rehabbing an injury it's sometimes hard to focus on all those other things, and I think this would be an offseason where he'll make great strides."

Bradford will be a free agent after this season for the first time in his career, which could tempt him to test the market to see what he can get. But if you believe what you're hearing from both the player and the team, they're comfortable in their current situation and don't necessarily feel the need to change.

"I expect him to [re-sign with the Eagles]," Shurmur added. "All along he has expressed to us that he enjoys what we're doing. He likes our offense and likes the culture here, so it's no surprise that that was revealed publicly. But, yeah, I hope he's here for sure."

Just how good can he be with the Eagles? That remains to be seen.

The 28-year old had a lot of things working against him in his first year in Philly -- a banged-up offensive line, a receiving core that suddenly forgot how to catch and, of course, a twice-surgically repaired knee that forced him to miss the last two seasons. And, despite all that, he's played well for the Eagles to this point and has shown marked improvement throughout the year.

It's that kind of growth that has Shurmur believing the team has found its long-term answer at the most important position in sports.

"That term [franchise quarterback] was thrown out," he said. "I do; I really do [see him as a franchise QB]. I've seen the best of him when he was young. I've seen him improve throughout the year, and I certainly know a lot about him from working with him on a daily basis. 

"I can just see that he's excited about what the future would hold here."

Follow Matt on Twitter: @matt_mullin