After Sam Bradford's performance in Philadelphia's third preseason game, Eagles Head Coach Doug Pederson was celebrating Bradford as his slated starting quarterback.
"He's such an accurate thrower and big, tall target and throws a very accurate, catchable football," Pederson said. "I was just excited to see what he could do in this system and offense and was looking for some big things from Sam in our system."
Now, Pederson is game-planning to play against him.
Exactly one week after he led the Eagles to that preseason win over the Colts, Bradford was traded to the Vikings, who had just lost Teddy Bridgewater to a season-ending knee injury. It was an unforeseen situation by all, including Bradford.
"If you had asked me at the beginning of the year if I would have been here in Minnesota and we'd be going back to play the Eagles, I would've thought I'd be on the other side of it," Bradford said Wednesday.
Pederson said it was not an easy thing to see Bradford leave for Minnesota.
"Initially, I was a little shocked that this was going to be a possibility, because all along I said Sam was my guy and Chase [Daniels] was 2, and Carson [Wentz] was 3," Pederson told Twin Cities media members in a conference call Wednesday. "We had to make a decision and say, 'What's the best for the Philadelphia Eagles? What's the best for all of the players involved?' "
Even before he made the phone call to tell Bradford he'd been traded, Pederson knew he was sending his quarterback to a positive situation.
"This was a great opportunity for Sam," Pederson said. "He's going to a playoff team, a great football team, an opportunity to start and play and do well.
"For us, it was just a matter of pulling the trigger with Carson," Pederson added. "It was truly a win-win once the dust settled on everything."
Through the first five games of the season, Wentz is 102-of-157 passing (65 percent) for 1,186 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. His passer rating is 99.9, the eighth-highest in the NFL.
Bradford's debut in purple is equally – if not more so – impressive. In four starts for the Vikings, Bradford is 88-of-125 passing (70.4 percent) for 990 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions, and his 107.9 passer rating ranks second in the NFL.
It's a stat line that doesn't shock Pederson.
"This is the type of player that Sam is," Pederson said.
Prior to the two meeting in Philadelphia, Pederson and Bradford had no history together. It didn't take long, however, for Pederson to recognize Bradford's talent and work ethic. He said Bradford embraced the Eagles offense after playing five seasons in the Rams system.
"He knew there was going to be some change and some different terminology," Pederson said. "He studied it. He's a sharp kid and really put in the time necessary to understand everything we were teaching."
View images from the Wednesday, Oct. 19 practice at Winter Park.
Pederson's recall is nearly verbatim to Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer's impression of Bradford's whirlwind transition to the Vikings just before the season. To see that Bradford transferred so well to Minnesota is no surprise to Pederson.
"The success, the accuracy, the guys around him," Pederson said. "The other thing, too, you keep things limited. You keep your menu small where you can go play and don't have to think about a lot of things, and you grow each and every week with that."
When the Eagles kick off against the Vikings on Sunday, however, Pederson knows Bradford will be ordering from a pretty complete menu.
Zimmer and Offensive Coordinator Norv Turner have both said that Bradford has gotten quickly up to speed and continues to add new plays to the arsenal each game. As his comfort with the playbook increases, so has Bradford's trust level and chemistry with receivers.
"[Kyle] Rudolph is a guy who is playing extremely well right now, and tight ends have kind of been Sam's friend, even here with Zach Ertz, Trey Burton and [Brent] Celek," Pederson said. "And then just knowing him, how he thinks, how he processes, how he gets the ball out of his hand – there's not many quarterbacks that want to stand back there and hold the football. He's going to get it out."
In less than a week, the trade of the season will come full circle when Bradford steps foot in his old stadium, in front of old fans, across from old teammates. It promises to be a unique atmosphere, but once the whistle sounds, it's just football for the quarterback and his former coach.
Bradford will be hunting for Minnesota's sixth consecutive win, and Pederson knows the Eagles could have their hands full.
"He's smart, and he makes good, accurate throws," Pederson said. "So he's tough to defend."