When the Oklahoma product showed up at Rams Park in 2010, the sky seemed like the limit for the face of the Rams future. If there was going to be change in The Rams organization and winning hopes, it was coming from Sam Bradford’s right arm and not Steven Jackson’s legs.
Bradford threw 15 interceptions to his 18 touchdowns in 2010 but led the Rams to a 7-9 record. Granted it was against a soft schedule but for a door mat Rams team it was the fresh water in the ocean after a long trek through muddy land. Bradford regressed due to injury and a horrible offensive line in 2011, playing on a bad leg and completing only 53 percent of his passes. He was barely 100 percent that entire season and that is when the haters came out in full force and demanded his head on a platter. They forgot that he was the closest thing to a franchise QB the team has seen since Marc Bulger and didn’t realize Bradford was taking the same kind of torture from opposing defenses. Was this talented brainy quarterback slowly getting clubbed to death? Jeff Fisher took over in 2012 and Bradford rebounded in a big way. He started all 16 games, fumbled only 4 times, and threw 21 TD to 13 INT. His completion percentage went up to 59 percent with 144 more attempts than 2011. Fisher took the head coaching job at the Rams because of Bradford and immediately saw the reward in his decision making. Bradford was revitalized. He had a rough first half of the season, but finished on a hot streak. He improved his red zone accuracy in the final half and had some of his better play on the football field. 2012 was when Bradford took control of the team. So, why has he seemed to regress with an upgraded offensive line and younger faster receivers in 2013? Why he is failing with the additional talent?
It’s not all Sam’s fault. That’s as dumb as saying it’s all Fisher’s fault. The running game is non existent without a trio of part time backs trying to be full time carriers. The defense has broken down and has been torched, often putting Bradford and company in comeback mode early on. The offensive line has broken down badly, allowing Bradford few times to actually set his feet and pick his receiver. He is getting sacked a lot and hurried almost every snap. His feet aren’t set in stone but he also can’t run like RG3 or Cam Newton. Bradford is more like Jay Cutler. A pocket passer who can move when threatened but still vulnerable to hurried throws and someone who will check down quickly. Bradford is playing gun shy right now. He is pressured and his receivers are dropping passes. When the pressure has hit Sam in the face this year, his passing accuracy has been downright horrible with a completion percentage of 48.1.
This is a separating mechanism that will determine the rest of his career. Plenty of quarterbacks in the NFL have these problems and find a way to win. Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger have played with similar issues. No running game. Bad offensive line. Young raw receivers. They have found ways to make it work. By no means am I comparing them to Bradford but in order to push your team beyond mediocre in the NFL, a quarterback must make great throws in tough spots. Against the wall, bleeding and breathing through bruised ribs and a dented helmet, he has to make throws that propel his team forward. Forget about what you don’t have and find a way to make it work. Nobody is going to feel sorry for the last #1 draft pick to get ridiculous money a long term cushion. The Rams are seeing the end of that deal and thinking twice already.
I am not one of the guys who saw a deal RG3 as a better option than Bradford last year simply because there is no guarantee RG3 makes it work here and he is going to be an injury prone player. Bradford deserved the chance to thrive under Fisher and did for one year but now looks nothing like a guy who can lead his team out of the dark and into the promise land. Through 4 games, his TD/INT aren’t bad but 2 of his 3 picks have been turned into 6 points and the other was taken away in the end zone. Two of them have been tipped but Bradford has missed wide open targets. With better accuracy, the Rams could have at least 3-4 more touchdowns in the books.
Plenty of QB’s get it done without a good running back or line to back them up. The question is…can Bradford become that guy or will he keep walking towards the box labeled “disappointment”. He is in the 4th year of a 6 year contract and will keep making more annual money. The years aren’t guaranteed in the NFL so he better get his act together. Call more team meetings, get together with the lazy bland play calling Brian Schottenheimer and convince the coordinator to use the no huddle more often. I have rarely seen Sam look more comfortable than when he is using the no huddle. His confidence is high and drives are longer and more effective. So why not use it? How much longer will Fisher and company go against a strategy that works?
The Rams improved last year, going 7-8-1 against a tough schedule and turning heads. This year, they are 1-3 after 4 games and have lost 3 in a row. Bradford has gotten worse each game. After nearly bringing the Rams back in Atlanta, he has gotten zero energy out of his offense and gotten little going against Dallas and San Francisco. He was facing a weakened 49ers defense and still could only muster a single touchdown late in the game. What happens in the last few weeks of the season when Bradford and the Rams head to SF to face a probable full defensive attack? How much blood will be in the water then?
The time has come for Bradford to find out who he is. It’s not early anymore and he doesn’t have Steven Jackson to take the blame for a bad day at the office. This is Sam Bradford’s team and the question, can he handle it? Can Sam Bradford rise up, make tough throws and lead his team out of the dark tunnel? We will see soon enough because on Sunday the Rams face a horrible team in Jacksonville. Regroup there and blast off. If not, fall to the ground and drift away. Bradford may be starting to drift out of town. This is the NFL. Put up or shut up.
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PHOTO CREDIT-CHUCKIE MAGGIO