The presence of Sam Bradford was one of the main reasons given by Jeff Fisher for choosing the St. Louis Rams over the Miami Dolphins this spring. A talented quarterback gave the Rams a leg up, putting them a little closer to competing than other teams. It was even enough to trade away the second overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, swapping the chance to draft another quarterback for a boat load of draft picks to rebuild the franchise.
Five games into the season, Bradford's performance is mixed, at best. He got off to a hot start, throwing two of the best games of his career. In fact, his Week 2 performance against Washington might have been the best single game of his career.
Since then, the results have been at the opposite end of the spectrum. Bradford has not completed more than 53 percent of his passes in any of his last three starts. He has two touchdowns and four interceptions during that three-game span.
NFL Films guru Greg Cosell talked quarterbacks with Adam Caplan on his podcast this week, previewing the Week 6 games, and he shared his thoughts on Bradford.
I've been a little disappointed in Bradford. I think there are times when he throws it really well because he's a very good arm talent. You just don't see the consistency in his game. Granted, it's a new offense ... but I just feel like he should be a little further along.
Confused. Befuddled. Frustrated. I think that sums up the feelings of most Rams fans on the subject. Bradford never took that next step forward after a solid start in his rookie year, when he dinked and dunked his way to the Rookie of the Year award.
Of course, there have been other factors in Bradford's way. A new offense every year, a front office incapable of providing blocking and receiving talent and the cascade of injuries. Excuses only go so far, and Cosell pointed that out in his conversation with Caplan.
He's a quarterback that need an offensive line. Some quarterbacks can compensate for offensive line issues, the great ones can. Obviously as the numer one pick in the draft, the feeling was that he can become a great one. At this point in his career he has not shown the ability to overcome weaknesses in his o line.
Good quarterbacks also elevate their receivers. Danny Amendola has been Bradford's go-to guy because his hands are nearly unfailing and it helps make him the perfect target on short routes. The team's other receivers have been mostly frustrating, but Bradford doesn't exactly throw it their way very often either.
In his third year, Bradford is still struggling with his reads and his overall command of the field. He's still struggling to make plays on his own, with his incredible arm and accuracy, the kinds of tools that can break open a game, overcome a struggling offensive line and so-so receivers.
Maybe it's not too late for Bradford to become a great quarterback, or even a very good one. The Rams finally have some stability in place. Maybe he can become a good enough quarterback, a game manager type, sort of like what Alex Smith has become since Jim Harbaugh took over in San Francisco.
For now, the Rams have a season to get a better feel for exactly what kind of player they have in Sam Bradford. If they decide that he is not their franchise quarterback - remember that Fisher and Snead didn't draft him, just inherited his giant rookie contract - they have four first round picks to find another option.