Sam Bradford has been a hot topic lately, to say the least, for St. Louis Rams fans and others as he struggles through another up and down season as the team's ostensible cornerstone. Last week, he was part of a team flop against the Jets, outplayed by Mark Sanchez just a week after a breakout performance in a tie game with the incredibly tough 49ers. Fan opinion is well documented, but what's Bradford think about Bradford?
Let's hear it from the man himself, from Wednesday's post-practice press availability.
On his game against the Jets:
"It was just one of those days. I think it was a combination of everything. Give them credit, they played well. They covered us at times, but then we had opportunities at times. I missed a couple throws that I think I usually make. I know for sure I would like to have those back. When you do that, it's hard to keep yourself on the field. When we've been successful, we've completed passes on third down and kept ourselves on the field and kept drives alive. We just didn't do that last week."
Bradford cops to the team's struggles, acknowledges a few of his own mistakes. Some interesting stats from that game, Bradford's average yards per attempt was a Shurmur-esque 3.86 yards. The Rams gained an average of just 3.75 yards on passing plays.
I'm not really sure what I'd expect him to say here. Not that he needs to fall on his sword here. He doesn't; the whole team played terrible. More than anything, it might be refreshing him to hear him say that, to publicly demand more from himself and the players around him. It's a silly media gesture, but a powerful salve for frustrated fans.
Here's Bradford on expectations that he'll breakout at some point:
"I try to play at a high level each week. I just look to improve each week. Obviously, I would like to be playing my best each week, but I think, sometimes, you've got to take a step back and look at it. It's my third year, but at the same time, it's the first year in this offense. We're a young team, we're a young offense. We've experienced some growing pains this year, but I think, overall, we've improved as the year's gone on and that's all you can ask for. We're going to keep improving and keep getting better."
Again, nothing scandalous, but not particularly what I'd like to hear. These are excuses. Have some certainty of conviction that, yes, in spite of all those tired songs, you can be a better player and this can be a better team. Fans know this is a young group, we know this is yet another offense ... we'll put that asterisk there for you, ditto the local media.
Again, it's just talk, but it bothers me to hear this coming from the quarterback who should be more convinced than his fiercest partisans that he'll breakout or be the player that was drafted first overall.
Here's Bradford on his progress as a player over the last three seasons:
"Yeah, I think so. I think if you look at it, I feel good with where I'm at right now. The completion percentage, the amount of balls we're completing. Obviously, last week, you'd like to have a few more, but the previous couple weeks, I feel like I have played at a level that is competitive and will allow us to win. Obviously, you want to get better. I try to get better each week and hopefully, that's what I'll keep doing."
More of the same uncertainty. His words read like those of a man less than convinced, or worse, a man at ease with going from 104 to a 67 quarterback rating from week to week.
Does he really "feel like" he played well enough to win last week against the Jets? He and the rest of the team did not, and he should should note that. He sounds okay with his play this season, unconvinced, but okay.
Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer brought in Frank Cignetti this year to work with with Bradford daily on the basics of being an NFL quarterback, the footwork, the reads, touch passing and all those other things that make it the hardest job in football.
Confidence and leadership are another, less tangible but incredibly important, part of the so-called basics of being a quarterback. These statements aren't convincing. If Bradford's going to live up to that potential, mastering those basics is every bit as important as ironing out his footwork or eyeing open receivers.