Bradford and the Great Debate

Welcome to my first ever fanpost. If you're reading this post, I can be reasonably certain that you're a football fan, and even more than that, you're a Rams fan. At the beginning of 2013, the Rams band wagon had grown. Sure, it was still in the shadow of the Niners and Seahawks, but the Rams had received some positive press. "The youngest team in football, armed with several new offensive weapons". "Speed all over the field". "The best defensive front four in football". "Surprise playoff contender". Yada yada yada. By now, the band wagon is nearly empty, and if you're sticking through the ridicule, you're probably a true fan. Now your coworkers no longer want to talk about turning the corner, they want to turn up their noses. Now detractors are pouring out of the woodwork like Jags fans at a Tebow rally. "Undisciplined". "Outmatched". "Overwhelmed". But perhaps the most surprising 180... "Sam Bradford isn't a franchise Quarterback". The purpose of this post isn't to persuade you to join either side of this argument, but as a fan, to look at it for what it represents: the future of a franchise.

Bradford was selected first overall in the 2010 draft, the last draft the rookies were allowed to screw their already woefully bad teams by destroying their books. Bradford went on to win OROTY honors, and so the debate began. Bradford's yards per attempt were pitiful at 6.0, but his offensive coordinator wasn't willing or able to call a downfield pass, and Sam responded by making smart decisions and accurate throws. Just imagine what Bradford could do with improved weapons and a more creative coordinator. Exit Shurmer, enter McDaniels.

While Shurmer was taking his high flying offense to exciting new places, the Rams signed McDaniels. McDaniel had just come from a less than successful stint with the Broncos. However, he had overseen the most successful offense in NFL history. With the Rams, he wouldn't have Randy Moss or Tom Brady, but he would have Bradford, and fans were excited to see what "streesing" a defense could really do. In 2011, Bradford started 10 games. His offensive line was a mess and Bradford was terrible. He went 1-9, threww 6 tds to 6 ints and had just 6.1 yards per attempt. The fan reaction was harsh. Some blamed Bradford, but was it really his fault? Hurting for weapons, the FO gave him Pettis and Salas, two 3rd-4th WR types, only a half season of Brandon Lloyd (who had come off leading the NFL in yards the previous year) and a new playbook. The OLine wasn't overly talented and was, as usual, decimated by injuries. McDaniels returned to his dark master, adn took Lloyd with him. Bradford would have to start over. Exit Mcdaniels, Spags (and incompetence?), enter Fisher, Snead, and Shotty.

The Rams were ready for a regime change, they rebuilt the front offense. A head coach that had a clue, a daring, well-kept head of hair, and an OC fresh off of making a Sanchize quarterback. The future could be bright. The new FO trimmed the fat off the roster and brought in youth and speed. They drafted Quick and Givens as targets for Sam and ever struck gold at RB in the 7th. They even brought in a pro bowl center to shore up the pocket. Sam looked better and the offense look competent. Games were won, and ever the loses were competitive (for the most part). Sam and Givens had something special in the deep passing game, and the Rams fell just short of a wildcard bid. The OLine, once again, was hit by injuries (Well was lost for the season in the first week and Saffold was Saffold for a few games), but graded out to 14th in the league in pass protection. But was Sam improving. Despite a record setting deep connection with Givens, Sam was still only averaging 6.7 yards an attempt. What would the future hold? -- just select 2012

"This is our year". We all heard it and most of us said it. Heck, we even started believing it. Fisher had changed this team. Our defense was improved, and young players like JJ, Quinn, and Tru were looking strong in camp. Quick had a year in the system, and Givens, who looked every part the deep threat, was adding to his game. In free agency we signed Cook and Long. A physical freak at TE and perhaps the best LT over the last 5 years. Yep, things were shaping up. Then the Rams added even more speed. Tavon, the most exciting player in college football at 8th overall and his equally productive teammate joined the offense. Don't forget Stacy, who lead the SEC in rushing, and Jones, who was the do anything lineman on the best offensive line in college football. Yes, this was our year. So, what happened?

800 plus words in, and I haven't even made my point. SIgh.... Douglas, I know your pain.

The Rams are terrible. What happened? What happened to the offense that was going to take the top off of the defense? Take an argument:

a) The running game

b)The OLine

c)No weapons

d)The coaching

e)The OC


Like I said, I'm not trying to convince you of anything, but you probably fall into one of these groups. So, who do you blame and is it justified.

a) The running game is awful. Teams have no reason to fear it. Richardson has talent and tools, but just can't handle the load. He was hurt 2 games in and noticeably effected by it still in game 4. Cunningham is another runner with some flashes, but hasn't found a single hole to run through this season. Stacey is an above average bench warmer. Obviously, they must improve.

b) The OLine went the first 2 games without allowing a sack. I know that the Cards are a bad team, but their defense is legit, throw in a tough defense at Atlanta and that was an impressive feat. However, they are hurting badly from losing Saffold and having an aging Dahl. Long hasn't played up to snuff and Bradford has happy feet in the pocket already. Bradofrd isn't getting hit hard often, but people are getting in his face and getting hands on him. He rarely has a clean pocket, and that has resulted in some very bad decisions and poorly thrown balls. Underachieving the last two games, but the talent is completely there.

c) Brian Quick still plays football. Yes, my friends, and if you blink, you may miss his one or two catches in the game. If Cook didn't play in week one, he might be battling Quick as the most impressive physical talent to never get open. Bailey hasn't seen a target, and Givens has just 13 catches and no touchdowns. One could realistically ague that Austin Pettis is our best receiver right now. Austin Pettis. Austin.... Pettis. We have talent, but the production is lacking.

d)"I trust Jeff Fisher." "Fisher knows what hes doing". Yeah, we heard it a month ago, but now people are talking that Fisher is too old school, he can't evolve. I don't know which side to fall on, but I'd give the guy that is widely considered one of the best coaches in the league the benefit of the doubt

e)Shotty, how did you get this job? Was Snead so enamored with how polished Sanchez is that he hoped you could work the same magic for Bradford? Wish granted. Shotty has dialed up the Richardson up the gut and tavon one step hitch so many times in a 1st down second down combo that it makes me sick. That, more than anything else, is getting Sam killed. Third and long is the norm and its like chum in the water. I didn't like Shotty in NY and I hate that he is here.

f) Bradford has been in the league for a while now (this is his 4th year). Have we seen improvements? His career completion percentage is down from his rookie year, his td% is the same, and his yards per attempt is just 6.2. He now has more speed than most offenses could dream of, but hasn't done anything with it. Blame the line, blame the play-calling, blame the WRs, but Bradford's numbers are not trending upward the way that you would like a franchise QB to improve.

Realistically, some blame falls on every one of these. Every part of the offense feeds of something else, thats why football is such a team sport, but one bad piece can also bring the team down by itself. What is that piece? Its really impossible to say, but do you have enough evidence that Bradford isn't the problem to extend him? I'm not a Bradford hater. Honestly, I would take him over quite a few young QBs(Ponder, Sanchez, Freeman, Weeden, Gabbert, Geno Smith). Some of you may have a longer list, but these names would probably grace yours as well. The problem is, I wouldn't touch any of those guys, and that still leaves Bradford as an average or below-average QB, that is making an extremely high salary. That yards per attempt stat is frightening. How frightening? Let me just read off the numbers from the QBs i named: Ponder (6.3), Sanchez(6.5), Freeman (6.2), Weeden(6.5), Gabbert (5.5), Smith(8.0).

Of those QBs i named, only one has a worse y/a than Bradford (Gabbert at 5.5. No wonder we are favored by 11 1/2) and out of the six, four have been benched, one is a rookie, and the other is Gabbert, who could be benched at any moment. If that doesn't scare you, I don't know what would. Before you play the blame game one one part of the team or the other, think long and hard about if you would put the Rams' future in Bradford's hands.

Thanks for spending the better part of your day reading this monster. We have a chance to turn it around and for these Rams to prove us all wrong. I believe... just barely. Go Rams!

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