Editor's Note: I'd like to thank RG31 and Ramfan1313 for coming up with a great idea for an article. I have to admit I chuckled a bit when they asked me to come up with this question list because of how volatile the Sammy B. subject can be here at TST. When I sent it to them, I included a short note: "These questions should get you guys instantly hanged! lol"
I hope you enjoy their work as I have, and will remember to thank them in the comments.
A few weeks ago I suggested to RG31 that we write an article together for the TST community. Our relationship has been adversarial at times, although we both respect each other's opinions (and sometimes even agree with each other). We both thought this type of article would be fun, interesting, and a little out of the ordinary. We agreed that, if you're going to have a debate, why not make it about the most controversial subject on TST: Sam Bradford. To add a little spice, I asked Douglas M if he would be the "moderator" for this debate. He graciously agreed to offer his assistance, posing a series of questions that are guaranteed to arouse the passions of the TST community. We hope you enjoy!
Douglas M: Pretend for a second you're Sam Bradford, and Jeff Fisher hands you the Rams' #16 pick in the coming draft. Who would you pick from Sam's point of view?
RG31: Tavon Austin and skip my ass on out the door.
Ramfan 1313: This is difficult for me to envision (as I am not an advocate of drafting a guard in the top twenty picks), but if Chance Warmack is there at #16, I have to take him (and WR Robert Woods in the second round). I would have picked Cordarrelle Patterson at #16 before the Rams signed Jared Cook. At this point, continuing to build a strong offensive line holds the key to a successful season for both Sam Bradford and the Rams offense. Les Snead is quoted as saying that they draft the player, not the position. Besides, while we have been promoting#KeepCalmAndSneadOn, Sam has been busy printing his own T-shirts: #MakingItClearKeepMeOffOfMyRear.
Douglas M: Which of his current receivers will Sam Bradford look to for a "security blanket" now that Danny Amendola is gone?
Ramfan 1313: I hope none of them. A strong offensive line is the best "security blanket" that Sam could ever have. In addition to Jared Cook, I am certain the Rams will add a quality receiver in the first two rounds of this years draft (Woods? Patton? Hopkins? Hunter? Wheaton? Allen? Patterson? Austin?). Cook, Kendricks, Quick, Givens and the newly drafted receiver should be able to create mismatches all over the field and allow for a diversified passing attack, one that negates any need for a "security blanket" receiver. At any rate, when you miss 20 out of 32 games like Amendola did the last two seasons, that isn't much of a "security blanket" in my mind.
RG31: Givens, there's not another receiver on this team that he trusted in more than Givens this past season and with another under their belts they should develop an even better rapport.
Douglas M: Is the honeymoon over for Sam Bradford?
RG31: No, not until he gets a capable surrounding cast that can be depended on. Until then, his apologists will continue to point out how weak his surroundings have been and how unstable the coaching staff has been.
Ramfan 1313: Not just yet. Stronger organization? Check. Quality coaching staff? Check. Continuity and stability? Check. The front office have given every indication that they will provide Sam with a better quality line and weapons this off season (Cook and Long were a good start). When those two considerations finally have check marks beside them, then the honeymoon will be over shortly thereafter.
Douglas M: Does Sam Bradford have what it takes to become an elite quarterback?
Ramfan 1313: That all depends on your definition of "elite quarterback". My criteria for an elite QB? Winning and Quarterback Ratings. My standards for those criteria? Over the last five years, an average QBR of 97.0, 4 playoff wins, a Super Bowl win and a winning percentage of .625. I believe it is too early to tell if he has what it takes to become an elite quarterback. In all fairness, it took a number of seasons to make that determination for the likes of Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers. However, I would be quite happy if he rose at least to the levels of Eli Manning, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger. He is more than capable of becoming an outstanding quarterback.
RG31: Yes, there's not one glaring hole in Sam's game that you see and say "well that can't be fixed". Pocket presence, more coaching and better line. Lock on to receivers, better receivers. Poor in the redzone, better receivers that will actually go up and catch the ball (I'm talking to you Quick).
Douglas M: Based on what you've seen of Sam Bradford so far in his career, rate his progress 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest grade. Explain why you gave him the grade.
RG31: In complete objectivity, I'd probably have to give him no better than a 6. Yes, his numbers have been mediocre, but for the most part he has hung in there with no complaints and just played ball. I could go up to 7, but that would be pushing it a bit. The bottom line for me with Sam is, when he's in the game I feel like the Rams have a great chance of winning the game. With that kind of feeling with him playing with mediocre talent at best, once he gets some more help he should elevate his game to a new level.
Ramfan 1313: A solid 6 at this point in time. When thinking about Bradford, Joe Flacco always seems to enter my thoughts. Given his recent success and individual performance, I would give Flacco a grade of 7.0/ 7.5. If Bradford had the supporting cast that Flacco has enjoyed, he too would be at least a 7. I believe that Bradford will be a 7 (or higher) if you ask me this question a year from now.
Douglas M: Is Sam Bradford ready to step into a team leadership role like the one Steven Jackson held?
Ramfan 1313: Before the start of last season, the answer would have been no. It was Jackson, not Bradford, that called out Brian Quick in training camp last year. However, as the season progressed, one could sense the reins of leadership being taken over by Bradford. Maybe Jeff Fisher said it best after the season:
"You know we saw it was coming (in 2012). Sam really took things over the second half of the season. We've got guys who can stand up and take charge and carry the torch. I'm not concerned about that. Sam, I was very impressed with how he handled things." - Coach Jeff Fisher on the development of QB Sam Bradford as a leader.
It is also time for Sam to have a little chat with Saffold: telling him to put on his man panties, appreciate the fact he is a millionaire ALREADY, and go out there and protect his butt for SIXTEEN games............
RG31: It doesn't matter if he's ready or not, he'll have to by the time the season rolls around. I think he is due to the fact that Fisher let Jackson go without that much of a fight in all honesty. If he wasn't ready, then Fisher would have seen it and would have never let Jackson go. I saw signs of his leadership as the season went on. He doesn't need to be loud like Jackson, he just needs to do his job and lead by example. Everyone else should just fall into line.
Douglas M: Has Sam Bradford's seeming dependence on a single receiver (Amendola) hurt his development?
RG31: Yes, to a certain extent, but the dependence on Amendola wasn't completely his fault. There was no other receiver on this roster that could be trusted week in and week out to catch the ball consistently. Still, he did lock onto Amendola quite a bit although there was other options (sometimes wide open) that would have been a better decision. On the other hand, almost every quarterback has a certain receiver that they trust more than the others. With Brady it was Welker, with Sam it was Amendola. We'll see how much his development was hurt this upcoming season when he doesn't have him anymore.
Ramfan 1313: Very little effect on his development. I think it is fairly common for a quarterback in the NFL to trust one receiver on his team more than others in his receiving corps. Many and much bigger factors have had a negative impact on Bradford's development. When you look at some of the successful franchises in the NFL (Pittsburgh, New England, Baltimore, Green Bay and the Giants come to mind) they all have created organizations and put together supporting casts that allow a quarterback to thrive. We are finally heading in the right direction. In the first four games that Sam was without Amendola last season, he had quarterback ratings of 91.3, 82.4, 88.9 and 81.3 (an average of 86.0). His overall QBR for the year was 82.6. He did just fine without Amendola, and will do so again this year. In addition, whoever is taking Danny's place is not likely to miss 20 out of the next 32 games.
Douglas M: Is 2013 a "make or break" year for Sam Bradford? Should the Rams consider using one of their two 2014 first round picks on a quarterback if Bradford doesn't improve on his 2012 performance during the 2013 season?
RG31: The answers for both questions are the same, no. This is not Sam's make it or break it year. For one, I believe Snead has already come out and said that it's not. If he's saying this then it forces me to believe that him and Fisher have talked about it. You might say that they're just giving him confidence and to that I just laugh. Fisher has never kept his mouth shut about his quarterback, remember what happened with Young. Young was the first overall draft pick and Fisher still voiced that he didn't want him as his QB. Fisher's main reason for coming to the Rams was because of Sam, I highly doubt he gives up on him in two seasons unless he's downright atrocious (which I doubt). They're trying to build something with the Rams and giving up on the franchise QB midway wouldn't be wise. Add that to the fact that right now I don't see any QB in next years draft that is better than Sam and that's an even bigger hell no. Sam will at least have this upcoming season and the 2014-15 season to show what he's got, mark my words.
Ramfan 1313: When Jeff Fisher came to the Rams last year, I believe he had a plan in mind on how to turn around the fortunes of this football team. A three year (maybe even four year) plan, one which will turn this team into a Super Bowl contender. At the heart of that plan was Sam Bradford. Bradford was undoubtedly one of the bigger reasons he came here in the first place. We are now into the second year of the "plan". There is no way that Fisher will abandon that plan part way through it. The answer to both questions is NO. I will say this, however. If Fisher and Snead have a great draft and add the remaining pieces (OLine and playmakers) and Bradford regresses and has a mediocre season, there will be a lot of people (including many on TST) who will be calling for Bradford's head. I won't be one of them, but I sure as hell will be left scratching my head.
Douglas M: Last season, Sam Bradford ranked in the neighborhood of #14 to #19 among his NFL peers at different points in the season. Will Bradford stay in the middle of the NFL quarterback pack in 2013?
Ramfan 1313: Sam Bradford ended up ranked #18 over the entire 2012 season. Again, I always seem to fall back to comparing him with Joe Flacco. To put things into perspective, Flacco ended up being the #12 ranked QB over the 2012 season. I believe that Bradford will continue to develop and that Fisher and Snead will add more to the offense in the upcoming draft (and the remainder of free agency). These are the numbers I predict Bradford will achieve in 2013: 340 completions on 565 attempts (60.2%), 3900 passing yards, 23 TD's and 11 INT's, 87.2 QBR. Based on last season, that would be good enough to be ranked #14. I would be happy with that. And those numbers are realistic.
RG31: No, I think he'll be close, if not in the top 10 this coming season. He's got a coaching staff that trusts him and a stable offensive coordinator for the first time in his NFL career. He won't be "elite", but his true talent should shine through.
Both RG and I extend many thanks for following and reading this debate. Your comments and opinions are welcomed and appreciated. Please vote in the poll and tell us how YOU think Sam Bradford will perform in the upcoming season.