My man Hawk laid out a well-elucidated, cohesive, coherent argument as to why this isn't a make or break year for Sam Bradford in 2013. His argument, that they don't really exist at all, was well summarized in the final paragraph:
I don’t believe in "make-or-break" years. No amount of yards through the air, or wins proves if a quarterback is worth his salt. Bad quarterbacks have won a lot of games, and good quarterbacks have lost a lot games. If the Rams organization believes in Bradford’s talent, he will be the quarterback of the future, 4,000 yards passing or not.
Putting aside the difficulty of defining what the threshold between breaking and making is, that "if" Hawk closes with is the essence of the make or break conundrum (MOBC™).
If the Rams organization still "believes in" Sam after this year, we're in for a "make" season. If not, you only have one other option.
Mike Sando put the salary issue in the proper perspective on the ESPN NFC West blog. Jeff Gordon at the P-D examined how Bradford helped Danny Amendola, Brandon Gibson and Lance Kendricks all improve. Both are key points. And both Hawk and Bernie Miklasz in his new video series noted that Bradford's performance in 2012 wasn't all that dissimilar from QBs like Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Cam Newton, Eli Manning or Joe Flacco, QBs who are in no danger of losing their starting gig any time soon.
But here's the money quote from Bernie to wrap up the first segment of that video:
So as he heads into his fourth season, Bradford will be surrounded by the most talent that he's ever had with him in the huddle in the NFL. He'll also be working for the same offensive coordinator for two years in a row for the first time as a pro.
Indeed, it's time for Sam Bradford's career to take off in a big way.
Because the fortune of the franchise may depend on it.
Two those last two statements: it is, and it does.
Now I'll be unequivocal here -- I'm confident that Sam can step up his performances individually and put up better numbers, whatever that's worth to you. I'm confident that, if we're keeping things aligned with the MOBC, he'll end up on the make side.
But there are two sides to this coin.
I don't think it's far from a unanimous agreement that, as Bernie noted, Sam Bradford has more talent to work with than at any point in his career. That being said, there's no reason that he shouldn't have better statistical outputs by season's end. But what if it's marginal improvement? What if, Isaac Bruce forbid, there's a decline in some areas?
Now I'm not comparing the two, but consider Alex Smith's 2010 season. It was his first opportunity to have his offensive coordinator retained in San Francisco....for five weeks. After Jimmy Raye was fired, QB coach Mike Johnson stepped into the OC role looking to run more spread concepts that aligned with Smith's experience in college (hmm, who have I heard that about recently...).
You might point to the 2011 season and even early 2012 for as long as Smith held the starting job in San Francisco. I'll tell you 2010 was his MOBC year, and he broke.
So I'm not saying that the Rams, should Bradford regress this season, have to ship him off to football hell (DUVAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAL...just kidding for you Jaguars/Rams equifans) and spend one of their two 2014 first round selections on a QB.
I am saying that they'd think about it. That they'd entertain it. I don't think it's going to happen, and I certainly hope it doesn't.
But mediocrity doesn't have staying power.
Sam Bradford has to step up.