Everything about the St. Louis Rams has changed 2010. The team has new coaches, a new front office, and even a new owner since then, but throughout that time one thing, one person has been a central part of the team's plans: Sam Bradford.
The last regime drafted Sam Bradford with the first overall pick, hitching their future to the Oklahoma product. When Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney got their pink slips, it was the presence of a franchise caliber quarterback that helped lure Jeff Fisher to St. Louis instead of Miami.
Fisher and GM Les Snead tied their efforts to Bradford when they decided to trade away the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft and the chance to select RGIII, in spite of his massive legacy contract that runs through 2015 and carries cap hits exceeding $15 million in each of his seasons.
Prior to Thursday's game, Mike Silver of the NFL Network reported that the Rams were willing to extend Bradford's contract "right now," in the words of executive VP Kevin Demoff.
They might want to hold off on that.
Bradford's struggles never seem to end. The Rams improved pass protection, better receivers ... none it has paid off this season. His play has worsened. All this is happening under the banner of continuity, two years in the same offense with the same playbook at the same coordinator running it was supposed to be the real difference maker.
Circumstances have never been on Bradford's side, despite the organization's outward commitment to the quarterback. Coaching changes, poor personnel moves an a lack of talent around him played a big part in his shortcomings as a pro. That was all supposed to change with Fisher and Snead. It hasn't.
This is 10th time Sam Bradford threw 35+ passes & averaged < than 5 yards per pass. That's more than twice as many as any other QB since '10— Chase Stuart (@fbgchase) September 27, 2013
Bradford's statistics are starting to look like the recently deposed Josh Freeman's numbers. Freeman has a career completion rate of 58.2 percent. Bradford's is 58.3 percent. Freeman's yards per attempt is 6.9 for his career. Bradford's is a dismal 6.2 yards per attempt.
When passing under pressure this season, Bradford's completing 34.5 percent of his throws. That rate was 41.6 percent last season, 38.4 percent in 2011 and 43.1 percent as a rookie.
His accuracy is under fire as well, and with the national media attention that comes with a prime time game, Bradford didn't do anything to change the idea that he's not a franchise quarterback. Over at Pro Football Focus, they broke down two plays where Bradford's arm failed him. Both plays were easy scoring opportunities killed by a bad throw. That includes the first-quarter misfire to the end zone for Austin Pettis.
Throughout his troubled career, Bradford's accuracy has always been the thing that you could come back to, the glimmer of hope that he might still have what it takes.
Bradford had a nice start to the season in a comeback win against the Cardinals. He's played worse in each subsequent week. He hasn't completed more than 60 percent of his passes since Week 1, and his average gain per pass has been less than four yards for the last two weeks.
We've been making excuses for Bradford for years. All of those things -- coaching, talent, protection, etc. -- are valid points. You can't consider Bradford's career without accounting for those factors. They're not noticeably better this season. Neither is Bradford.
The Rams have 12 more games to play. It's likely that Fisher's team is at or near the bottom right now. As for Bradford, he should improve over the course of the season too, providing key players like Jake Long stay healthy and the game plan improves enough to get him some help from his receivers.
St. Louis has two first-round picks in the 2014 draft, and a long list of needs. It also happens to be a good year for quarterbacks, quarterback which come without the financial burden rookie contract carried in 2010. The Rams also have to decide on their offensive coordinator situation. Brian Schottenheimer seems woefully unqualified for the job.
Late September after a bad start to the season isn't the right time to pass a final judgement on Bradford's career. It's also not the time for this franchise to
hitch chain it's fortunes to the fourth-year quarterback.
Not a good sign that every quarterback under Brian Schottenheimer is Mark Sanchez, or becomes him.— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) September 27, 2013