Fire up the outrage machine. Bernie Miklasz did the unthinkable over at the Post-Dispatch. He dared question Sam Bradford following more inconsistency from the St. Louis Rams quarterback. More to the point, Miklasz dared question Jeff Fisher and the Rams' unwillingness to call him out when he has a bad game, like he did this week.
As Fisher described the Jets effectiveness at covering the St. Louis receivers, he spoke about the necessity of getting rid of the football and added, "and Sam was holding onto the ball."
Whoa ... what do we have here?
Was Fisher upset with Bradford's indecisive, slo-mo, play in the pocket? Was he suggesting that Bradford needed to be more assertive, even if it meant throwing the ball away?
Bradford struggled through one of his poorest games as a Ram, and everyone in the stadium could see it.
Well, not quite everyone.
"I'm not faulting Sam by any means," Fisher said, making a quick backpedal. "I'm just complimenting the defense. That's a tough defense to play against."
You can blame the protection, the receivers, the playcalling or whatever else you can find, but the simple fact is that the Rams quarterback was part of the problem this week. There, it's been said, and I expect to have a long string of pissed off comments about how unfair the world is for this Oklahoma everyman.
Read the rest of Bernie's column. He's not throwing Bradford under the bus, not at all. In fact, he ultimately comes out in defense of the Rams quarterback, while making a point that's too often missing in the discussion: it's okay to be critical of the quarterback.
Through 36 games, Bradford's still struggling to find consistency. And the answer isn't blaming the circumstances around him.
The Rams need Bradford to become the kind of quarterback that can carry the team instead of being a quarterback that the team must carry ... Bradford doesn't have to be perfect. But why must everything around him be perfect for the Rams to win games?
The previous coaching staff would send me into a blind rage on Monday last year, parading themselves in front of a handful of thinking journos lost in a room full of outdated radio jocks to tell the world that everything was fine. The players played well, and, gosh darn it, these losses would get ironed out if everyone just kept on trucking. Except things never changed.
Fisher's press conferences sit somewhere on the more rational side of the spectrum. He's Belichickian in his brevity, but has usually been pretty forthcoming about the team's problems, except when it comes to the quarterback. We've heard him say linemen need to make blocks and receivers need to make catches, but, as Miklasz noted, we've yet to hear him say Sam has to make some plays himself.
So here we are in this mindless hogwash of sentimentality, protecting a third-year veteran as if he had just been released into the wild, still learning to fend for himself. In reality, Bradford's nearing the halfway point of his rookie contract, the last of the league's big rookie giveaways based solely on potential.
We're still waiting to see that potential on a regular basis, not settling for three or four big performances a year and telling ourselves that's all we need to see.
Personally, I have my doubts about whether or not he can be the kind of elite quarterback that comes with the expectations of being the first overall pick in the NFL draft. That doesn't mean I think Bradford's a lost cause, as I've said before. But that's not really the point I'm trying to make here.
Bradford's a professional athlete, a public figure that is open to any and all fair criticism from fans and his coaches. The notion that a professional football should be spared from the whims of hungry fans is absurd. Athletes are entertainers above all else, actors with a different skill set. It's fair to wonder if they're doing their job, whether that's putting together a good film or leading the way past a woeful New York Jets team.
Until the Rams quarterback can be a consistent presence for the offense, he's going to be questioned. Grow up. Get used to it, and don't get your knickers in a bunch over it (but do keep any and all criticism out of the realm of personal attack).
Those of you getting hurt feelings at the first mention of Bradford's struggles are experiencing the same thing. We all share in high expectations for the Rams signal caller. Some fans get upset with him when he doesn't deliver; other fans get defensive about him because he's not delivering. It's a course in Fan Psych 101.
Until Bradford develops some consistency, it's not going to go away either. We should all, the coaches included, start by acknowledging that.