I'd like nothing better than to see Sam Bradford find a way to miraculously become impervious to injury. If he did, there's little doubt in my mind he'd become an elite NFL quarterback. Bradford is a great young man, and you can't find even one NFL sports writer who dislikes him - which is RARE! Wishes and dreams...
The sad fact is Sam Bradford - though filled with NFL talent - isn't going to make it to the NFL Hall of Fame. Life in the NFL is a combination of skills and physical DNA. It's as much about the pounding football takes on the body, as it is how the mind processes and translates God given gifts to play the game. Nice as a guy can be, Bradford just can't handle the thumping heaped on him playing the game he loves.
He's like a awesome, flashy sports car. You dream of wind in your hair, the roar of the engine, and flying effortlessly down the highway. The car looks like it can do anything, but there's those hidden maintenance cost, and small print limitations in the sale contract you just don't see until it's too late. For Bradford, even he didn't see the words: "Use sparingly on NFL Sundays..."
The last of the uber-contract rookies to come out of the NFL Draft before the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement, Bradford has made a pile of cash. Good for him! I'm glad he has a few shekels in the bank, because it's time for him to bid the NFL adieu.
Sam, your wheels just can't do it. Knees, ankles, shoulders... Hell, they're just the tip of the injury iceberg. You want to get around without a walker when you're older, right? Step away, and live your life in a way that doesn't include a cane or walker to get around. You could coach? Head back to Norman, OK, and I'm sure they'll find a place for you on the O.U. coaching staff. You're a living Sooners legend for God's sake! Maybe you can become a game announcer? You'd probably make more sense than this guy:
OK, a confession of sorts here. I kind of like Gruden's series every year when he talks to college quarterbacks during the NFL Combine evaluations. He's actually kind of fun to watch when he announces game too... Maybe Sam, could team with Gruden in the announcing booth?
Gruden: "It's third and long, and ( insert team name) can't seem to get it! See here! (He points at a telestrator, and shows how the quarterback could've run the ball between five defensive linemen. "If he makes these guys miss, he's gone to the house!" He looks at Sam seated next to him...
Sam stares at him: " Umm... So you're saying ALL (insert Qb's name here) he has to do is squeeze through 1500 lbs of NFL madmen bent of killing him? You didn't tell me we're allowed to drink in the booth?" Sam leans toward Gurden and tries to smell his breath.
Gruden leans away and throws a handful of Tic-Tacs in his mouth... "At this level, quarterbacks have to be willing to go that extra mile..." Gruden realizes who he's talking to, and begins to choke on his Tic-Tacs.
Sam: "Yeah, that works out well so often..." He rubs his knee, then shoulder, before reflexively wiggling his ankle...
The young Mr. Bradford's career couldn't have been more cursed from the start. Rams fans have acknowledged the challenges he's faced since being taken #1 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft. Anyone who says Bradford has been protected by excuses during his career is an idiot. The facts are the facts: He came to a team who lacked offensive linemen and receivers. He endured a boatload of offensive coordinators - all terrible - and head coaching that really didn't want to select him at all. Steve Spagnuolo was all about defense, so taking Bradford wasn't his idea. The Rams offensive player scouting department at the time must have been a mentally challenged guy who's office was stuck in some basement. As he huffed spray paint and ate peyote, he came up with gems like Jason Smith and Mardy Gilyard.
Bradford was sacked at merciless rate. I can't even bring myself to type the number of times he was slammed to the turf, so take a look at the chart below provided by NFL.com. Remember now, this doesn't even include the times he was hit too:
|2013||St. Louis Rams||7||262||159||60.7||37.4||1,687||6.4||241.0||14||5.3||4||1.5||73||19||3||15||97||90.9|
|2012||St. Louis Rams||16||551||328||59.5||34.4||3,702||6.7||231.4||21||3.8||13||2.4||80T||41||8||35||233||82.6|
|2011||St. Louis Rams||10||357||191||53.5||35.7||2,164||6.1||216.4||6||1.7||6||1.7||68||25||3||36||248||70.5|
|2010||St. Louis Rams||16||590||354||60.0||36.9||3,512||6.0||219.5||18||3.1||15||2.5||49||36||4||34||244||76.5|
There's far too much emphasis placed on Bradford's durability based on what's happened to him during his career with St. Louis. Almost anyone in the same position would've folded, but Bradford kept his head up and played his heart out. I say "almost" because there are quarterback who've been able to withstand this kind of beating for the most part - at least for a while anyway.
For instance, Aaron Rodgers has been sacked 259 times in his 10 year NFL career. Tom Brady - during his 15 year career - has been sacked 359 times. Both he and Rodgers have suffered season ending injuries, but not as often as Bradford. So it's fair to say Bradford has taken a beating, but when all is said and done it hasn't broken any record for being hit. John Elway hold that little distinction according to NFL.com:
Times Sacked has been compiled since 1963.
|Most Times Sacked, Career|
|516||John Elway, Denver, 1983-1998|
Dave Krieg, Seattle, 1980-1991; Kansas City, 1992-93; Detroit, 1994; Arizona, 1995; Chicago, 1996;
|484||Randall Cunningham, Philadelphia, 1985-95; Minnesota, 1997-99; Dallas, 2000; Baltimore, 2001|
Putting being sacked aside, we can also look at how tough it's been trying to learn - and settle into - an offense for Bradford. He's had three offensive coordinators since he arrived in the NFL, and all of them were vastly different in the way they approached the game. Pat Shurmur was a conservative coach, who benefited by having Dick Curl as Bradford's first NFL mentor. Curl retired the following year, and the Rams made their first monumental mistake with Sam Bradford: They hire Josh McDaniels as OC, and who took on the QB position coaching job too. Eeeek! It was a disaster from the start, with Daniels slinking out of town after the Rams cleaned house from top to bottom.
When Jeff Fisher arrived, he had to know Bradford was both talented, and slightly damaged from his mishandling to date. He brought in much maligned OC Brian Schottenheimer after his up and down time with the New York Jets. Fans like to argue about "Schotty", and there are some valid concerns about scheme and play calling at times. But for the first time, Bradford had an offense that wasn't complicated beyond reason like McDaniels' - who never matched his offense to the players on the Rams' roster. I reserve judgement when it comes to Schottenheimer's time with Bradford thus far. The two haven't had an entire season together. But anyone who watched Bradford begin to flash brilliance before being injured in 2013 has to allow the offensive scheme was in fact working for both men.
OK, so I've touched on what many will call "excuses" for Bradford. The blame game can be spread far and wide over coaches, but some has to land on Bradford himself too. Through no fault of his own, his body hasn't lasted long enough to make a mark on the Rams or the NFL. I liken him to those blurry fast cars in NASCAR. Ideally, most of the cars are evenly matched. Some drivers win most of the races because they have a gift for driving in high speed circles in a crowd of cars. But if the car breaks down, it doesn't matter how good the driver is, right? For Bradford, his car is his body, and it's more Yugo than souped up Chevy.
Look, I don't want Bradford to go. I think he's the ideal kind of guy anyone would want representing an NFL franchise. But my wishes and dreams for Bradford's success are just that, and it's not going to change. I want the very best for Bradford in life. Sometimes we have to put aside our - gulp! - love for the Rams and take the high road. The Rams will fight on no matter who is at quarterback.
Sam, it's time to think about life after football. Ride off into the sunset, and do it with the knowledge no real Rams fan will think of you as a bust or failure. You represent the very best in players. While there will be those in the media who'll wrongly write your name in badly written articles about "busts", I'll join you in telling them to "%$#& OFF!" Be smart here, Sam. Do what's right for YOU and your life to come...