"If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all." This line from the song "Born Under a Bad Sign", as made popular by Cream, seems to be fitting for the St. Louis Rams franchise over the past decade. Since their last playoff appearance, the franchise has run the gamut of professional football misfortune. From wasted draft picks to colossal free agent busts - and of course several poor management choices from top to bottom - it's gone on and on. Possessing the first overall choice in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Rams appeared poised to finally shake some of that bad luck. With their selection the Rams made Sam Bradford, the highest rated quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning, the future of their franchise at QB.
Fast forward to here and now, and what should have been the moment the franchise's fortunes changed looks more like one more stroke of bad luck. The Rams had the bad luck of being the last team to draft first overall under the old CBA. Regardless of what position they had drafted it was going to cost them, it just so happens the thing they needed the most was also going to be the most expensive. Even with the record breaking contract, hopes were high the former Heisman Trophy winner could revive the Rams franchise. In spite of the fact the Rams did little to surround Bradford with talent his rookie year, he managed to take a 1-15 team and go 7-9 his rookie season en route to the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. The Rams also very nearly won the NFC West, falling to the Seattle Seahawks on the road in the season finale.
Considering the Rams had won a total of 6 games in the previous 3 seasons combined, a 7-9 finish and near playoff berth was a shot in the arm to the franchise's fan base. The franchise had also gained some much needed stability, as Stan Kroenke became the full owner in 2010. It was clear there was still much work to do, but with the 2010 OROY under center and the defensive mastermind that helped stop the undefeated New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLII at the helm, real hope for the future was growing amongst the Rams' faithful.
It's no secret that I have personally been driving the bandwagon for #8 since he was drafted in 2010. During my time writing for the good folks over at Ramblin' Fan, I wrote several articles about Bradford. Most of those articles were about Bradford's difficult circumstances, the lousy supporting cast, poor protection, poor coaching, etc. Yes it is true, I am what most people on TST refer to as a "Bradford-Apologist". Even with his most recent ACL injury, I honestly believe Sam Bradford has what it takes to be a Pro-Bowl caliber NFL QB. As much of a fan as I am of #8, it is hard to envision him ever reaching his potential with my beloved Rams.
Every single media outlet had already labeled 2014 as a make or break season for Bradford in St. Louis. This was to be the year he either proved he had what it takes, or he would surely be shown the door by the team. So does the re-injury of his ACL automatically make this a break year? The cold hard fact is the Rams cannot keep Bradford around in 2015 for what his current contract would pay him. Even if Bradford and the Rams were to negotiate a 1 year deal for a very team friendly price - the ultimate make it or break it contract - the Rams would HAVE to drafting a QB in the first round of 2015. Unless of course lightning strikes twice and Shaun Hill leads the team to Super Bowl victory by channeling his inner Kurt Warner? Since there is about a 0.000001% chance of that happening, we can assume Rams scouts will be following the top college football QBs closely this season. A low price Bradford paired with a high draft pick rookie QB sounds rather appealing to me, and also something that isn't entirely out of the real of possibility.
So many sports reporters have spouted off numbers about how many games Bradford has missed since his 2008 Heisman Trophy winning season. Are Bradford's ligaments made out of some sort of medical grade string cheese? I read an interesting article from the National Football Post regarding Sam Bradford's most recent ACL tear, give it a read here. The article gives a little bit of perspective from someone with actual knowledge about medicine; something I as a Mechanical Engineer do not possess one iota. While many would point to his injuries in college, and the ankle injury in 2011, as patterns of his being injury prone, I am not so convinced. Has Bradford missed a large number of games since 2008? Yes of course he has, but his 3 significant injuries also just happened to occur early in their respective seasons. If these injuries had occurred during the 2nd to last game of each of those seasons, the numbers would be drastically different. As the article I linked also suggested, the second ACL tear likely occurred because the ACL hadn't fully grafted yet. The decision to place Bradford in harms way before the surgery had completely healed wasn't made by Bradford, although obviously he agreed to it. Also, do not get me started on the ankle injury, as Spagnuolo's desperation to have a positive play in a lost game was the cause of it, not anything Bradford could control.
Since the ACL injury, the Bradford haters have overwhelmed the Bradford apologists, as quite frankly the injury makes it incredibely difficult to defend Sam's tenure as a Ram. It is, and always has been, my personal opinion that the St. Louis Rams have been much worse for Bradford than he has been for them. If I were to get my way, Bradford and the Rams would find a way to bring him back in 2015, on a no risk to the team contract, and give him a final chance to prove his worth as a starting NFL QB. Since the Rams opted not to use a high draft choice on a QB in 2014, they don't have any obvious choices for a long term successor to #8 anyway. Here is to hoping for a speedy recovery for #8, and a great 2014 season for Shaun Hill and the rest of the St. Louis Rams. Thanks for reading and as always, Go Rams!!!