The Sam Bradford Conundrum(How the St. Louis Rams can fix their team in a hurry)
Written by Curt Popejoy on 04/17/2012
I am sweating a little about Sam Bradford. In 2010 I banged the drum for the former Oklahoma Sooner as the No. 1 overall pick to the St. Louis Rams. And at the end of his rookie year I was feeling great about my choice to hype him so hard. And don't misunderstand me. My belief in Bradford centers around his skills, not the fact he played for my Sooners. There were parts of his game that really stood out to me, including his decision making, anticipation and quick release that told me he had what he needed to be a star in the league.
And so last year, going into the season I was confident but not overly confident. Why? While I still felt great about what Bradford could do as a quarterback, I wasn't sure the Rams had done what they needed to put pieces around him in particular at offensive line and wide receiver for him to compete. He certainly wasn't going to carry the team again in his second year and with a new offensive coordinator.
Then the wheels fell off. First on defense. Injuries ravaged the team and forced Bradford to become one dimensional as they were constantly playing from behind. Bradford spent a good chunk of most games running for his life as his wide outs couldn't get open and his line couldn't protect. It finally capped with Bradford taking enough hits that he was in injured.
What all this did for St. Louis was it cost their head coach and his staff their jobs and got them the 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NFL draft. Sort of the norm for bad football teams. But the Rams didn’t just go through the motions.
And here is where things got interesting. As the draft season has progressed, it became apparent that for the bulk of the draft world, the 2 best players in this draft were quarterbacks. And with that, the Rams and their new head coach Jeff Fisher had to make a decision. Do they believe in Sam Bradford, or do they draft Baylor's Robert Griffin III? They showed their commitment to Bradford by actually trading out of the No.2 pick, moving back to No. 6, and getting a King's ransom for it.
I never even considered the Rams taking a quarterback. Bradford has been forced to endure an awful team and two different offensive coordinators in two seasons. But lately I have been hearing this question asked. First of Fisher, and then of Rams running back Steven Jackson. Please excuse me as a paraphrase, but I was a little shocked by both responses.
When Fisher was asked he denied any consideration, even saying that on the word of some friends in the league Bradford is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, he just hasn't had a chance to show it. That's high praise from the new head coach.
But when Jackson was asked, his response was far less supportive. He said something to the effect of, it's too soon to give up on Bradford. Hardly a ringing endorsement for his signal caller. Maybe he's just a little bitter that so many mock drafts have the Rams drafting Alabama running back Trent Richardson.
There was a third comment from earlier in the offseason that I found interesting. Former Ram wide out Brandon Lloyd, while still being a free agent was asked about why he wanted to go play for the New England Patriots so badly. And again I paraphrase, but he said something to the effect of having played with Bradford he got a taste of playing for a franchise quarterback and liked it. Once again pretty high praise and there was no reason to be anything but honest.
So which guy is Bradford? I happen to think that Bradford is a franchise quarterback. But any quarterback no matter how great has to have the pieces in place to be successful. One of those pieces is coaching. Fisher is a huge upgrade, but so is new offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer. I hope he stays and he and Bradford can work together over time, because he's shown that he can make quarterbacks better.
But what about weapons on offense? I know many Rams fans are hopeful that a guy like Justin Blackmon is going to be the answer to the team's ills on offense. Let me say this. I like Blackmon as a prospect, but he's not AJ Green. He's not Julio Jones. He's more like Dez Bryant or Hakeem Nicks. Good players, but he's not going to save the Rams offense. That's mainly because their offensive line is still underwhelming. THey need to hope that Roger Saffold can develop as a top LT, and that former first round pick Jason Smith can salvage his career at RT after being way overdrafted.
They also need to pray that the defense can stay healthy and stop someone. The Rams became so one dimensional last year as they were playing from behind constantly. They must hope Robert Quinn can become the edge rusher they need and the secondary can field a healthy unit for the course of the season.
But this is about Bradford. So goes the quarterback, so goes the team. Looking at the moves the Rams have made and what's left to do, I can't help but think the Rams haven't done enough in terms of weapons around him. Does a starting tandem of Brandon Gibson and Danny Amendola scare opposing secondaries? Especially with an aging running back and mediocore pass catcher at tight end.
What would I do? If I were the Rams, I'd contact the Pittsburgh Steelers and package some of those picks they got in their trade back, and make a deal for Mike Wallace. He's not a top priority for the Steelers and his pressence would be felt moreso than any player they could draft. I'd even argue that there's not a player they could take at 6 who could do for this team what Wallace could. Trade the Steelers the No. 6 pick and the first pick in the 2nd round for Wallace and the Steelers first round pick(no. 24) and upgrade 2 positions in a hurry.
What does the future hold for Sam Bradford? When I watch him on a healthy team, I see a player that can lead a team to a Super Bowl. And I feel better about his future with a stable, established head coach/offensive coordinator who won't be getting canned at the end of the season. Rams fans got a taste of what Bradford can do 2 seasons ago, and I predict that the Sam Bradford you see this year will be even better. If the Rams really want to get better, and get better soon, they are in a perfect position to do so. They have really good coaches, some excellent draft picks, and with a move like the Wallace trade could turn the corner sooner rather than later.
St. Louis Rams Mock Draft
Rd.1(6)-Traded to the Steelers for Mike Wallace
Rd. 1(24)-Stephon Gilmore, CB South Carolina
Rd. 2(7)-Coby Fleener, TE Stanford
Rd. 3(2)-Brandon Brooks, OG Miami(OH)
Rd. 4(1)-Robert Turbin, RB Utah State
Rd. 6(1)-Travis Lewis, OLB Oklahoma
Rd. 7(2)-Tavon Wilson, S Illinois
Last Edited: 04/17/2012