The pistol. The read option. Spread formations. Athletic quarterbacks. Just a few of the many schemes and personnel groupings that have taken the world of football by storm. Names like Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III, Johnny “Football” Manziel, excite even the most casual of fans. Young QB’s that seem to do stuff athletically, once only immortalized in video games.
As exciting as these new players and schemes are – I firmly believe there will always be a spot in the upper echelon in the NFL for the ‘ole drop back passer! Remember him? You know, the guy who’s 40 time needed to be timed with a sun dial. The guy reminiscent of your granddaddy’s favorite football players you heard about growing up. Sure you remember him. There were three of those guys playing on championship weekend this past season! Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady all led their respective teams to a shot at the Super Bowl. Neither will be mistaken for this new breed of QB. So let’s not go throwing the traditional pocket passer away just yet. There is a guy who resides in the ‘Show Me State’ that will have a major say so in the pantheons of NFL folklore! His name you ask?? Sam Bradford!!!
Quick question. Which team had the best record inside the vaunted NFC West division? The upstart Seattle Seahawks you say? An early pick to reach the Super Bowl next season? The budding juggernaut San Francisco 49ers? The overwhelming favorite to actually win the Super Bowl, a game they participated in this past season?
Uh no. That would be the 7-8-1 St. Louis Rams! The Rams went 4-1-1 inside what many think is the best division in football (Relax NFC South). Led by my pick to be the next great young QB in the league. Sam Bradford was the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He was the offensive rookie of the year on a team that won only 1 game the previous season. The jump from 1-15 to 7-9 was one of the biggest turnarounds of concurrent seasons in NFL history. Bradford looked to be on a fast track to being possibly the next Tom Brady. Second year head coach Steve Spagnuolo along with first year offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur installed a traditional West Coast offensive scheme that seemed to highlight Bradford’s best attributes. The first of which being accuracy. Relying on a heavy run game that set up play-action, Bradford was able to complete 60% of his throws. Many of the short variety to possibly the worst group of receiving talent in the NFL. Names like Mardy Gilyard, Brandon Gibson, Laurent Robinson and Danny Amendola headed Bradford’s top pass targets. (He finshed with 18TD’s, 15 Int’s and over 3,500 yards) But as success goes in the NFL, change usually comes.
Shurmur’s work with Bradford landed him a head coaching job in Cleveland. But instead of hiring a coach familiar with the West Coast offense to promote continuity, the contingency decided to go in a completely different direction with the hiring of vertical passing guru Josh McDaniels. Who just two seasons earlier landed a head coaching job off of his work with the New England Patriots and their record breaking offense of 2007. This proved to be a costly mistake as the personnel didn’t fit this type of a scheme.
I truly believe that Sam Bradford can play in any scheme and make any throw with superior velocity, accuracy, and timing. But for it to truly be effective, you need fast vertical receivers. Which the Rams didn’t have outside of an injury prone Danario Alexander. And you need a very stout pass blocking offensive line. It’s one thing to lack the receivers, it becomes a proverbial suicide mission to lack pass protection. Needless to say this scheme got Bradford hurt right away – as he only managed to play in 10 games. All of which he was hampered by injury. Bradford finished with 6 TD’s and 6 INT’s, 2100 yards with only 53.5% of his passes completed. So in the National Football League – with failure, comes change…
Bradford’s third year brought about a new general manager in Les Snead, former personnel guy for the highly successful Atlanta Falcons. A new head coach in the highly respected former Tennessee Titan head man, Jeff Fisher. And finally, a new offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer, who had success with the New York Jets with a young QB in Mark Sanchez. Schottenheimer’s offensive scheme blends West Coast principles with a tinge of the vertical passing game.
This whole new regime proved to be just what the doctor ordered as Sam had a resurgence and went for career high’s across the board. He had 21 TD’s, 13 Int’s, completed 60% of his passes for 3,702 yards and an 82.6 rating. The offensive line was upgraded in talent, and just added former 2008 #1 overall pick Jake Long to serve as the anchor of that line. Rookie receiver Chris Givens was a major surprise and looks to be a premiere deep threat at the X receiver position. Tight end Lance Kendricks had a solid year and will be coupled with possibly the most athletic tight end in football in former Titan Jared Cook Jr.
By all accounts, the Rams will be targeting another play-maker at receiver. Second year running backs Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead look to take over for long time Rams workhorse Steven Jackson. The Rams have one of the youngest rosters and one of the most explosive set of personnel groupings in the league. Coupled with a tenacious defense full of young stars as well that finished 14th overall last season – it’s a safe bet that the Rams will be a force of competitive nature. And it’s suffice to say that Sam Bradford and his “Old School” way of quarterbacking will be among the “Elite” for many years to come. Ask RGIII, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick – and the rest of the new breed of QB’s…All who fell victim last season to one Mr. Sam Bradford and his upstart St. Louis Rams.