Coming out of college, the expectations were extremely high for former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. The Heisman trophy winner with a Golden arm signed the richest rookie deal ever with over 20 million in guaranteed money. There was an immense amount of pressure on him to perform at a high level, and he did.
In his rookie season in 2010, Bradford won the NFC offensive rookie of the year and broke the record for completions in a season. Although the Rams went a mediocre 7-9 that year, all indications were that the Rams had found their franchise quarterback who would led them for years to come.
Then, the injury bug struck. Bradford suffered a severe high ankle sprain during 2011 that kept him out of seven games. He finished that year with just 6 touchdowns against 6 interceptions. He was able to bounce back in 2012 with a respectable 21 touchdowns, 60% completion percentage, and almost 4,000 yards.
2013 was the year he was supposed to put it all together. It was an offseason in which he could focus on improving his game, rather than just getting healthy. He was off to a great start but then tore his ACL, causing him to miss the entire season. He was on pace last year to throw over 30 touchdowns with less than 10 interceptions.
I believe that if he can stay healthy, Bradford will finally prove that he is an above average quarterback in this league capable of leading his team to the playoffs. The Rams have put together a solid offensive line this year so Bradford will most likely stay upright and avoid any type of injury. They also feature a potent running game that will take the pressure off Bradford and allow him to strike in the play action passing attack.
Although Bradford might not be the elite quarterback some people though he was going to be, he still has a strong arm and makes good decisions when he is not under pressure. I think the Rams are following the same type of blueprint that brought the Steelers and Ravens championships in the past. That is, a great running attack paired with an aggressive, attacking defense with a quarterback who is not asked to do to much.
One of the reasons I believe that Bradford has received so much scrutiny, aside from the fact of him being a number one overall pick, is that Rams fans were spoiled by the “Greatest show on Turf” with the likes of Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger picking apart defenses with Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt catching passes.
Rams fans need to get used to the new direction that the team is taking. This smash mouth style of play does not require an elite quarterback with superhero receivers, just ask fans in Baltimore and Pittsburgh. Although they will not admit it, Joe Flacco and Ben Roethlisberger were not elite quarterbacks but controlled the ball and made plays when they needed to while relying on a solid running game and fierce defense.
In 2014, Sam Bradford will show that he is a leader who is capable of controlling the ball and clock and not making to many mistakes. He will get the ball in playmakers hands and let them do what they do. Rams fans should have faith in Bradford not for being an elite quarterback, but for being able to manage the game make plays when the coaching staff asks him to.