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Thread: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

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    Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    Iím going to take a bit of a different approach this week in the Post-Game article, so hang in there on this one, folks.

    The tone of Sunday night and Mondayís discussions seemed to be a shotgun approach, as they usually are Ė hit a number of topics in anger regarding why the Rams didnít come up with a victory. But one target that was really in the crosshairs this week, much more than in any previous weeks, was Sam Bradford.

    The criticism of the Ramsí young franchise quarterback has reached an all-time high, this only weeks after most concluded that Mel Kiper was out of his mind for claiming the Rams should trade Sam and draft Andrew Luck if they had the opportunity. Public opinion is starting to shift; even if the criticism of Bradford is still only originating from a minority of the fanbase, itís a minority thatís larger than it was at this time two weeks ago.

    In the wake of this post-game fervor, I find myself reassessing where I stand. Four weeks ago, I said this...

    Bradford is "part of the solution" in that he's one of the young pieces this franchise needs to build around. He has the skills and the intelligence to be a very good quarterback, and the Rams need to surround him with better tools so he can grow and reach that potential. You can see flashes of what he's capable of doing every week, though. He's going to be one of the players that will help turn this franchise around.

    Having said that, Sam is not playing perfect football out there and he'd be the first to tell you that. Yes, he isn't well protected. Yes, his receivers are dropping balls. But he's also failing to see the entire field at times, holding onto the ball too long, and not being as accurate as we all know he can be, especially in the red zone. When you play poorly, then yes, you become part of the problem. In Sam's case, he represents a very small part and one that will likely correct itself once Sam finds himself in better circumstances.
    And I think it still applies. While I havenít had a chance to watch yesterdayís game yet, all indications are that Sam was part of the problem against Seattle.

    I think, though, that we run the risk of arguing against straw-man positions if we continue to refer to ďthe problem,Ē as if there is only one. I think if you straight up asked Rams fans what ďthe problemĒ is, maybe theyíd be able to boil it down to what they think is the biggest issue, but I bet 99 out of 100 would tell you there is more than just one ďproblemĒ on this team. There are plenty of them.

    The injuries are a problem, the installation of an offensive system in a shortened offseason is a problem, the poor offensive line play is a problem, the lack of progress at receiver is a problem, the regression of Fred Robbins and James Hall are problems, the failure of the recently acquired outside linebackers to play consistent effective football is a problem, the teamís inability to carry seven starting-caliber cornerbacks is a (tongue-in-cheek) problem, etc.

    And yes, the play of the quarterback is a problem.

    Yesterday against the Seahawks, Sam again had a ball tipped and intercepted, and again, he was staring down one side of the field and telegraphing his throw. Bradford was sacked five times on the day, and at least three if not four of them were partially his fault for holding onto the ball too long. On one occasion, he bobbled a shotgun snap and just ate the sack.

    But the concerning play did not just start yesterday. This season, Bradford has accounted for five touchdowns and eleven turnovers. That total becomes seven touchdowns to eighteen turnovers if you extend the window to the final five games of 2010. Or, if you'd rather, thirteen touchdowns and nineteen turnovers if you start from the bye week of last year. His red zone quarterback rating is 62.5, which ranks 14th in the NFC. His fourth-quarter quarterback rating is 68.9, which ranks 16th in the NFC. Not the NFL, the NFC. These arenít good numbers, folks, and this is just a small portion of the points some could make about Bradfordís play.

    So, I think the biggest question one has to ask in the context of this discussion is, why is Sam Bradford struggling?

    Now again, we could list the variety of outside factors Ė injuries, protection, lack of weapons, lack of offseason, etc. Those certainly apply here and make it very difficult to achieve success. But anyone who has watched a game this season knows that those things arenít happening on every single play. Yes, the protection has been poor overall this season. But itís not as if Bradford is under immediate duress on every drop back. While the protection hasnít been great over the course of the season, it becomes so much more important to take advantage of the times when it is adequate. Yes, the receivers are not consistently getting open and have dropped balls. While the receivers havenít been great over the course of the season, it becomes so much more important to take advantage of the times when they are doing their jobs. And again, if weíre being honest, there have been a number of times this season when the protection was adequate, when a receiver was open, and Sam did not execute well enough to achieve a successful result.

    You have to remember that Bradford comes from a college program where he was rarely pressured or sacked. He was surrounded by NFL-quality talent along the offensive line and at receiver. That makes for a big adjustment coming to the pros, an adjustment that Steve Spagnuolo and Pat Shurmur tried to soften by using a dink-and-dunk, high percentage, check-down heavy, ďget the ball out of your hands quicklyĒ offense. That saved Sam from some of the tough growing pains other first round quarterbacks have had to experience in the past, but I think due to what weíre seeing now, itís fair to wonder if that offensive scheme and gameplan was really growing Sam as a professional quarterback or adequately preparing him for life in the NFL.

    Whereas quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and Marc Bulger spent years sustaining beatings in the Martz offenses before displaying the symptoms of Battered Quarterback Syndrome, some would argue Sam Bradford is beginning to show the signs merely a year and a half into his pro career. Simply put, I donít think Sam is used to taking this kind of punishment. Itís new to him.

    Iím beginning to fear that weíre dividing into two camps Camp A believes the quarterback is primarily a victim of his circumstances, and Camp B who believes that the quarterback is a contributor to those circumstances. By drawing a line in the sand, each camp exaggerates the otherís position. Camp B will falsely claim that those in Camp A arenít holding Sam responsible for his play or think heís blameless. Camp A will falsely claim that those in Camp B are ignoring the woeful circumstances around Bradford by labeling him as ďthe problem.Ē

    Iím really not interested in any of that. We most recently went through it with Marc Bulger, and it birthed more snipes and attacks than it did meaningful discussions and debates. Iím merely interested in being honest, and when you take an honest look at the Rams and Sam Bradford this year, youíll find a quarterback playing bad football on a bad team.

    Does that necessarily make him a bad quarterback? No, but heís beginning to display some bad habits that are going to have to be corrected. That not only means the Rams doing a better job protecting him and improving the talent around him, but it also means Sam taking it upon himself to identify those areas and improve upon them.

    Sam Bradford is an exceptionally talented quarterback with incredible potential as an NFL signal-caller. But he now finds himself in less than ideal circumstances, and heís not responding well to them. Which direction will the story of Sam Bradford take?

    Will he refocus his efforts and become the leader who brings this team out of shadow? Or will he allow the circumstances around him to erode his physical and mental talents to the point of no return?

    Only time will tell.
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    Re: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    Great insights and I totally agree. I'm not one of those who thinks drafting Andrew Luck is any kind of a solution but Bradford needs to raise his game up. If he can only excel at dink/dunk or when the OL is playing near-perfect and so are the WR's, plus SJ is getting 4+ yards every touch, Rams could play well with ANY QB.

    For a 1st overall pick at QB, I expect better. I also think him missing his senior year hasn't helped his development and Bradford will be more of a project than what was originally thought. He's got all the tools but mentally still has some real maturing to do and he could definitely use a good QB coach to help him break some of the bad habits he started showing late last year and all of this year.

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    Re: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    Good Post Nick

    We could (and probably will) go on for the rest of the season (and beggining of the next one) asking ourselves if Sam is the man.
    I truly believe so... but as everybody knows, it boils down to W&L, and this one is all on him.
    Probably Flacco and Ryan would have perfomed same or even worst than Bradford on this team, we would never know. But we do know that Stafford took 3 years to become somewhat consistent (and let's not even start talking about smith in SF, how many years? 5-6?)

    BUT I have 56million (not sure this is the right figure but is surely around it) reasons to yell and scream when a franchise QB looses games. This one was not pettis fumbling, or lb's letting a no name run wild or an ol letting the sack, THIS ONE IS ALL ON HIM...

    He'd better start shaping up, I'm not asking him to win games, yet, just not loose them

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    Re: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    A good post. I am not one of those calling for Bradford's head and feel he can be the one to lead us back to respectability and ultimately to a perennial playoff contender. I want him here. He's a guy we build around not a guy we discard. That said, he has got to do a much better job. When you're the first overall pick in the entire league and you're being paid 50 million diollars, more is expected. It is expected you will nearly always do your part. It is expected you will be able to carry the team when the chips are down. It is expected you will overcome the less-than-desirable cast of characters you have at the receiver position. And it is expected you will play to your ability. Sam has not yet shown he can be one of those special guys who can carry a team. He has shown flashes of what we think is great potential, but too often he is battered, confused, doesn't make good reads and locks onto receivers. He is inconsistent, even on the "easy" short throws. He has not made those around him better. People say, "Well how can Sam Bradford make his offensive linemen better? Well, not holding onto the football and throwing it away as opposed to taking a sack is one way.

    Undoubtedly, there are many justifiable reasons for his inconsistency and mediocre play which we've covered ad infinitum. But when guys like Tim Tebow and Alex Smith and Andy Dalton can win ballgames by elevating the play of those around them, in my mind it more than justifies fan discontent toward Bradford. Fair or unfair, until Sam bradford puts up consistently decent passing numbers and until we start winning some ball games he's gonna' have a target on his back.
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    Re: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    Part of me is beginning to think it's a trust issue for Bradford. I'm not sure he thinks he can rely on his teammates to make plays. Hence, the small drop off passes and locking onto and throwing some pretty bad passes to Lloyd.

    We unfortunately are unable to see the entire field develop on television, so I can't tell if we're calling downfield shots and our receivers are just not creating separation, or if they are, and Bradford just isn't trying to make those plays.

    One thing I can see for sure, is the morale of the offense compared to the defense. Spags has the D believing in themselves, and it reflects in their play. The offense, not so much. After Jackson, I don't see a single player come up after a play, or making a catch and really looking like they're in the zone. No one looks like they're here to compete. They look like they're going through the motions. I never see Bradford try to fire up his teammates. I see him sulk off the field, then plop onto the bench. And I think the attitude is contagious.

    Make no mistake, injuries have absolutely devastated both sides of the ball. This is beyond explanation at this point. Perhaps one HUGE issue that we aren't hitting on as much is the apparent lack of strength and conditioning in St. Louis. I mean, this is ridiculous. I've never seen anything like this before. When I was at the Cleveland game, it was a running joke on predicting the next injury to the Rams squad.

    BUT, it's about how they respond to the injuries that tells the story. The defense is practically fielding UFL corners at this point, but they came out against the Seahawks like they were playing for the NFC West title. They were inspired and played with a killer instinct that could have given our offense the opportunity to put the game away by half time. Instead, the offense came out like a group of lame ducks and went through the motions. The coaching staff didn't seem to adjust at all after their gameplan seemed to falter.

    Eventually, the defense lost their trust in the offense, and in turn lost their passion. It was plain to see by the end of the game that our offense wasn't going to do anything with the ball in their hands, and I can't blame our D for undoubtedly questioning them and saying to themselves "why bother?" Of course that's just speculation, and a lot of the decline was probably due to being gassed, but the point can still be made.

    In short, this season is lost. The injuries, record and team attitude are to much to overcome at this point. But I believe that those things won't matter to our defense, at least, this coming Sunday. It's inspiring to watch them do what they do, considering their circumstances. I think it's up to Sam to shoulder the burden for his side of the ball, and pull this team together. Yell at a teammate when he doesn't make a play he should have. Take the responsibility when you make a poor throw. Do something to light the spark. Momentum can be a powerful asset in this league, and if we can get it going on our side, we can end this season on a high note and carry it into next year.
    Last edited by shower beers; -11-21-2011 at 11:55 PM.

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    Re: Week Eleven: Post-Game Observations (aka Nick's Take on the Bradford Debates)

    Get out of my head, Nick!

    Despite what anyone else would say, Sam had decent protection in the first half. If you give Tom Brady protection like that, he would rip you apart. Not that I think Bradford should be performing at that level, but I certainly expected much better. Sam tried several passes to Lloyd while he was tightly covered. It would have taken a perfect pass to complete many of Sam's attempts, but he was far from accurate on most plays. I think Lloyd has been a great addition and its good to have Clayton back; he's got enough talent at WR now to make an impact. Yet, he just can't seem to make the right decision at the right time.

    I would be lying if I didn't say I was concerned (being a given it can take years for QBs to develop). Frankly, minus two ints, Tavaris Jackson played much better than Bradford. That is a freakin scary thought. Seattle did everything right on defense; they shut Steven down and made Bradford look real bad.

    I am not going to analyze this to death, but I am seeing a few warning signs. I hope he makes some progress from here on out, because if he keeps playing like this, its going to be a long and question filled offseason for him.

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