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Sam Bradford develops chemistry with coach Dick Curl ..
BY BILL COATS Friday, November 5, 2010 12:20 am
Dick Curl was 47 and at his ninth coaching stop offensive coordinator at Rutgers University when Kent and Martha Bradford welcomed their only child into the world.
Curl would work for another college, two NFL Europe teams and three NFL clubs before he and Sam Bradford would meet up in St. Louis and their lives would intertwine.
On the surface, it seems an odd alliance.
"That's sort of interesting, isn't it? It's the old man and the kid," laughed Curl, who serves as Steve Spagnuolo's assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach.
Since the Rams selected Bradford with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft April 22, Curl, now 70, and Bradford, who will turn 23 on Monday, have been virtually inseparable.
It's Curl's charge to wring out Bradford's bulging potential and mold him into the best that he can be. It's Bradford's duty to absorb all that he can from the former University of Richmond quarterback and return the Rams' multimillion-dollar investment in him.
So far, it's been a copacetic union.
"I have a great relationship with Coach Curl," Bradford said. "He's been extremely helpful just getting me to where I am right now. He's one of the main reasons that I'm as comfortable as I am today."
As the 4-4 Rams break for their bye week, Bradford can reflect on a half-season in which he completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,674 yards and 11 touchdowns, with eight interceptions, and compiled a passer rating of 75.9.
On Thursday, Bradford was named the NFL's offensive rookie of the month for October. The Rams went 3-2 in October, Bradford throwing for 1,019 yards and seven touchdowns, with three interceptions. His passer rating was 81.1.
"We've made progress, but we're still in a learning process," Curl said. "This thing isn't over. We've got a long way to go yet. But we're going in the right direction."
Curl, who grew up in Chester, Pa., was a high school coach for 11 years before moving to the college ranks. His first NFL job came in 2000, as a pro personnel assistant for the Kansas City Chiefs, a position he held for two years.
After a three-year stint with the New York Jets, Curl returned to Kansas City in 2006. He was the Chiefs' assistant head coach and quarterbacks coach before Spagnuolo brought him here.
As Curl worked his way up, Bradford was building an impressive résumé as an athlete in his hometown of Oklahoma City. He played on elite youth squads, later starring in football, basketball and golf at Putnam City North High.
Although Bradford was ranked only 17th among quarterbacks in the high school class of 2006 by Scout.com behind Matthew Stafford and Tim Tebow, among others University of Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops liked what he saw in the lanky righthander.
By the end of his sophomore season, Bradford was a Heisman Trophy winner. His junior year was short-circuited by two shoulder injuries, the second resulting in surgery. Still, he declared for the draft, and the Rams began to take a careful look.
"We went down and watched him on his workout after the surgery," Curl said. "He threw the ball pretty good. I talked with him at the Combine, and he was pretty sharp.
"Then we went down and worked him out by ourselves. We took him to lunch and tried to sort of just get a feel for him ... put him in an environment where you can just sit and talk and relax a little bit and find out about him.
"We came away impressed with him as a person, which I think was really, really important. And we felt that he had some leadership ability to him."
A final course of investigation followed, as the Rams quizzed those who knew Bradford best.
"Every guy that we talked to down there, all the players, all the coaches, his high school coach, everybody was just, 'Sam's this, Sam's that, Sam can do this, Sam can do that,'" Curl said. "All the feedback we got was real positive."
That, added to Curl's belief that Bradford possessed "an inner strength to want to be good," made the Rams' choice an easy one.
They signed Bradford to a six-year, $78 million contract that included $50 million in guaranteed money the richest rookie deal in NFL history.
Then they turned the kid over to the old man.
Getting to work
From the beginning, Bradford was an eager student.
"He wants to learn, so he's very willing to listen," Curl said. "This is important to Sam; he's a proud individual. And because of that he spends the time and does what's necessary in order to, down the road, become the player that he wants to be."
Curl started at the bottom, literally. Because Bradford played mostly in the shotgun formation at OU, his footwork needed to be refined so that he could take snaps from under center, drop back smoothly and deliver passes using the proper technique.
"You start from his feet and work up," Curl said. "It was all about getting the feet in the proper position, the idea of shuffling forward is it two shuffles, is it one shuffle, or do you slide sideways? And then through your hips all the way up."
Curl continually preaches fundamentals.
"I know he gets tired of me saying it all the time, some of the stuff," Curl said. "But I just constantly talk to him about his balance, get your feet in position, where's your toe, where's your knee, where's your belly button going, is your back hip coming through?
"It's just all those little things. And he's pretty good. ... The kid is just a worker."
That's the easy part, Curl stressed.
"The mental part in the NFL for a young quarterback is the toughest thing, because there are so many things being thrown at you," he said. "Every week it's something different: a different blitz, a different look, all of sudden they want to do this, they want to do that."
Curl and Bradford spend hours at Rams Park dissecting film together. During games, they huddle between possessions, reviewing the previous series and preparing for the next.
"He gets it; he understands what has to be done to get to where he wants to get to," said Curl, adding that Bradford's comprehension is aided by a healthy skepticism.
"I call it 'the Bradford look,'" Curl said. "Every once in a while I'll say something and he'll give me that look. I'll say, 'Sam, no, no, no. Don't give me that look.' He's going to test you a little bit, in a good way, to make sure it makes sense. He's very smart that way."
Curl, who has 11 grandchildren, said that despite the gap in their ages, he and Bradford are able to relate because of a bond built on mutual esteem.
"It's just being honest and up front," Curl said. "I respect him and what he does and how he does it, (that) the position he plays is so hard. And I think he kind of looks at me and says, 'You know what? That old guy with white hair has a little bit of an idea what he's talking about.' ...
"It's work, but it's fun. And you know what? The guy's made me feel about 20 years younger."
Re: Sam Bradford develops chemistry with coach Dick Curl ..
Sounds like both of them have been good for each other. Give Coach Curl credit, sure looks like he's a big reason for Bradford's success so far!
Re: Sam Bradford develops chemistry with coach Dick Curl ..
You're probably right, Kee. Nothing like having coaches that a very promising rookie can trust in and feel comfortable with. Likewise, nothing like having a coachable, character-oriented rookie!
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