Perhaps the most vital key to a prospective St. Louis surge, and a revival and renaissance of the Rams, is none other than the St. Louis Rams' No. 1 overall pick of the 2010 NFL Draft, quarterback Sam Bradford.
The attention Bradford was given as the aforementioned No. 1 pick and in winning the 2010 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award was intense.
After a rookie year that also saw Bradford unexpectedly lead his team to within a whisker of the playoffs, the spotlights shined even brighter on Sam entering 2011, and the expectations upon him grew greater.
However, Bradford struggled last season and failed to lead the Rams to the promised land that several media outlets predicted prior to last season, coming off the surprising 7-9 campaign of the prior year.
Instead of becoming a sophomore sensation, Bradford unquestionably showcased a sophomore slump.
Rams fans have intensely debated whether the real Bradford was the impressive rookie who showed poise and accuracy, or the quarterback who looked lost last year and struggled to play with any type of consistency.
If Bradford bounces back in 2012, the Rams will know they can build around their 24-year-old quarterback and continue to add foundation roster pieces with their two first-round picks in 2013 and 2014—picks St. Louis received after ignoring the Cleveland Browns' inquires about attaining the former Sooner standout.
However, if Bradford falters for a second consecutive season, the Rams brass and Rams Nation will likely begin to intensely question the decision to trade the No. 2 pick and the rights to Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III, especially if he sets the world afire in his forthcoming rookie season.
Bradford's presence was reportedly a big draw for new St. Louis head coach Jeff Fisher. It appears that Rams General Manager Les Snead shares similar sentiments regarding the Oklahoma product, stating a belief that Bradford is a franchise quarterback.
The Rams front office not only spoke highly of Bradford, they proved their confidence in Sam via their above mentioned actions.
By rejecting the Browns' inquires about acquiring Cleveland Head Coach Pat Shurmur's former pupil (Shurmur was Bradford's offensive coordinator in 2010), and by trading the No. 2 pick in this year's draft, St. Louis showed a clear and strong commitment to their quarterback.
This season will be critical to the long-term future of Bradford in the Gateway City.
If he falls on his face, the Rams may begin to look at other options at quarterback with one of their two first-round picks in 2013 or 2014.
If Bradford blossoms though, as I expect, look for the Rams to continue to solidify Bradford's supporting cast with additional elite weaponry in future offseasons.
Why do I foresee Bradford booming rather than busting in 2012?
Take a look at the following slides for a plethora of reasons why Sam should shine in the coming campaign.