Two years ago, the St. Louis Rams had the second overall pick in the NFL draft. It was a golden opportunity for the team to extricate themselves from the expensive and disappointing tenure of quarterback Sam Bradford.
Now, the Rams sit in a nearly identical situation. Unfortunately, they also appear poised to make the same mistake all over again.
|Sam Bradford Career Stats|
|Per Pro Football Reference|
According to Nick Waggoner of ESPN, the odds of the Rams drafting a quarterback with the second overall pick are "about as close as possible to zero."
That echoes what St. Louis general manager Les Snead told Jim Thomas of The St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “As we’ve said, Sam’s our starting QB, and maybe that’s too way out of the box to take a QB that high.”
That's been the team's stance since Bradford tore his ACL last October. In fact, the Rams made a point of quelling any uncertainty about Bradford's future with the team very quickly after he went down:
What's uncertain, to be brutally honest, is why.
Granted, the Rams have invested a great deal of money in Bradford since he signed an NFL-record six-year, $78 million contract as the first overall pick in the 2010 NFL draft. He won the Offensive Rookie of the Year Award.
However, since that rookie season, Bradford has shown minimal improvement. In two of the past three years, he's missed at least six games with injuries. His 60.7 completion percentage in 2013 was the first time in his career that he's hit 60 percent in a season.
Oh, and the Rams are 12 games under .500 in games that Bradford has started.
Now, Bradford's supporters will point to a lack of offensive talent around him, a career-high passer rating of 90.9 and 14 touchdowns against only four interceptions in 2013 as reasons to be patient.
Patient? Patient is two years in today's NFL. Three is remarkable restraint.
Four is just enough.
All of the receiving talent in the world isn't going to do any good if your quarterback doesn't challenge defenses vertically.
Mind you, this isn't to say that Bradford can't. His arm strength may not be great, but it's hardly awful either, and his accuracy is solid.
Bradford just doesn't.
It was less than Brandon Weeden. Seriously.
Of Bradford's 159 completions in 2013, three went for more than 40 yards. Fewer than 20 went for more than 20.
Want another reason to cut bait on Bradford? How about $11 million?
The gap illustrates the "new math" of the NFL.
Teams like the Colts, Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers were among the first beneficiaries of the new collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, whereas the Rams were the last team "punished" by the old one.
These teams have been able to use those savings to add around their young quarterbacks, but there's also no denying that Luck, Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick and Newton have all had more individual success in the NFL than Bradford.
It's paying for a Cadillac but driving a Pontiac. The seventh-highest cap hit in the league for a player who ranked 20th among NFL quarterbacks in 2013, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).
Coming off of a torn ACL, no less.
It's the same spot the Rams were in in 2012. The team could have drafted Robert Griffin. In fact, Chris Wesseling of NFL.com reports that the Rams were offered a "high first-round pick" for Bradford at the time.
Instead, the Rams made the deal with the Redskins that netted them this year's second pick.
The belief then was that Bradford, according to what head coach Jeff Fisher told Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk, "could be one of the better quarterbacks—or the best quarterback—in the league. He just hasn’t had a chance to prove it yet."
Since then, two more years have passed, and Bradford has proven little more.
The Rams could have Louisville's Teddy Bridgewater, who appears much more comfortable taking the top of an offense than Bradford has been in the NFL.
Or they could have Johnny Football himself, an interesting choice for a franchise desperately trying to drum up support for a new arena.
Instead, it appears that the Rams will once again stand pat. Maybe they'll trade down again, allowing another QB-needy team to leapfrog them.
They'll continue to add pieces around Sam Bradford.
And unfortunately, they'll continue to be an average team, led by an average quarterback.