The St. Louis Rams Are Learning To Live with Risk

David LeonCorrespondent IApril 30, 2010

ST. LOUIS - JULY 31:  General manager Billy Devaney of the St. Louis Rams looks on during training camp at the Russell Athletic Training Facility on July 31, 2009 in St. Louis, Missouri.  (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)
Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

There is a famous moment in Star Wars (the original) where Governor Tarkin turns to Vader and says, "You're sure the homing beacon is secure aboard their ship? I'm taking an awful risk, Vader. This had better work."

Tarkin had just allowed the Millenium Falcon to escape from the Death Star, with full architectural plans of the Death Star in hand.  Vader convinced Tarkin to allow this, knowing the Rebels would immediately take these plans to their main base.  The tracking becon would reveal the location of this secret base-planet. Vader and Tarkin planned to use the Death Star to annihilate that entire world, driving a dagger into the heart Rebellion.

Let's just say it didn't work out.  It was a good plan that went horribly wrong. They lost the Death Star on that one. Tarkin died, Vader escaped to fight another day. The Empire was ultimately broken and defeated.

I was never on board with the selection of Sam Bradford. I was against it all the way. To the very last instant, I was hoping for a trade announcement.

Why so negative?

I felt drafting any QB No. 1 overall is an outrageous and preposterous risk. Moreover, the natural risk is exacerbated by how poorly setup the Rams are to receive a fragile rookie QB. Our risk factors are higher than average, and average is already pretty damn high.

More specifically, I believed Sam would face the same fate as Marc Bulger did before him. Marc wasn't a bad guy; as I have said many times, we killed Marc Bulger. We let his OL dwindle to crap; we let his receiver corp dwindle to crap. We fired his coach, Mike Martz. We hired the biggest coaching disaster I've ever seen in Scott Linehan. Last year, we put Marc together with the worst offensive coordinator I have ever seen in action, Pat Shurmer. Now we are going to stick Sam Bradford in almost exactly that same pile of crap.

Now does that sound like a good idea? 

I believe that there are certain deeply-rooted organization cancers the Rams needed to put in remission before selecting a QB. The Rams killed Marc Bulger; Marc Bulger did not kill the Rams.  Draw the causal arrows in the correct direction. The selection of Sam Bradford might indicate that we are reversing those causal arrows. There's that organizational cancer I was mentioning before.  

I used to laugh at teams who selected QBs No. 1 overall. A team fresh off of disaster elects a QB as their Messiah. A downtrodden fan base anoints this kid as the savior. Everyone hopes he will be the key player who is the lynch-pin of the next great NFL dynasty. They never seem to realize how seldom this works out in the end. The probability table is downright ugly.  

If the kid will sign and play for you—which isn't always—he often gets hurt, isn't good enough, loses his confidence, or isn't serious enough to succeed. It will be the medical in Sam's case, if he doesn't pan out. When they don't go bust, they often turn into serviceable QBs who don't do much of anything spectacular. Just look at Carson Palmer. Although he was selected #2 overall, look at Donovan McNabb. I always thought these poor-boy franchises were foolish for going this route.

And now we have gone and done it, and we did so while mostly ignoring the organizational cancers.

Well, we did get one lineman and one receiver for Sam. I guess that's cold comfort.

Many of these teams who failed after selecting a QB No. 1 suffered from deeply-rooted organizational cancers which they never addressed. Selecting a QB didn't help the situation. It's the wrong treatment for the problem. You can make a perfectly valid argument that this plan worked out one time only: Troy Aikman and the Cowboys. The Cowboys addressed their organizational cancers in a big, big way early in that epoch.

Devaney ought to know his ass is on the line, and Spagnuolo's head is on the chopping block, also. If this doesn't work out, they are both dead meat. If it works, they are both geniuses and everybody knew it all along.

A piece of free advice for you: You might consider firing Pat Shurmer before it is too late.

Just picture me turning to Devaney and saying "You're sure Sam is secure behind our line, and with our receivers? Your taking an awful risk, Devaney. This had better work."

Let's just hope the new Rams owner will excise those cancerous tumors from the organization, and that a healthy Sam Bradford will be there when he does.