Due to human nature, we are constantly questioning our ability, even if we don't realize it.
Whether it be the first day of school or a first date, we usually fear the unknown. This is due to the fact that we are simply unsure of what to expect and if we are truly ready for it.
Many times in life, we face skeptics who are uncertain if we can handle the task at hand or not. For example, a parent will always be hesitant to allow their child to walk on its own until they are ensured that they will do so safely. Of course, that’s understandable. As we all know, when one is faced with new challenges, few will overcome them with ease.
A similar scenario plays out every year in the NFL.
After a team drafts a quarterback, particularly with the No. 1 overall pick, the biggest question is when and even if he should start his rookie season. Making the wise decision is extremely crucial for organizations, as it could very well determine their fate for the next five years, as well as a young man's career.
In the past, we've witnessed several examples of how various situations have played out. Four-time MVP Peyton Manning has demonstrated how gaining immediate, first-hand experience can do wonders for your career.
Meanwhile, Pro Bowler Carson Palmer has displayed how sitting on the sidelines for a year can provide you with the necessary time to grasp the complexities of the game at the pro level. And furthermore, JaMarcus Russell taught us how undergoing a contract holdout could eventually lead you down a path of failures, struggles, and ultimately unemployment.
What we can infer from those instances, along with many others, is that there is no real right answer. Just like all of us, every quarterback is different in their own unique way. Nonetheless, there are certain ways in which I believe a team should conduct the matter.
First of all, a team drafting with the No. 1 overall pick means that they had the worst record in the league the previous season. Therefore, the roster usually doesn’t consist of too much overall talent. It's realistic to expect the defense to be a liability, the offensive line to be shaky and the playmakers—or lack thereof—to be unreliable.
In order for any quarterback to endure those circumstances, he must be not only physically strong, but mentally tough and mature. If he doesn't possess the leadership skills necessary to rally his teammates around him and command a respectable presence in the locker room, he shouldn't be put out there, as it will only set him up for disaster.
This year, the St. Louis Rams and their new QB, Sam Bradford, face this exact dilemma. He was drafted to be the savior of a franchise that's only managed to win six games in the past three years. Even so, is he ready to take charge?
Simply put, I definitely believe so.
If you were to look at his great arm, remarkable instincts, and off-the-charts intangibles, it may lead you may mistake him for the second coming of Drew Brees.
Plus, even though he will have a lackluster supporting cast, he will have the privilege of handing the ball off to Steven Jackson, who is one of the best all-around running backs in the league.
Being able to rely on Jackson will relieve him of a major load off of his shoulders. In addition, it will draw extra defenders into the box, opening up opportunities down the field.
Moreover, from a public opinion standpoint, it will be in his best interest to start as soon as possible. Aside from being the $80 million man, Bradford will have a lot of pressure to succeed early on.
He was drafted ahead of Ndamukong Suh, the consensus most talented player in the draft. If Suh gets out to a fast start, as expected, people will start questioning the Rams' choice and Bradford's ability, which will be detrimental to their relationship.
Also, an integral key to a young quarterback's success lies in the continuity and cohesion of the front office and coaching staff. For example, Alex Smith has failed to live up to expectations so far, primarily due to having a new offensive coordinator in each of his first five seasons. In Bradford's case, if the Rams don't win now, then the entire coaching staff is likely to be fired, which will hinder his development.
I firmly believe Bradford has the tools to succeed and have a Matt Ryan-esque impact in his rookie campaign. I'm confident that he can persevere through the pressure and reverse the franchise's fortunes.
Until then, I wish Sam Bradford and the St. Louis Rams the best of luck moving forward. The multimillion dollar investment is in their hands—what will they choose to do with it?