Friday, May 21, 2010

About Sam Bradford, the young man, not the draft decision

So they had just a bit of footage from the Rams' OTAs last night on NFL Total Access. The focus was on the question "Why is Sam working out with the 2nd string right now?"

It was false drama by the media. All of us know why. The team is trying to pretend they aren't going to throw him head first into the shark tank immediately... sink or swim. We all know the truth is a little bit different. Jason La Canfora said as much, but he put a tad bit of spin on it, saying something along the lines of:

"They're taking it one step at a time. They want him to feel that he's earning it. Everyone expects him to be the starter by the time the games start counting. They describe his workouts as 'awesome.'"

Setting aside all my disputes with Devaney's judgement and draft strategy, which are numerous, what do I think of Sam Bradford, the player, the guy in a Ram helmet, right now?

He looks pretty good in a Ram uniform. He's not the skinny as a rail kid he was a few years ago during the BCS championship game. His throwing motion looks a lot faster as well. He always had a nice fluid throwing motion, reminiscent of Jim Plunkett at his best, but I don't recall his motion being quite this snappy before. Maybe he's self consciously trying to decrease his release time. Maybe his release has gotten faster as a result of the muscle weight and strength increase. I don't know.

We all know a quick release is good. Dan Marino, John Elway and Brett Favre had the three fastest releases I've ever seen in my life. Some say Elway was the fastest. Some say Marino was the fastest. It doesn't really matter now. They are both in the Hall of Fame, and they are both legendary figures of football folklore.

I would really appreciate it if our friends at the NFL Network or ESPN would put the super-high-speed cameras on his motion, and get out the laser speedometers, and clock Sam's throwing motion. Somebody probably already did that during the draft, but I did not see any results published. Also, I would like to see how Sam's new and faster release compares to Elway, Favre and Marino's.

Maybe I am a stupid homer, but it looks to me like his release time just might be down there in the lower milisecond regions, where the aforementioned great-ones dwell.

If so, this bodes extremely well for my Rams. I know for a fact that a slow-release doesn't kill you in the NFL. Many HOF QBs had slower releases. However, I know for a fact that a quick release does help. It's a positive. It's just like having quick feet. It's a good talent to have, if you've got it. Not absolutely mandatory, but it is to your advantage.

I think it has more to do with a QB's instant reaction to a situation than surprising defensive backs. I still don't believe NFL Corners can read the QB's throwing motion and react as quickly as they say they can. One thing we have to remember: defenders are always full of bravado and bullshit. This is true of Nose Tackles also. Defenders claim they can do all sorts of things they cannot do. You might call it "talking shit" but it's more like "believing shit."

Each time I see the kid on film, and I've only seen about 5 minutes of practice film, he looks very good. He looks better than most QBs I've seen practicing in these OTAs. Maybe it's just because he's deadly serious, and others are taking it easy. If so, there's nothing wrong with that picture. Can't complain about that.

Honestly, we can't tell until the regular season strikes, but so far he looks good. You know I am hoping and praying I am wrong about his career. Nobody will be happier than I will be if I turn out to be wrong here. The problem is the percentages are not good.

Everybody else seems extremely bullish about Sam Bradford. Just two days ago, I watched a couple of old episodes of Path to the Draft and Draft Recap. They said some terribly flattering things about Sam. Our two GMs, Michael Lombardy and Charlie Casserly, were very high on Bradford.

Casserly, in particular, said remarkable things. Just what did he say?
  • "Bradford is one of the best QB prospects I have scouted in the past 10 years"
  • "If I was a Ram fan I wouldn't question this selection. I would take heart and be excited about this choice. You're getting a great quarterback."
  • "Bradford is the best player in this draft. He is the number one athlete, and he is going to be the #1 pick by the Rams."
When scientifically comparing the QB prospects from 2009, 2010, and 2011, several of the commentators on draft-recap believed Bradford is the best of the breed. This was particularly clear in Casserly's case. He favored Bradford's accuracy over Stafford's raw arm strength. He favored both over Jake Locker, who he seems to view as non-No.1 absolute. Mike Mayock seems to favor Stafford based on his 'generational arm', or arm strength alone.

[The logic of Mike Mayock's argument is not particularly sound. You never favor a dude on arm strength alone. If so, JaMarcus Russell would actually be a quarterback, and not an unemployed civilian. I should also caution you with the fact that Cassely doesn't think Tebow is a natural passer who can read coverage. That is bizarre notion, as Tebow is the NCAA's most efficient passer ever, even over our own Sam Bradford.]

All of these glorious statements can be challenged by a skeptic. Follow some of these statements to their logical implications. If any of this is true, do you know what it means? It means that Bradford ranks along side of guys like Eli Manning, Philip Rivers, Ben Roethlisberger, Jay Cutler, etc." Do you think that's right? I'm just asking. I don't know the answer yet.

We should caution with the following fact: Casserly also said Ben Roethlisberger had to be preferred over Sam Bradford. This was based on concrete achievement. Don't forget the Steelers were prepared to trade Roethlisberger and sweeteners for our Bradford. That's based on disgrace.

If these statements are true, Bradford is a better athlete than Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Do you believe that is true? I'm just asking. I don't know the answer yet. I find that difficult to believe. Let's remember, Mike Mayock kicked off the draft season by saying that this was a bad QB year, and two men stood head and shoulders above the field: Ndamukong Suh and Gerald McCoy. Somehow he changed his tune with the "Franchise Quarterback trumps alls" motif.

If just some of these statements are mostly true, this would strongly imply that my Rams just got away with the best QB prospect in the past 3 years. We'll also have a better one than will be available next season. He'll also be 1 year ahead of Jake Locker in experience during 2011.

One fact cannot be disputed: We are not well setup to receive a young man who has had injury problems at the quarterback position.
  1. We had a bad line that gave up 44 sacks last season
  2. We jettisoned two bad starters in Icognito and Barron. This is good, but...
  3. We are rejiggering the line, switching a Right Tackle Sophomore to left, and a freshman Left Tackle to Right.
  4. We're plugin in our reserve tackle Adam Goldberg at right guard.
  5. We don't have terrific receiver threats. They are better than some think, but worse than the homers would have you believe.
  6. Steven Jackson is coming off back surgery. The presumed security blanket may not be there.
  7. Steven Jackson has no competent backup.
  8. We do not have a running back committee, as we should have.
  9. This cannot be remedied by signing Michael Westbrook, presuming he will sign with us, which is a big "IF".
  10. We're running the WCO, which is an outdated and outmoded offense; a scheme that has been systematically defeated by the Belichick Box.
  11. We've got Pat Shurmer as our OC... Nuff'said.
  12. Whatever else you want to say about it, durability is the paramount issue. You can have fantastic size, strength, speed, lightning fast release, laser-guided accuracy, a brilliant mind, etc. If your body breaks down, your career goes up in smoke. My worst fear is that Sam lacks the physical durability necessary to make all of his other gifts work for him in the NFL.
All of these are great obstacles Sam is going to have to overcome. I hope he does so, for all our sakes.

I hope this is the turn of the tide. I hope we have a deadly franchise QB. I hope we have the next QB everybody will be raving about. I hope he triggers the establishment of a new dynasty and 10 years of glorious winning. I hope he's the QB every wide receiver wants to play for, just as Kurt Warner was in the early stages of this decade.

There is a lot to love about this kid. I just hope we are not responsible for destroying this young man with bad draft decisions, bad coaching, and bad personnel misses. One of the things that pisses me off is that Devaney took this kid, and then passed on coaches and tools that would make him successful. That has to change really damn quick.