Yesterday on ESPN’s Mike and Mike in the Morning, Rams’ head coach Jeff Fisher threw his support behind Bradford as the team’s starting quarterback for 2014.
The statement wasn’t particularly revelatory, despite the raging debates over the 78 million dollar man’s future with the franchise. According to ESPN’s Nick Wagoner, support for Bradford as he recovers from his October knee injury has been and remains steady within the confines of Rams Park. It’s from outside Earth City that questions of Bradford’s ability relative to his huge salary have swirled into a storm of offseason conjecture.
Whether you’re among the camp that is calling for Bradford’s outright release or you unwaveringly believe he is the guy for 2014 and beyond, the more realistic outcome of No. 8’s situation lies somewhere in between. Like it or not, Bradford is going to get another shot in 2014, and this will be the season that either caps Bradford’s potential at “serviceable” or once-and-for-all quiets his doubters. There just may not be a gray area. Anything less than improvement in the win column may force the Rams to cut ties with Bradford if 2014 proves unsuccessful. The team would be on the hook for more than $12 million in 2015 according to overthecap.com, and would have to seriously consider moving on with new blood under center should Bradford’s production remain subpar.
What Bradford has going for him, however, is that he’s a proven entity in the league from an expected production standpoint. He’s a middle-of-the-pack quarterback as it currently stands, but he still has potential working in his favor. By all accounts, Bradford was ascending in his second year under Fisher before being prematurely cut down against Carolina. The San Francisco game was a bit of a nightmare, but by the time he exited against Carolina, he’d thrown 14 touchdowns to four interceptions and was completing just more than 60 percent of his passes. This was all while the team’s offensive approach was shifting from an unsuccesful spread to a power running attack amidst the emergence of rookie running back Zac Stacy. Bradford’s pre-injury level of play should not go unrecognized.
Let me make a simple analogy in regards to why Bradford starting in 2014 is team’s best option.
The Rams are behind in the NFC West and looking up at Arizona, San Francisco, and Seattle. However, they are a talented team that is, by all accounts, on the rise. Say a coach is trying to battle back in a close game, down nine points at 30-21 with five minutes left in fourth quarter (This represents the Rams percieved distance from division winners Seattle, which may be even further depending on who you talk to).
The coach has to be strategic and realistic in his comeback plan. His offense’s drive stalls at the opponent’s 20 yard line and he’s faced with, let’s say, fourth-and-seven. He needs a touchdown at some point, but it might still be too early to go for it. If he screws it up, he’s now in a huge hole and the game is essentially over. What does he do? He takes the points and kicks the field goal. He buys himself a bit more time and is still in a decent position to complete the come back.
If you’re still with me, the point I’m trying to make is that Bradford represents that field goal. Bradford is the smart decision to take the guaranteed points and keep yourself alive. It still seems too early to go for it and cut Bradford at this point. Taking a shot at the end zone there on fourth-and-seven represents the possibility of drafting an exciting new rookie quarterback, which could pay huge dividends, but is still a huge risk that could ultimately put your team even further behind.
Though both Fisher and general manager Les Snead revealed yesterday that the team hasn’t closed the door on an Bradford extension that would free up some immediate cap space, that just doesn’t seem to be this pair’s style. They’ve both proven themselves to be forward thinkers, and seeing what Bradford is made of in 2014 will cement the team’s direction in years to come. If he builds on his 2013 ascension and becomes the quarterback he was drafted to be, fantastic.
This team’s playoff window opens up and Snead can continue to surround Bradford with complimentary offensive pieces. If he regresses or simply doesn’t produce at a high enough standard, then you know what you’ve got and you move on. However, it’s in the team’s best interest to take the points and see how it all plays out.
The Rams are keeping Bradford around, so they should probably draft him another wide receiver, right? Scout the best prospects here.