Is Bradford the Man for the Job?

You knew the situation would play out the way it did.

As Sam Bradford walked off the carpet at Ford Field last Sunday following yet another defeat (this one at the hands of the Detroit Lions), Robert Griffin III was roughly one-thousand miles south leading the Redskins to an improbable 40-32 victory over Drew Brees and the Saints in New Orleans.

Bradford did just enough to watch his team fall short in a game they should have won.

RGIII delivered gut punch after gut punch to the stunned crowd at the Superdome.

Bradford’s final numbers were satisfactory but his play left something to be desired.

RGIII’s final numbers spoke for themselves.

You knew the situation would play out the way it did. Bradford lost. RGIII won. The two will meet on Sunday, which of course has sparked the debate about whether or not the Rams should have kept the No. 2 overall pick and drafted Griffin as opposed to renewing their commitment to Bradford. “Of course,” as if the debate is even worthy of a discussion.

But it was never an option. One thing we’ve come to know about Jeff Fisher and Les Snead is that they’re honest. Snead said back in early May that the Rams decided early on that they would stick with Bradford as their quarterback. He conceded that that drafting Griffin was considered, but only with the intentions of dealing him later on. Instead, Snead did the sensible thing by trading the selection to the Redskins for three first-round picks, all of which will be used to rebuild one of the most depleted rosters in the NFL.

Thus, this debate about whether or not the Rams should have drafted Griffin isn’t really a debate at all. Bradford is only in his third year and quite frankly the results have been predictable. Pat Shurmur kept things simple for Bradford in 2009 and the rookie was successful. Due to the lockout last year, Bradford only had a few months to learn Josh McDaniels’ complicated offense. When his offensive line treated him like a car bumper in a demolition derby, McDaniels refused to call plays that would allow Bradford to get the ball out of his hand quickly. (This includes running the no-huddle more, which McDaniels refused to do even though Bradford had success with it early in the season.) Bradford eventually got hurt, the Rams suffered, and his sophomore season was lost.

Fast-forward to present day and people are already assuming Bradford is a bust. But Fisher assured his QB this offseason that the offensive line would be overhauled at some point. That hasn’t happened yet, so we have to trust that Fisher is a man of his word.

In the meantime, Bradford isn’t absolved of criticism. The year the Steelers beat the Cardinals in the Super Bowl Ben Roethlisberger’s offensive line was a disaster until the final month of the season (where it gelled and played well down the stretch). Aaron Rodgers’ offensive line hasn’t been the model of consistency over the years and people forget how bad the Giants’ pass protection was last year when Eli Manning led them to another Super Bowl victory.

The point is, elite quarterbacks eventually raise the level of their play and Bradford, who is nowhere close to being elite, has yet to do that. He often resembles a light post in the pocket and while his offensive line has to do a better job of protecting him, he could do himself a favor by forcing defensive linemen to hit a moving target. He’s never going to be Randall Cunningham but there’s a difference between being a threat to scramble and being mobile. Bradford is neither.

Is Bradford the man for the job? He better be. Fisher and the Rams made a commitment to him that they’re going to build a better team around him. In turn, he has to progress whether his teammates help him or not. If that doesn’t sound fair, sorry, it comes with the job description. At some point even his biggest supporters will grow frustrated if the same Sam Bradford shows up in Week 16 that lost Week 1 in Detroit. This is a marriage where both parties have to grow together.

RGIII may set fire to the floor of the Dome this week but in the end, he was never going to be a Ram. But Bradford is and come hell or high water, both he and the Rams need to deliver.