Good enough to hate.
When it comes to a young quarterback, the less said, the better. Not that it will stop NBC from gushing over young Sam Bradford. Nor will it stop their fine video editing department from creating a montage of "heroic" moments: Bradford standing steeled with resolve, cocking his arm and firing--three yards down field! Is it a first down! They're bringing the chains! Look how steely and resolved Bradford looks peering at the chain gang! The young man puts the "hero" in "champion."
Yes, the less said about a young quarterback, the better, and so Bradford makes for a good subject for the first in a series of short posts I have planned leading up to Sunday's epic matchup of NFC West heavyweights. This is Buster Douglas versus James Toney big. This is a meeting of legends scribbled in some fanboys geometry notebook. Now, one night only, live! The punishing, powerhouse glory and splendor: The 6-9 Seattle Seahawks host the 7-8 St. Louis Rams! FOR THE NFC WEST TITLE!!
It is very hard to pinpoint whether Bradford is good, even relative to his status as a rookie quarterback. The past few quarterback classes have flopped, so far. Or at least struggled to launch any seemingly great careers. Matt Ryan is a notable exception, though Ryan has yet to build off his excellent rookie season. He has maintained. His performance has held, which is still pretty terrific.
Passes by Ryan contributed 0.16 EPA/P in 2008, and 0.17 in 2009 and 2010.
Passes by Bradford have contributed 0.00 in 2010.
Compared to the rookie seasons of Matthew Stafford, Mark Sanchez, Josh Freeman and JaMarcus Russell, Stafford's stats look promising. Insomuch that we should assume adequacy as a rookie is a good indication of future success. Bradford's triple zips matches Joe Flacco's rookie season, and Flacco is slowly becoming a pretty good quarterback.
But quarterbacks are not plants. An acorn sprouting will predictably become an oak, but a quarterback's path to greatness or failure can start any number of ways. Sometimes a bad rookie season can feel more promising than a good rookie season. Freeman didn't do the Bucs any favors in 2009, but Freeman is a big, powerful athlete with a strong arm and pretty good scrambling ability. His late season emergence foretold a breakout sophomore campaign. Easy enough to work backwards in light of the outcome, and all.
Peyton Manning was a mess his rookie year, or so implies his 28 interceptions, but through the lens of history we can now conform his early struggles to the greater Manning narrative: Peyton was already challenging his limitations, suffering great growing pains but growing into one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. Adjusted for era, Manning's rookie struggles actually surpass Bradford's rookie success. Manning's ANY/A was 96% of league average. Bradford's is 91%. Manning completed 56.7% of his passes, but that was equal to league average in 1998. Bradford has completed 60.5% of his passes, but that is only 98% of average in 2010.
So, is the story that Bradford, like Manning, is struggling but growing? Bradford, with all due respect, is nothing like Freeman. His path towards success is definitely found through him becoming ever more precise, as his tools are never likely to break out. What to make of his relative rookie success? Is Bradford being protected? He throws an obscene number of short passes. He certainly isn't going to achieve stardom through short crosses and hitch routes, but then we don't know if Bradford is so limited or if his surrounding talent is holding him back. My truly tainted perspective of Bradford is that the kid is playing like prematurely-old game manager for an emerging defense, and instead of suffering growing pains, he looks stunted by the short-term pursuit of adequacy. But as I said: That is my truly tainted perspective.
Inevitably, the less said, or rather, the less opined about a young quarterback the better. I would love to actually sit down and describe his game tape in detail, but this isn't a Rams blog. This is a Seahawks blog. The Rams are the enemy. Sam Bradford is the new face of the enemy. Maybe we'll learn to hate him in earnest as he leads to Rams to division title after division title, and the kind of consistent contention and potential glory Seahawks fans, 35 years and counting, have hardly tasted. I could sink my teeth into that. Been a while since the rise of Horse Face and his Donkey Warriors, but you'll excuse me if I admit, Bradford looks nothing like a young John Elway. He looks wholly and totally like a young Sam Bradford, and who that quarterback becomes is truly anyone's guess.
This Sunday, before the nation, before the world, the Seattle Seahawks can roll over, become yet the latest stepping stone in the path to glory for young Sam Bradford, or the Seattle Seahawks can sack him, attack him, pick his passes, stifle his array of short passes, end St. Louis's season, and put a little Fear of Bust in the hearts of Rams fans.
Sam Bradford, you're so far from greatness you couldn't see it with the Hubble Telescope, but you're good enough to despise, and as a Seahawks fan, I wish you a most shameful and crushing failure this Sunday. Consider it a show of respect.