The St. Louis Rams had some numbers a couple of years ago that indicated Sam Bradford was close to phenomenal when throwing off play action. What he didn’t have looking toward that 2014 season was a big-time running back to catch the full interest of opposing defenses when he faked the handoff.
“Steven Jackson was OK in Bradford’s first couple of years, but he was breaking down to a degree,’’ a St. Louis sports writer said. “And the Rams never came up another back to go with Bradford.
“If you’re looking for reasons Bradford has a chance to be the best he’s been with the Vikings, it’s the back he will have on those run fakes -- Adrian Peterson. He’s been outstanding on play action previously. And now Bradford will be running it with the best back in the league.’’
There is also this: Bradford’s best season in St. Louis was his first, when he was the NFL Offensive Rookie of Year in 2010. One reason was that he was healthy and was the only quarterback used by the Rams.
Another reason could have been that Pat Shurmur was the offensive coordinator. “The Rams’ offensive line was a mess,’’ the St. Louis guy said. “Shurmur did a good job of designing plays where Bradford could roll from the pocket and make quick throws.’’
Shurmur’s work with Bradford, the ultra-expensive No. 1 overall pick, had to be one reason he was hired by the Cleveland Browns as the head coach for 2011. He lasted two years, which was pretty fair longevity with the Browns.
The mediocre Rams almost were a playoff team in Bradford’s rookie season. They were 7-8 going into the final game in Seattle. The Seahawks were 6-9 and a victory would give them the tie-breaker.
Seattle won 16-6, and then upset New Orleans in the wild-card round. For the Seahawks, that was the start of a successful run that includes a Super Bowl title. For the Rams, it was the continuation of a futile stretch dating to 2004 – a journey all the way from being The Greatest Show on Turf to being in Los Angeles.
Things were supposed to different for the Rams in 2014, with Jeff Fisher entering his third season as coach and building a roster. Bradford was back for training camp after recovering from a torn ACL in his left knee in 2013.
Then, on Aug. 23, Bradford took what seemed like a routine hit an instant after releasing a pass. The result was another ACL tear in his left knee and a missed season.
The St. Louis Post-Dispatch had a huge cover photo of Bradford on the turf, with the headline: “Lightning Strikes Twice.’’
The Rams traded Bradford after the season for two draft choices (a second and fourth) and quarterback Nick Foles. He played 14 games for the Eagles. DeMarco Murray was there, but Chip Kelly had a system that devalued the running back, and also Bradford’s ability to make throws out of play action.
Now, he’s with the Vikings and comes at the cost of a No. 1 draft choice, and also a fourth (at a minimum).
“Bradford was given $76 million with the Rams, and then another $20 million or so guaranteed from the Eagles, and he’s been the No. 1 overall pick, and he’s been traded twice for a first-rounder, a second and a couple of fourths,’’ the St. Louis sports writer said.
“You look at what he’s produced overall and you say, ‘Why has Sam Bradford been deemed to be worth all of this?’
“Now that he’s on a team with Adrian Peterson as the running back, with Pat Shurmur there as an assistant coach, and with what everyone thinks is a really good defense … maybe we’re all going to find out.’’