2007-2011 - The Dark Ages

What went wrong: Former St. Louis Rams No. 1 pick Sam Bradford

The St. Louis Rams were in a great position following the 2010 season. They won seven games, more than they had won in the previous three seasons combined, and they were a Week 17 victory away from winning the NFC West. The Rams were led by the 2010 NFL Rookie of the Year Sam Bradford. Six years later, the Rams have yet to win more than seven games, and Sam Bradford is suiting up for the Philadelphia Eagles. What went wrong?

The biggest problem during Bradford’s tenure in St. Louis was his health. He played a full season in only two out of five years with the Rams. In 2011, he suffered from a high ankle sprain that lingered throughout the entire campaign. In 2013, he tore his ACL and re-tore the same ACL during the 2014 preseason. Bradford even entered the NFL with an injury-prone reputation due to his suffering a season-ending shoulder injury during his junior year at the University of Oklahoma.

Injuries are rarely the single cause of a team giving up on a player, especially at the quarterback position. Another major factor that caused the Rams to part ways with Bradford was his massive contract. His contract included $50 million guaranteed and is the largest contract for a rookie in NFL history. The Rams paid Bradford $17 million to sit on the sidelines during the 2014 season. With so money on the line entering 2015, the Rams opted to shed his contract to clear cap space.

Bradford’s health and contract, along with the opportunity to replace Bradford with a much cheaper Nick Foles, were the biggest reasons the Rams chose to trade him. However, there is one last question that needs to be explored: how much did Bradford’s play affect this decision?

It’s easy to slap the bust label on Bradford before actually looking at how he played when he was on the field. He had a historic rookie season at the time, but he followed it up with a rough sophomore slump. However, Bradford followed this up with an exceptional and under-appreciated 2012 season. Bradford set career-highs across the board with 3,702 yards and 21 touchdowns with a poor supporting cast of receivers. Rookie Chris Givens finished the season as the Rams’ leading receiver. Givens was later traded after getting buried in the depth chart.

Brandon Gibson was second in receiving, and Rams fans can all remember how mediocre Gibson was during his tenure in St. Louis. Danny Amendola was unquestionably the best receiver on the team, but he had lingering injuries and only played in 11 games. No quarterback should ever have Amendola as the go-to option on an offense. The offense’s success was almost entirely due to Sam Bradford’s efforts in 2012.

Bradford followed up with an impressive start in 2013. He threw for 1,697 yards, 14 touchdowns and just four interceptions during the first seven games. Bradford was injured in the seventh game that season, and never suited up for the Rams in the regular season game again.

I believe the Rams were ready to give Bradford one last shot in 2015, with the hope that he could stay healthy. However, Philadelphia made an offer the Rams just couldn’t refuse. By trading Bradford, the Rams received a promising quarterback in Nick Foles, a couple draft picks, and saved around $10 million. 

The three biggest reasons the Rams traded Bradford were acquiring Foles and an extra draft pick, avoiding the risk of Bradford suffering another injury, and clearing his contract off the books, in that order. In no way was Bradford’s on-field play a determining factor in this trade. The Eagles acquired a quarterback that, if healthy, can still become a very good player in this league. The offer Philadelphia made was just too good to pass up.

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