Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Rams’ Bradford running workouts like the NFL’s next great quarterback

Yahoo Sports
After getting a good look at Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford(notes) during a 2008 season in which he put up numbers most non-spread quarterbacks would find inconceivable and watching him recover from two 2009 shoulder injuries, I opined that if he stayed healthy and his work ethic matched his talent, Bradford would be the NFL's best quarterback within three years of the day he was drafted. It wasn't a hard call to make — a good glimpse of Bradford's freaky deep accuracy put me in mind of the evolutionary version of Tom Brady(notes).
And when Bradford showed up at the 2010 Scouting combine with 15 pounds of additional muscle, he put any questions about that work ethic to bed for good. It's why he was taken first overall in the 2010 draft by the St. Louis Rams, it's why he got the Rams close to the playoffs in his rookie season despite an almost comical lack of healthy receiver talent, and it's why he was voted the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year in a landslide.
With the lockout as his backdrop, Bradford is now taking the step that only the true greats of the game ever manage — true team leader. When the Rams began team-implemented workouts on Monday, Bradford was the one drawing plays up on cards for his teammates, the work that a quality control coach would do. Bradford had no issue with it — he figured that because the quarterback has to know more of the playbook than any other player, he would be in the best position to get everything organized from a schematic perspective.
"He would call out a play and he would also break it down and explain it to all the other guys and the young guys who were there for the first time," guard Jacob Bell(notes) told Mike Sando of ESPN.com after the first practice. "He's really doing it big. They are really breaking down and dissecting the plays, going over them, had the cards drawn up, looked pretty good out there."
Not only has Bradford been organizing the practices, he's also taken the step of reaching out to players on other teams familiar with the offensive systems drawn up by new offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.Bradford told Bryan Burwell of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that whole he'd prefer not to name the players he's been "leaning on,"  he made it very clear that he feels great about the level of involvement and intensity in these practices. "It really wasn't hard to get everyone involved, either," Bradford said. "I've heard stories of other teams having problems getting guys to come in and set certain dates. But I sent out an e-mail to guys and almost everyone said, 'Yep, I'm on board.'"
Guard Hank Fraley(notes) jokingly told Burwell to "Just say that we are hopelessly unorganized. Tell everyone that we have no clue what we're doing," but with Bradford as an emerging leader, there's little chance of that.
You want to know the name of the NFL's next Manning, Brady, Brees or Rodgers? Start in St. Louis.

Monday, May 9, 2011

No One Really Knows

By Howard Balzer

Since there isn't very much to talk about in the NFL aside from the 
draft (except for counting the days until three judges hold a hearing 
here in St. Louis on June 3), the debate in these parts over what the 
Rams did last week is at times somewhat comical.

How so? Very simple. Those whose perspective is usually negative about 
just about anything spend their time this way:

*Ripping the Rams for what they didn't do in the draft;

*Ripping the Rams for what they did do in the draft;

*Selectively picking out only those analysts whose opinions match their 
agenda, while conveniently overlooking any that had positive things to 

*Labeling anyone locally that tries to explain in rational thought what 
the Rams were thinking as apologists.

Of course, many in that crowd were the same ones that thought the Rams 
were idiots last year for drafting quarterback Sam Bradford instead of 
defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh.

And yet, they never learn. The goal seemingly is to be as irrational as 
possible, while dismissing any potentially rational arguments from the 
other side.

There is no gray area, only absolutes, as if there is no possible chance 
the Rams actually know what they are doing.

Here is what is usually missed by the hammering crowd: In the analysis I 
have presented since the draft, I have never given a grade, never come 
out and said this was a great or even good draft. The reason for that is 
obvious: I don't know if it is. The rippers think they know, but they 
don't. No one knows, certainly not now, and no one will know until at 
least two or three years down the road.

All I've done is attempt to explain why the Rams did what they did and 
show that it made sense, provided the players are who they think they 
are. Those from "the other side" can't even bring themselves to even 
acknowledge that possibility.

At the end of the day, that is the essence of the draft. The players' 
performance will determine its success or failure, and no 
day-after-the-draft grade will have any bearing on the end result.

Grading a draft immediately would be like a teacher giving an exam to a 
class, collecting the papers, and then giving grades without looking at 
the tests with the result based only on what the teacher thinks each 
student has done.

All anyone has to do is go back a few years and check out some draft 
grades and quickly see what a useless exercise it is. Yet, most everyone 
continues to do it.

Judging character

Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo continues to be guided by his "four pillars" 
approach even though some like to take pot shots any time there is the 
slightest slip by a player.

Defensive end Robert Quinn misses his senior season because he accepted 
jewelry and travel accommodations from an agent, and the four pillars 
critics pounce, apparently believing the Rams didn't check him out 

Cornerback Bradley Fletcher had a DUI in college, the Rams investigated 
fully and determined he was a quality person that used bad judgment. 
It's patterns of behavior and persistent examples of irresponsibility 
that teams like the Rams look at before deciding whether to invest a 
draft pick.