The NFC West has some very talented signal callers boasting two former #1 overall selections (and Heisman Trophy winners) as well as two rising young stars. Bragging rights as the divisions best QB should be a heavily debated topic for years to come. Of course the success of any QB is going to be tied closely to the success of his team and therefore the QB who wins the NFC West will instantly have the upper hand in the debate. Through 5 games this season the NFC West has 3 teams above .500 with only the St. Louis Rams below the line at 2-3. The division leading Seattle Seahawks have largely been lead to their 4-1 start by a powerful running game and an impressive defense. The San Francisco 49ers have earned their 3-2 mark in a similar fashion, finding success on the ground while limiting opposing offenses with their stout defense. The Arizona Cardinals have earned their 3-2 record almost entirely by virtue of dominant defensive performances as their offense just hasn’t seemed to click yet this season. The Rams on the other hand have been inconsistent in all 3 phases of the game with only Johnny Hekker (Punter) and Greg Zeurlein (Kicker) performing consistently up to expectations so far this season. The fact that the Rams sit in the cellar of the NFC West paired with the Rams offensive struggles in weeks 3 and 4 would lead the average fan to assume Bradford is having the worst season of all the QBs. While writing the weekly article Sam Bradford A Closer Look (look for it Tuesdays) it struck me that Bradford had actually been performing fairly well. In fact Bradford is easily off to the best start of his career in spite of most of his supporting cast playing below expectations. This got me to thinking about how Bradford and his statistics stack against his NFC West peers. Below you will see a chart with each NFC West QBs statistics through the first 5 weeks, all statistics were taken from ESPN’s statistics page except for the statistic for Team Drops which was taken from sportingcharts.com.
|Passing Yards(NFL Rank)||C omp %||TD(NFL Rank)||INT||QB Rating (NFL Rank)||Team Drops %(NFL Rank)|
|1315 (13)||58.33||10 (T-5)||3||85.7 (14)||8.37 (31)|
|997 (23)||58.26||8 (T-9)||4||91.2 (12)||3.76 (9)|
|969 (25)||56.06||6 (T-17)||4||81.9 (21)||4.62 (19)|
|1185 (T-20)||58.88||5 (T-22)||9||67.0 (30)||3.98 (13)|
I am a firm believer that statistics do not tell the entire story, and clearly the fact that Wilson leads the division in QB rating through 5 weeks has to suggest there is something more than what the raw statistics can show. While I am familiar with QB rating I have no idea how they generate the numbers and quite frankly I am not interested in finding out, I am assuming Wilson’s higher QB rating is tied to his higher yards per attempt(YPA) number. I didn’t include the YPA statistic because each player can only run the plays that have been called, and with the Seahawks and 49ers running games the play action pass should give Wilson and Kaepernick a huge advantage in that area. When you look at the raw statistics it is pretty clear that Bradford is enjoying a much higher level of production than his peers, even while his receivers suffer from the leagues second worst drop rate percentage. I know that a huge knock on Bradford is that he doesn’t elevate the play of those around him, but honestly when those players cannot secure the football what do you expect? Tom Brady and Peyton Manning don’t make their wide receivers better, they give them better opportunities to make something happen after the catch. This is an area that Bradford also excels at, and a majority of the drops in the passing game this season have come on perfectly placed balls while the intended target was thinking about all the open field in front of them.
I am not going to argue who is the best QB in the division because obviously each fan base is going to have their own opinion. I have also watched every single offensive snap from the Rams this season, more than once actually, and I have not done that for the other teams in the division so I can’t make a fair comparison. I can say that from the film Bradford’s play has been even better than his statistics would suggest. Yes he has room for improvement, and he has been fortunate in a couple of instances where defenders have dropped passes. However the 3 INTs that he does have on his record could all go down as phenomenal defensive plays and not poor decisions by Bradford (some poor throws but not poor decisions). If the Rams offense can continue to maintain some balance through the rest of the season you could see Bradford pick up the already impressive statistical pace that he is on. The young receivers will continue to drop passes, but I anticipate that even that will likely taper off a little as they all become more comfortable in the offense. National media members and Rams fans alike seem to be clamoring for improvement from Bradford and/or his replacement, to me the numbers and film show a guy playing on the cusp of top 10 QB level (drops are killing the Rams) but not being recognized for it. If you still believe that Sam Bradford is the problem you clearly aren’t paying attention. For a final thought lets see where Bradford’s current pace would rank him among 2012 QBs: 4,200 yards would have been 9th, 32TDs would be tied for 5th, and 9 INTs would have been better than all but four regular full-time starters (Brady, Rodgers, RGIII, Roethlisberger). Thanks for reading and as always Go Rams!!!