Oct 20, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford (8) reacts in the second quarter at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Is Sam Bradford The 30th Best Quarterback In The NFL?


Before you get up in arms about the title, obviously we here at Ramblin’ Fan do not believe that Sam Bradford is the 30th-best quarterback in the league. However, as the season progresses, and more and more quarterbacks receive attention for their accolades, pundits and analysts will inevitably start debating which teams will be “zeroing in” on a quarterback in April. Naturally, with Sam Bradford’s injury and a massive contract due next season, his place among the ranks will be “hot button.”

To highlight that, one such analyst made this assertion, when referencing quarterbacks “better” than Sam Bradford:

“grab a list of any starting quarterbacks in the NFL not named Blaine Gabbert or Christian Ponder, there’s 30,” later followed by, “[Bradford is a] mediocre injury prone QB. Ponder, Gabbert, Weeden, Palmer [are] worse, that’s about it.”

And thus, our benchmark was set.

So, instead of defending Sam Bradford, our goal will be to genuinely search for 29 quarterbacks that could unarguably be placed ahead of the St. Louis Rams signal caller. In the interest of time, we will by-pass a handful of quarterbacks who have obviously demonstrated superiority to this point in their careers: 1) Tom Brady, 2) Peyton Manning, 3) Aaron Rodgers, 4) Drew Brees, 5) Matt Ryan, 6) Ben Roethlisberger, and 7) Philip Rivers. So, let’s head through the rest of the quarterbacks in the NFL, and see what we can come up with…


*NOTE: These quarterbacks are not listed in an particular ranking or order, the numbers are merely to keep tally


8) Matthew Stafford – Yes, Stafford has had arguably the greatest offensive weapons since Jerry Rice at his disposal since his inception into the league as a rookie. However, numbers are numbers, and Stafford has put up two 4,000+ yard seasons, 95 passing touchdowns, and made one playoff appearance in, essentially, three full seasons as a starter.

9) Tony Romo – One playoff win in 11 NFL seasons does not sound overly impressive, namely because it isn’t. However, clutch performances and postseason victories are likely the only metric that would hold Tony Romo out of a higher ranking. With 27,747 total passing yards, 197 total touchdowns, and a career completion percentage of 65.0%, it is not hard to make a case for him in the Top 10.

10) Andrew Luck – Despite inferior numbers in nearly every statistical category and starting his career with an, arguable, second- or third-ballot Hall of Fame receiver, Reggie Wayne, most would already slot Luck ahead of Bradford because…well, we’re not exactly sure. Luck did boost the Colts meteorically into the playoffs in his rookie season, and has led his team to “impressive” wins over the Seahawks, Broncos, and 49ers this season. It will be interesting to see how he performs without Reggie Wayne, who is out for the rest of the season; but, for argument’s sake, we’ll just leave him here.

11) Jay Cutler – Jay Cutler, much like Bradford, has had the inconvenience of inconsistency in his skill position players, offensive lines, and coaching staffs. However, even in his “best season,” when Cutler managed 4,500+ yards and 25 touchdowns, he still tossed 18 interceptions and led the Broncos to an 8-8 overall record. But, if we are reaching for more quarterbacks to definitively throw ahead of Bradford, you could always use the caveat that Cutler has one playoff win, albeit one win that occurred in 2010, five years into the league.

12) Colin Kaepernick – As grotesque as that sounds, pundits will inevitably slot Colin Kaepernick ahead of Bradford, despite starting only 20 regular season games in this professional career. If you have the intestinal fortitude to 1) blatantly disregard the fact that he took over a 6-2 squad last season, that was one play away from making the Super Bowl only one season before, 2) ignore his nearly 50/50 tendency to perform like a Top 10/Bottom 10 quarterback on any given week, and 3) that Pro Football Focus currently has him ranked 35th out of 38 signal callers that have played, at least, 25% of the team’s offensive snaps this season… then you could make a case for him being ahead of Sam Bradford, merely based on the fact that he is considered “dynamic” and has played in a Super Bowl. Again, for the purposes of this exercise, we will!

13) Alex Smith – This one might hurt even worse, considering it took four head coaches, two “benchings,” and eight seasons for Alex Smith to shake off the “bust” title and take the crown as the top “game manager” in the league. Even with that, he has only one 3,000+ yard season, four 10+ interception seasons, has never thrown for 20+ touchdowns, and has a career completion percentage under 60%. The only “qualifier” for Smith may be that he does have a playoff win, albeit in his sixth season in the NFL, and that he is currently the signal caller for the only undefeated team in the NFL.

14) Cam Newton – Last week, we briefly compared the career numbers for Cam Newton and Sam Bradford, and concluded that it was “plausible” that Newton was the better quarterback, based solely on his ability to score as a passer and as a runner. So, yea, we’ll stick with that!

15) Russell Wilson – Russell Wilson easily has the most “solid” case among the sophomore starters to leapfrog Sam Bradford. Wilson matched the rookie record for passing touchdowns last year, has comparably horrendous skill players (aside from Marshawn Lynch) and offensive linemen, and has already won a playoff game. In our humble opinion, it’s is always a tad premature to cast “labels” on quarterbacks who have yet to play two full seasons in the league. However, if there were one that deserves the “benefit of the doubt,” it is likely Mr. Wilson.

16) Robert Griffin – After a phenomenal rookie campaign, capped by the 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year award, Griffin has obviously not lived up to the overwhelming hype in his second season. His numbers have dropping in every statistical category, aside from overall passing yards and attempts, and he is current on pace for a mediocre 21 total touchdowns and 16 interceptions on 634 passing attempts (over 60% more projected throws than last year) this season. The Redskins have won two games this year, although one was against the quarterback-less Raiders, and the other was against the Cutler-less Bears. Digging deep, one could make the argument that RGIII has, at least, led a team to the playoffs. However, you would have to also disregard the fact that he is coming off of his second major reconstructive surgery on the same knee, and that Washington lost that lone playoff appearance without scoring in the final three quarters of the game.

17) Eli Manning – He has two Super Bowl rings?

18) Joe Flacco – He has one Super Bowl ring?

19) Andy Dalton – He has led his team to the playoffs twice?

20) Michael Vick - His team played in the playoffs back in 2010, but, again, he has gotten “benched” twice in the last two seasons in favor of some guy named Nick Foles…

…O.K., enough reaching!

The other “starting” quarterbacks in the NFL are:

21) Ryan Tannehill (MIA)

22) Carson Palmer (AZ)

23)  Jake Locker (TEN)

24) E.J. Manuel/Thad Lewis (BUF)*

25) Mike Glennon (TB)*

26) Geno Smith (NYJ)*

27) Matt Schaub/Case Keenum (HOU)**

28) Josh Freeman/Christian Ponder (MIN)**

29) Brandon Weeden/Jason Campbell/Brian Hoyer (CLE)**

30) Terrell Pryor (OAK)

31) Chad Henne/Blaine Gabbert (JAX)**

To find 20 quarterbacks ahead of Bradford, you would have to significantly lower the bar and narrow your scope of thinking. In some cases, that means ignoring  recent years’  performances, using overly simplistic metrics (i.e. playoff appearances), and, in several instances, completely disregarding supporting casts, coaches, injury histories, and the shear amount of time a player took to reach their “marks.”

To place any of those other “starting” quarterbacks ahead of Sam Bradford, you would need either a magic crystal ball or the biggest pair of “blinders” in the world to overlook some of their recent performances, or lack thereof. In fact, 27% of that other final list have played fewer than eight NFL games (*) and 36% of them have been “benched” without injury, or replaced after coming back at “full health” (**).

With all of that in mind, even the conductor of the “Bradford hate-train” could not claim, in good conscience, that there are 30 quarterbacks in the NFL, right now, better than Sam Bradford.

Realistically, even without any postseason appearances, you could comfortably place Sam Bradford anywhere between 12th to 18th on the overall list of quarterbacks in the NFL. Excuses or not, Sam Bradford has shown an ability to compete in the NFL, in spite of inept front office/coaching personnel and lack of an offensive supporting cast. In his lone season with “real weapons,” he was completing over 60% of passing attempts (despite 21 dropped passes; 5th-worst), with 14 touchdowns, only 4 interceptions, and is currently graded as the 15th best “passer” in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Bottom line: Are there 30, or even 25 quarterbacks, better than Sam Bradford in the NFL, right now? No. Would we stick with Sam Bradford for our quarterback of the future? Yes.


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  • skeletony

    Decent article except for the spelling errors (i.e. “In good CONSCIENCE…”, not “in good conscious”). Also the Seahawks have one of the best receiving corps in the entire NFL right now. I always wonder where some people are getting this idea that we have sucky receivers? Do any of you get to watch any Seahawks games or do you just hear an offhand and poorly researched comment by one guy and assume that is the truth?
    Golden Tate is as good as ANY #2 WR in the league, as is Baldwin and Rice is as good as any WR not named Calvin Johnson or Fitzgerald when healthy.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Well, my intent was to use conscious, as opposed to conscience, as a play on words; in that anyone with any awareness of the NFL could not justifiably place Bradford that low in any ranking. Obviously, that was not received well. However, if that “mistake” is the only thing wrong with the article I will take that as a compliment…

      However, it is very “Seahawks-like” for you to ignored the fact that Russell Wilson may have been the only quarterback outside of the “Top 7″ that I didn’t take a jab at before adding them to the list.

      I have watched every snap that Russell Wilson has taken since being in the league, and, because I do not have tunnel-vision on the Seattle Seashawks, can generalize and compare the offensive line and wide receiver play to the rest of the NFL.

      I am a bit critical of Golden Tate, although I would agree that is certainly one of the better #2 receivers in the league. Baldwin is pretty much like the Brandon Gibson of the ‘Hawks, showing up one week with 5 catches for 100+ yards, then disappearing for a two or three game stretch.

      However, if you think that Sidney Rice is “as good as any WR” besides Megatron and Fitz, you seriously need to lay off the booze, my friend. I shouldn’t really need complex metrics to make this point, but, this season, Rice is graded as the 43rd WR in the league by (PFF), has the fourth-fewest average YAC, and a 48% catch rate on targets (worse, those are slightly BETTER than last year). “When healthy”? Rice hasn’t had an arguable Top 10 season since he was in Minnesota back in 2009, which just so happened to be the magical “Brett Favre season,” when, at 39 years old, he threw for 4,200+ yards and 33 touchdowns. Even in Sidney Rice’s BEST season, he was only Top 10 in ONE major statistical category, receiving yards (YPC – 20th, TDs – 13th, averYAC – 44th, catch% – 20th).

      But, as a constellation prize, I’ll change that word for you :)

      • skeletony

        It is wrong to cite overall stats of ANY of Seattle’s WRs in comparison to other WRs on other teams to make the case you are trying to make because A) Seattle barely throws the ball at all in any game and B) when they DO throw the ball they spread it around to 7 or 8 different targets consistently. Baldwin does not disappear to anywhere near the extent you suggest in any case. And use your eyes by taking a look at the catches he has made in the situations he had made them. If Baldwin were playing with Tom Brady right now he would be their #1 WR…easily!

        Rice is an admittedly debatable matter. He makes catches that would get Calvin Johnson saying “DAMN!” at times, throws touchdown passes etc. but then fumbles the ball while trying to stretch for a first down or some such error. So I will reluctantly concede your point that he is not quite a dominant #1 WR overall, but I still say he is one of the most underrated WRs in the game (I said the same thing about Nate Burleson when he was here and people said I was on drugs then too, then he did what he has done in Detroit and everyone has reversed their position on him). I can see that there are some besides Johnson and Fitz who are clearly better than Rice overall though but there are some guys like Dez Bryant are probably rated better (faster and with better leaping ability at least) but they make up for that with their ‘spoiled child’ antics. A. J. Green is clearly better than Rice though now that I think about it and I can think of at least two others as I go on here (Victor Cruz is one) so, yes your point stands.

        Not sure what you meant by calling my comment “Seahawks like”?! You did not take jabs at RW and I did not say otherwise.

  • Melting in Phoenix

    I look at it this way….who would I trade Bradford for straight-up? When using that yardstick, I put Bradford at #21 — and Vick and Locker are right there.

    • Nathan Kearns

      Not a bad way of looking it… in fact, that is an excellent way to gauge his “place” in the league.

      Using that metric, I’d take: Brady, Manning, Brees, Rodgers, Rivers (assuming he bring his new offensive coordinator with him), Ryan, Big Ben, Newton, Wilson, Romo, Stafford…

      … wouldn’t trade “straight up” for:
      Dalton (barely average with Top 5 WR/TE corps)
      RG3 (two major knee surgeries in the last 4 years, performing poorly in sophomore season)
      Kaepernick (50/50 shot at underwhelming, Bottom 5 graded QB by PFF w/o Crabtree this season)
      Jay Cutler (8 seasons, one playoff win; always hurt)
      Eli Manning (…just look at this season)
      Flacco (…again, just look at this season, without his “favorite” weapons)
      Alex Smith (essentially the exact same “type” of QB, with less accuracy throwing the ball)

      So, I guess, in my mind, I would place him #12 on my list. Then again, that is looking at quarterbacks having to come into St. Louis and play in this offensive system with these young, inexperienced offensive players.

      I think it is easy to look at a player and say “Wow, look at what they have done with their team and look at what Bradford has done with his.” However, most naturally assume that they will be able to replicate their past performance in a new offensive system, with new coordinators, and completely new defensive and offensive personnel. We saw what a simple coaching change did (positively) for Alex Smith in 2011 and Philip Rivers in 2013, and what a coaching absence did (negatively) for Drew Brees last season. Moreover, we have already seen this season how losing a veteran/”go-to” player, a key offensive lineman, or having their defense struggle can effect a quarterbacks performance (Brady, Flacco, Kaepernick, RG3, Big Ben, etc.)

      Then again, everyone’s list is probably a little different.

      • skeletony

        This may be my own ignorance speaking so bear with me but doesn’t your #2 point above contradict your case? If he took a 2-14 team in 2009 to 7-9 and then did almost as well (taking a 2-14 team in 2011 to 7-8-1 in 2012) then doesn’t that mean he took a 7-9 team in 2010 to 2-14 in 2011?

        • Nathan Kearns

          Yes, that would certainly seem like a not-so-coincidental exclusion. However, Bradford sat out most of 2011 with a high ankle sprain, and likely should have missed more games, had Steve Spagnuolo not been desperate to keep his job and kept his quarterback in the lineup. I suppose you could make the argument that it should still count against him, but I don’t know of any pundit or analysts that even recognizes Bradford as playing during the 2011 season…

          • skeletony

            Ah…I kind of suspected I was forgetting or not aware of some injuries.

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