Cast your mind back to the final game of Sam Bradford’s rookie season. The Rams are on the road in Seattle, two scores down with ten minutes to go. Bradford throws an inch-perfect deep pass to Danario Alexander. The receiver is clear of the last defensive back and if he takes it through for what looks like an inevitable touchdown, St Louis arguably have the time and momentum to come back and beat the Seahawks to clinch the NFC West title. As it happens, Alexander lets the ball go straight through his hands and the Rams season is over.
That moment remains the closest that the Rams have got to the post-season since Bradford was drafted first overall in 2010. The play has festered in my mind ever since – partly because I nearly blew both quadriceps jumping off my sofa thinking the Rams were about to get a crucial score, but mainly because it completely typifies the problems Sam Bradford has encountered in his years with the St Louis Rams. Just when Bradford finds himself thinking ‘maybe this time’, luck goes against him.
Bad luck in the form of an ACL tear brought a premature end to Bradford’s 2013 season. Prior to the injury, Bradford had career-high numbers in terms of completion percentage, passing yards per game and overall QB rating. He was well on course to smash previous tallies for touchdown passes and total yardage. And all this despite the single biggest stroke of bad luck Bradford has to overcome – the continuance of the Brian Schottenheimer offense. The Rams drafted Brian Quick high in 2012 to be the big, athletic deep-threat receiver the team was missing. Though more natural in the slot, Tavon Austin’s electrifying speed makes him just as much of a downfield threat. Both remain woefully underused. Drafting Quick and Austin and putting them into this offensive scheme is like giving Sam Bradford the keys to a Ferrari, then telling him he’s not allowed to drive over 35 miles an hour. It is a total waste of potential.
Injuries, inconsistency at offensive coordinator, poor play design by that coordinator, holes in the offensive line, errors by receivers at crucial times – there is a list a mile long of things that have gone against Bradford. Surely no-one’s luck can be this bad for this long? I remain convinced the former number one overall draft pick has the arm and the talent to take St Louis back to the playoffs. He has an improved line, talented young receivers, a reliable running back and a solid defense to support him. Maybe, just maybe, 2014 can be the year when Sam Bradford finally has some good luck.