After two pedestrian performances by Colin Kaepernick, the narrative in San Francisco began shifting away from glowing praise for the zone-read pistol option trigger man and towards regret over trading Alex Smith. With success comes excessive criticism. Kaepernick answered the call and there’s now a new NFC West storyline.
The first words from Texas Senator Ted Cruz’s reading of Dr. Seuss’ Green Eggs and Ham on the Senate floor that went viral on the Internet is identical to what St. Louis Rams fans feel about their starting quarterback.
"That Sam-I-Am, that Sam-I-Am. I do not like that Sam-I-Am."
On Thursday night, he delivered a putrid 202 yards, one interception, a matching fumble and a sub-50% completion percentage in front of his home crowd at the Edward Jones Dome. From the chorus of boos that began echoing late in the third quarter, you start to get the feeling that Rams fans are ready to turn the page on Bradford.
Unlike Kaepernick, Bradford has never enjoyed the joy of victory in St. Louis. Fans in St. Louis will always remember that they passed on RGIII, instead of giving Bradford the Trent Richardson shoo-fly treatment. Newton and Kaepernick are two of the most mobile quarterbacks in the league, but neither has been able to elude criticism from the national media like Bradford who was drafted one year earlier than them both.
He both suffers and benefits from the tree falling in the forest malady where he’s been pushed to the dark corner of the casual fan’s peripherals. He hasn’t been good enough to garner acclaim and not terrible enough to receive mass derision. His inconspicuous status has allowed him to steer clear of the brutal roastings that other QBs have had to shrug off their shoulders like would-be tacklers on a weekly basis.
After Andrew Luck and the Colts shredded a depleted Niners defense, the idea was that this would be the night Bradford gave the rest of the NFL a glimpse of what they’d been missing.
Now in his fourth year and 46th start, Bradford hasn’t displayed the preternatural ability to make his teammates better that the top up and coming quarterbacks have demonstrated. Instead, the Rams offense remains trapped in a vegetative state.
Every passing day Bradford looks less like a franchise quarterback and more like pre-Harbaugh Alex Smith. Bradford entered Week 4 as the signal caller with the second-fewest average air yards (yards thrown past the line of scrimmage per attempt). Right behind him at No. 3 is Dink-And-Dunk Smith. Bradford shows great zip on his passes, but he displays an aversion to throwing deep when open receivers are streaking downfield and his accuracy gets shakier when he attempts to stretch the defense.
Bradford’s not the only employee of the 1-3 Rams that’s been a dud. Offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was last seen as Mark Sanchez’s bumbling offensive coach. Before the season, there were rumors swirling over the Rams plans for multi-purpose rookie weapon Tavon Austin.
That shouldn’t be taken as a criticism of Austin, who has been battling butterfingers disease. Sadly, creativity has never been one of Schottenheimer’s strong suits. Schottenheimer witnessed Drew Brees emerge from his cocoon while he was the San Diego Chargers quarterbacks coach and he’s been held responsible for Mark Sanchez’s regression as the New York Jets offensive coordinator.
It’s fitting that Smith’s final start as a Niner came on the road against Bradford’s Rams last November. Smith is proof that Bradford can be saved. However, it has to happen soon. The Rams are attempting to renegotiate Bradford’s contract because his cap number jumps to $17.6 million in 2014 and $16.5 million in 2015. In case you forget, it was the $50 million guaranteed that Bradford negotiated that was behind the push for a rookie wage scale.
"Tomorrow's going to be a pretty tough day in the film room," Bradford said after the loss. "The good news is we have 10 days, 11 days until we play again and there's going to be ample time to get that corrected."
Unfortunately, the horrific performance we saw cannot be unseen. Bradford is about to come under fire. Time is running out for the Rams signal caller to smash the emergency glass enclosing his latent potential and extinguish doubts from his growing legion of critics.