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Sam Bradford is why the St. Louis Rams' future looks bright

Former Oklahoma and Putnam City North quarterback is at the center of a rebuilding effort led by new coach Jeff Fisher.
By Mike Baldwin Published: August 25, 2012

In Sam We Trust

Despite experiencing a drop-off last season, the Rams believe Bradford can develop into an elite quarterback, taking a similar path as Detroit's Matthew Stafford, who also experienced growing pains on a bad team. Cignetti said Bradford is the most talented quarterback he's ever worked with.

“You look at the physical measurables and you're talking about a young man that's tall, can stand in the pocket, has great posture, great poise,” Cignetti told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He can make all the throws. He has great movement.

“You look at Sam, you see a quarterback capable of doing all the things you'd like to do (on offense).”

Former OU teammate Brody Eldridge, a tight end, has been reunited with Bradford in St. Louis. Eldridge's first two NFL seasons were in Indianapolis, where he caught passes from future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.

“I'm not saying he's going to be the next Peyton Manning. That's almost impossible,” Eldridge said. “Peyton is one of the best there's ever been. But Sam has a lot of talent and is great in the film room. He knows what he's doing. He knows what it takes to be great.”

It will take time, but there have been some positive signs.

Two weeks ago in a preseason win over Kansas City, the Rams' first-team offense played three series. St. Louis scored touchdowns on its first two possessions, culminated by Bradford touchdown passes. Bradford completed 6 of 9 passes for 102 yards.

“His accuracy is his best weapon,” Amendola said. “He's tall. He has a great ability to see the field. His timing is great. That's pretty much all you can ask for. It's just a matter of time before we start doing great things in this league. He's going to lead us there. We're all excited about the future.”

Headed in the right direction

During his year away from the NFL, Jeff Fisher traveled. One highlight was climbing Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain in Africa.

Fisher inherits the NFL's version of Mount Kilimanjaro.

The Rams' Super Bowl XXXIV win against Fisher's Tennessee Titans was almost 13 years ago.

With Fisher, Bradford, some young talent and a treasure chest of draft picks, the Rams hope they're the next version of the Lions and 49ers, successful examples of methodical rebuilding projects.

“You look at them now and they're among the best teams in the league,” Bradford said. “I think we're definitely headed in that direction. It takes a lot of hard work. We're going to have to play good football. With coach Fisher coming in, he's a guy who can lead us in that direction.”

How Bradford plays is a key component in how quickly the Rams improve.

Some were concerned about his shoulder after he was sidelined twice as a redshirt junior at OU, the year after he won the Heisman with a 50-to-8 TD-to-interception ratio.

The shoulder hasn't been an issue. Bradford started all 16 games his rookie season, when he passed for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns.

But last year, he threw only six TDs. Nearly every stat slipped, including completion percentage and his quarterback rating.

“People can manipulate numbers all they want to make someone look good or look bad,” Bradford said. “Wins, that's the bottom line. It doesn't matter what you do, if you don't win, they don't care.”

Bradford is part of a new generation of quarterbacks, a mixed bag that includes last year's No. 1 overall pick, Cam Newton, and the top two picks this year — Andrew Luck and Griffin. And don't forget Stafford, another No. 1 overall pick.

The Rams like their guy. They're committed to Bradford, who signed a guaranteed $50 million, six-year deal worth up to $86 million. It was the largest rookie contract ever.

Trading Bradford would be salary cap suicide. That trade rumor? Ill-researched conjecture.

In the end, St. Louis traded that No. 2 pick to Washington for the sixth and 39th picks and first-round picks in 2013 and 2014. It's the type of deal that should speed up the rebuilding process, another reason Fisher liked St. Louis' foundation.

“We haven't been great lately, but in the NFL things can change really quickly,” Bradford said. “You can go from the bottom to the top within one season or a couple of seasons. Everyone here is in the process of getting the Rams back to where they once were.”