The effective rookie quarterback is a rare creature indeed. Shhh! Step on a twig and you might send him scuttling into the underbrush!
In recent years, we've seen success from Matt Ryan, Joe Flacco and....well, Matt Ryan and Joe Flacco. It's rare to have quarterbacks step under center for the first time and find success, and it's deserving of credit when they do. But how do you properly evaluate success?
I'd argue that by any definition of the word, Sam Bradford has been a success story. After the jump, I'll tell you why.
On paper, Bradford's numbers are pretty average. Twelve touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 78.2 rating are certainly decent, but nothing that screams ONCE IN A LIFETIME PROSPECT PLAYING NOW! But dig a little deeper.
Bradford's best receiver, Donnie Avery, went down in the first game of the season. The Rams went out and got Mark Clayton, who gave Bradford a deep threat to replace Avery, and then he went down. His best remaining receivers are Laurent Robinson (you remember him), Danny Amendola and Daniel Fells (you also remember him). He's got nothing at receiver.
Then consider his offensive line. He's been sacked 20 times and had the snot kicked out of him by opposing pass rushers, as the Rams try to rebuild a line for their new dynasty quarterback. The dude is under pressure so much that he has hallucinations of Freddie Mercury and David Bowie high-stepping across a stage.
Then you consider that in his last three games, Bradford has thrown five touchdowns against zero interceptions. Wow.
In that light, Bradford is having an amazing season. With weapons and a competent line, he could be flirting with a 90 quarterback rating right now. His ceiling is probably actually higher than Ryan's, but Ryan has been fortunate enough to have an intelligent general manager and a great supporting cast because of it. Bradford's got...well...nothing. Nothing at all.
With the carefree way quarterbacks have been slicing through our secondary in recent weeks, there's ample reason to fear Bradford. He makes smart throws and he will punish a lax defense. The Falcons have contained backs as talented as Steven Jackson this season, and while I'm not taking that for granted, I want to put a stop to Bradford's shenanigans. The Falcons will have to generate a ton of pressure up front.
Now don't get me wrong. This is still a game I expect the Falcons to win. But with the NFC West up for grabs, we may see Bradford more than once this season. Don't sleep.