Take Five on Sam Bradford and Andrew Luck:
1. I’m not defending Rams quarterback Sam Bradford, who needs to develop keener instincts, which will enhance his playmaking ability. But if you don’t think having an elite go-to receiver makes a big difference for a young quarterback, then you haven’t watched Indianapolis Colts rookie QB Andrew Luck and his exceptional veteran WR, Reggie Wayne. I’ve actually heard some Bradford haters try to make the point that Luck is performing at a high level, even without an impressive supporting cast.
Reggie Wayne is a five-time Pro Bowl selection. He leads the NFL in receptions this season. During his career, Wayne has finished in the NFL’s top five for most catches in a season three times, and he’s been among the top 10 leaders in receiving yards five times. Wayne has had 1,000 or more yards receiving in seven of the last eight seasons. The only time he failed to reach 1,000 was in 2011, when the Colts had no quarterback. And Wayne still caught 75 passes for 960 yards.
The Colts’ win at Jacksonville on Thursday night was the latest example of Wayne’s value. In the first quarter Luck targeted Wayne seven times, and completed five. The Colts established an early 3-0 lead. In the second quarter, Luck hit Wayne for a 21-yard pass that set up a TD. In the fourth quarter, after Jacksonville scored to cut Indy’s lead to 14, Luck extended a long drive that ended in a field goal by connecting with Wayne for 16 yards on third and three.
“Reggie has been a great leader for this team and a great leader for the young guys on this team,” Luck told reporters after the game.
2. In his three seasons in St. Louis, has Bradford experienced the benefit of having a receiver that’s as consistently good as Wayne? Heck, no. Danny Amendola is one of the NFL’s top slot receivers, and the Rams have a better offense when he’s in the game. But two things about Danny, and neither comment should be interpreted as criticism: (A) Amendola hasn’t been able to stay healthy; (B) he’s never been a Pro Bowl pick. But when Amendola is in the lineup, the Rams are more successful, and so is Bradford.
3. Oh, and by the way: if you’re thinking I’m making the case that Bradford could be just as effective as A. Luck if the Rams gave him a Pro Bowl-caliber receiver …. wrong. It’s reasonable to expect an upturn in Bradford’s performance when the Rams begin to put more playmakers on the field; the impact of rookie WR Chris Givens proves that. But Luck is the superior quarterback.
4. That’s expected. Luck came into the 2012 draft as one of the most heralded QB prospects in the history of the draft. Luck had a lengthy, uninterrupted career at Stanford and was a safe bet to become a star. Bradford came out of Oklahoma with a bum shoulder and didn’t rise to the level of being considered worthy of the No. 1 overall selection until relatively late in the process. Luck had attained No. 1 overall prospect status even before he left Stanford. Bradford and Luck each were No. 1 overall picks. But not all No. 1 overall picks are equal.
5. In some ways, the Bradford-Luck conversation is irrelevant. If Luck continues this course, by the end of the year we’ll be seeing his name on the short list of QBs that had the best rookie season in NFL history. I like to discuss these things. It’s fun. But Bradford will be judged on the merits of his own career. If Bradford plays great and emerges a difference-making QB that makes the Rams a regular contender, and a frequent postseason participant, then most fans would be happy.
Have a great weekend …