Have you heard the news? Sam Bradford has saved the Vikings’ season. In Sunday night’s 17–14 win over the Packers, the quarterback had what The MMQB’s Peter King described as his “best game as a pro,” completing 22 of 31 passes for 286 yards with two touchdowns.
“He threw with accuracy,” wrote the Star Tribune’s Jim Souhan. “He threw deep with velocity. He threw with touch. He survived a poor performance by his offensive line. He succeeded without help from the running game. He thrived despite having only one receiver make big plays.”
He saved a cat from a tree. He adopted an orphan. He rescued grandma from a burning building. He inspired the entire Twin Cities metro area to step away from their Teddy Bridgewater shrines and start chanting SKOL! SKOL! SKOL!
Let’s get one thing straight: Sam Bradford isn’t a bad quarterback. When he’s healthy — which hasn’t been often, as he hurt his shoulder during his junior year at Oklahoma and then missed most of the 2013 season and the entire 2014 campaign with the Rams after twice tearing the ACL in his left knee — he’s … fine. But he has a remarkable ability to cause otherwise sane scouts, coaches, fans, teammates, dog walkers, garbage collectors, librarians, etc., to collectively lose their shit. Time and again, he’s been anointed the Next Big Thing after showing brief flashes of promise, only to slip back to mediocrity just as cities finish erecting statues in his honor.
As the Vikings prepare for their all-but-certain run to the Super Bowl, let’s take a quick trip back through Bradford hype of yore.
At his 2010 pro day workout in front of all 32 teams, the 2008 Heisman Trophy winner dazzled. Sorry, that’s too muted a word — he prompted basically every coach and scout in attendance to reflexively begin tap dancing in place. He got the Rams staff, then holding the no. 1 overall pick, to lead a rendition of the can-can. He inspired Pete Carroll to write songs. He caused — and the fact that there are no witnesses does not make this untrue — a live-action rendition of Moulin Rouge! in the middle of a practice field.
“[H]e put on the best quarterback workout by a draft prospect that I’ve seen since I watched a private workout Troy Aikman put on for us with the Cowboys in California,” former Dallas vice president of player personnel Gil Brandt wrote at the time. NFL Network’s Mike Mayock called it “one of the best pro days he’s seen in six years.” ESPN draft analyst Todd McShay rated Bradford as the top overall QB pick with a score of 96. (McShay’s expanded commentary is curiously no longer available.)
So the Rams selected Bradford first overall, because duh. He was named the team’s starting quarterback before the 2010 season, and things went OK; he threw for 3,512 yards and led St. Louis to a 7–9 record, good enough to earn him the Offensive Rookie of the Year award. It seemed like there was more in store, and anyway, 7–9 is a nice and comfortable result in some parts of the country. What I’m trying to say is: Is Sam Bradford the next Tom Brady?
Then the 2011 season started and uh, well, the Rams didn’t win the Lombardi Trophy, if that’s what you’re asking. They went 2–14 and were bad in ways that weren’t entirely Bradford’s fault; he threw for 2,164 yards with six touchdowns and six interceptions as St. Louis worked its way to a league-worst average of 12.1 points per game. He improved in 2012, and head coach Jeff Fisher announced that Bradford could be the best quarterback in the NFL. Then Bradford busted his knee, and came back and busted it again, and what do you know, it’s March 2015 and Bradford is suddenly headed to Philadelphia.
And baby, it’s time for the Eagles to win the Super Bowl.
Watch that. No, really, watch that. A lot of people have — 374,000 and counting. I imagine them sitting in their homes, wrapped in dark-green blankets in August 2015, staring into the glow of their computers and whispering Chip Kelly. Sam Bradford. Chip Kelly. Sam Bradford. Chip Kelly. …
As last season began, four Sports Illustrated writers projected that the Eagles would appear in the Super Bowl; three said they’d win it. Seven ESPN analysts had them as champs. Bradford, predicted Eagles beat writer Eliot Shorr-Parks, will “be considered the best quarterback in the NFC East at the end of the season, throwing for 30 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.” After the quarterback “went nuclear” against the Packers in the team’s third preseason game, it was safe to conclude that “putting Bradford in Philadelphia coach Chip Kelly’s offense certainly could be a dangerous mix for the rest of the NFL.” Philly was all in.
Hahahahahahahaha. Here is a brief list of verbs, with suggested nouns, to sum up the Eagles in 2015: flounder (Bradford), fizzle (season), fire (Kelly).
Minneapolis now marks Bradford’s third stop in his seven-year career, and once again, he has brought Bradford fever along with him. He did this on short notice, getting traded to the Vikings just eight days before the start of their season and six months after receiving a quantity of money that was widely considered “too much lol what are you crazy,” at least until the sweating and chills began. So now he’s there, and even though his situation has become much tougher with Wednesday’s news that Adrian Peterson will undergo surgery to repair a torn meniscus and is expected to miss several months, who knows — maybe this time it’s for real.
Or maybe Sam Bradford is who he’s always been: a pretty decent, generally serviceable, injury-prone-but-overall-not-too-bad quarterback who will lead your team — if you catch him in a good year — to a pleasant enough 7–9 season.