Colts/Rams Football – Luck vs. Bradford; Close on Paper, But Eye Test Is Different

by Kent Sterling

imagesThe City of St, Louis wants to love Sam Bradford.  Rams fans want to believe that the three-year veteran will be a late bloomer who will show his potential with better protection and weapons.

They point to a variety of reasons Bradford has looked nothing like a championship quarterback to this point in his career.  The rest of the team – the offensive line in particular – has not been the caliber a quarterback needs to function effectively is #1.  The second is that Bradford has not worked with the same offensive coordinator twice.

Andrew Luck hasn’t even worked with the same offensive coordinator for one season as his first O.C., Bruce Arians, was pressed into service as the head coach when Chuck Pagano took a leave to fight leukemia.  The Colts offensive line wasn’t exactly a brick wall last year, yielding more sacks against Luck than Bradford ever totaled.

Both quarterbacks lacked multiple dynamic receivers.  While Luck enjoyed having future hall of famer Reggie Wayne and his magic hands as targets, Bradford had multiple mediocre and/or extremely young wideouts and tight ends.

The raw statistics tell one story:

Luck in his rookie year was 339 for 627, 4,374 yards, 23TDs, 18 INTs, 41 sacks, andimages 255 yards and five TDs as a runner.  Yards per attempt were an even 7.0, and the Colts averaged 12.9 yards per completion.  The ESPN QBR for Luck is 64.99.

Bradford in his third year was 328 for 551, 3,702 yards, 21TDs, 13 INTs, 35 sacks, and 127 yards and one TD rushing.  Yards per attempt – 6.7, and the Rams averaged 11.3 yards per completion.  The ESPN QBR for Bradford is 51.56.

The traditional quarterback rating lines up in Bradford’s favor – 82.6 to 76.5.

The Colts finished last year 11-5 while the Rams were 7-8-1, but there are so many variables outside the control of the quarterback – strength of schedule and quality of the defense are two big ones – that it’s foolish to claim superiority because of team record.  Both Bradford and Luck authored four fourth quarter comeback wins.

Given the slight statistic edge to Luck, it might be reasonable to assert that the two are similarly talented quarterbacks.

The eye test tells a different story.  The game rewind feature at has been a huge help as I’ve tried to catch up with who and what the 2012 Colts were.  Watching all the Rams games live kept me from seeing as much of the Colts as I would have liked, and while I thought Luck was pretty good based upon the small sample size I saw last season, watching every game in its entirety revealed Luck to be exceptional.

Luck does all the things Bradford is missing.  He consistently finds a way to elude pressure to complete passes to move the chains, or he tucks and runs.  I’ve yet to see a pass rusher catch Luck from behind, and while he misses throws, he doesn’t miss many reads.

The stuff you can’t quite put your finger on belongs to Luck as well.  I’m always surprised when Bradford steps up in the pocket to find a way to get the ball out to a receiver for a first down.  With Luck, I am now shocked when he doesn’t make a positive play.

As fans in St. Louis wait for the switch to go on for Bradford, and there is no doubt that he took a step forward last year, Luck looks like the second coming of Roger Staubach, but with a bigger arm.

Conventional thinking was that the Colts took a significant risk by opting to draft Luck and allow no doubt first ballot hall of famer Peyton Manning to sign with the Denver Broncos.  Not only do the Colts appear to have made the right choice for the longterm health of the franchise, they are on the money in the short term too.

Luck is a very special talent, while Bradford is entering a stage of his career where  reality must closer to potential.

Both were first picks, but as one is in the prime of his career, the youngster looks ready to lap the fourth year quarterback.

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