While this may seem like a bit of a stretch on the surface, the parallels between St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford and New York Giants QB Eli Manning are actually quite startling. Now granted, Bradford didn’t enter the NFL with as much fanfare as Manning who had a father (Archie Manning) who was mildly successful in the league and a brother (Peyton Manning) who has been wildly successful, but he did enter as the number one overall pick with high expectations. Many people forget Manning’s first three years in the league, but let’s take a stroll down memory lane and compare the youngest Manning with Bradford.
All of these numbers come via ESPN, and the difference is barely noticeable.
QB Manning Bradford
Seasons 3 3
Games 41 42
W-L 20-19 15-26-1
Completions 690 873
Attempts 1,276 1,498
Comp. Pct. 54.1 58.3
Yards 8,049 9,378
YPA 6.3 6.3
TD-INT 54-44 45-34
QB Rating 73.2 77.3
Sacks 66 105
As far as differences go, perhaps the most startling is the number of sacks. Clearly Manning had a far superior supporting cast during his early seasons in the league than Bradford, but otherwise it’s really splitting hairs. Now when Eli came into the league it was still a more run-oriented game than the six years later when Bradford’s career began which accounts for the more attempts, completions, yards, and even sacks to some degree. But the fact that Bradford has a nearly identical TD-INT split is startling considering the Rams’ struggles up until last season.
The piece from which these numbers came points out the most important differentiation that stats cannot; that is the fact that Manning enjoyed the same head coach (Tom Coughlin) and offensive coordinator (Kevin Gilbride) during his entire NFL career. For Bradford, it has been nearly the exact opposite with two head coaches and three offensive coordinators in three seasons. 2013 will be the first year for the Rams QB to have a full offseason with the same staff with Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer intact to further ingrain the playbook into his mind.
What happened in the fourth season for Manning you may be asking? Well, the Giants improved to 10-6 and went on to topple some undefeated team in the Super Bowl with Tom Brady at the helm. That’s all.
The NFC West presents a daunting task in the upcoming season for Bradford and the Rams, but the NFC East was the same way for Manning’s Giants back in 2007. Their 10-6 record was good for second in a division that saw no team finish under .500. That type of competitive environment proved beneficial as the G-Men moved on into the postseason, and the same could easily be true for the Rams this coming season if they get to that point.
It may be a stretch to say ‘order your Super Bowl tickets now’, but it isn’t outside the realm of possibility that the Rams could be in the postseason in Bradford’s fourth year under center.