Okay, so that title probably doesn't make any sense at all to you just yet, but I promise it will. I'd like to play Janus for a bit this morning, and I hope you'll indulge me.
A little over halfway through the football season, the Rams' rookie sensation quarterback, Sam Bradford, is turning into a star right before our eyes. Each week it seems he does something else worthy of praise, something which eloquently demonstrates the poise, far beyond his years, he possesses. Over the last two games, Bradford has completed over 70% of his passes and compiled QB ratings of 112.4 and 94.4, respectively. The two games before were both in the upper 80s.
There have been bumps here and there, of course, and there's still that little matter of Slingin' Sammy not really having much in the way of receiver talent to work with thanks to injuries, but when it comes to Sam Bradford, we have the facts and we're voting yes.
In fact, all the Bradford love is enough to make a man think there's no way the Rams could possibly have done any better for themselves. Then again...
Given the backdrop, of watching Bradford blossom more quickly than even the most optimistic projections, it's easy now to look back and remember the choice to select him first overall as a foregone conclusion. At the time, though, there wasn't quite such a strong consensus it was the best way to go. There were a few other options, though really only one which presented a really intriguing course of action. And, since Michael Vick just had the game of a lifetime on Monday Night Football, it got me to thinking about where the Rams would be now if they had gone in a different direction.
The Michael Vick Option for the Rams was presented as this: rather than spend the first overall pick in the draft on a quarterback (most draftniks believed it would be Bradford, but there was a fair amount of support for Jimmy Clausen
as well), the Rams could use their first-round pick on Ndamukong Suh, the big defensive lineman out of Nebraska, and trade with the Philadelphia Eagles for Michael Vick. (At the time, Vick was still seen as the odd man out in the whole Donovan McNabb/Kevin Colb
/Vick quarterback triangle.)
Ndamukong Suh was, according to quite a few observers, far and away the most special player in the draft. Whereas there were concerns with all the quarterbacks (Bradford had the injury, Clausen was inconsistent and there were rumblings about his attitude, Tim Tebow is an option guy entering a league where the option isn't run much, and on down the list.), Suh was as close to a sure thing as there had been in the draft in years. He wasn't just going to be a successful NFL player, he was going to be an impact player. Given such a surefire talent sitting at the top of the draft, wouldn't it behoove the Rams to take the best player available and deal with the quarterback position in another way?
Slingin' Sammy Baugh, whose nickname I shamelessly appropriated for the Rams' current quarterback.
We know how good Bradford has been, and we know how impressive his future looks to be. As well as he's performed here in 2010, though, Vick has actually been even better. His quarterback rating for the season is a ridiculous 115.1. That's probably not sustainable for an entire season, but even a partial season played at that level is remarkable. As good as Sam has been, the Rams would be in a better position at quarterback this year with Vick.
Ndamukong Suh is no slouch, either, as he's already become one of the more dangerous defensive linemen in the NFL. He has 33 tackles on the season, 26 solo, and 6.5 sacks. For reference, James Hall has been the Rams' most productive defensive lineman this year (note I said most productive, not best), and he's amassed 31 tackles, 29 solo, and 7.5 sacks. In other words, Suh has been basically analogous to the Rams' most productive player on the D-line this season. Oh, and while James Hall is an eleven-year veteran who's learned every move, stunt, and trick in the book, Suh is doing it in his rookie season. Clearly, Ndamukong Suh is going to be a monster for a very long time.
So here is the question: would the Rams have been better off with Suh and Michael Vick, or did they make the right choice in going with Sam Bradford? The defensive line likely would have been better this year with Suh playing on it, and of course the future for the Rams' front four would have been brilliant. Between Suh and Chris Long, I'm not sure there's an offensive line in football capable of standing up to that pass rush for long. The Rams also likely would have been even better at the quarterback position, though I don't know it's clear exactly how much, considering the difference in talent between the Philadelphia and St. Louis receiver corps.
On the other hand, Michael Vick isn't getting any younger, and he's already 30 years old. Not old by human standards, of course, but football player years don't work the same. The Rams are, barring some unforeseen disaster, set at the quarterback position for the next 8-10 years, if not longer. With Vick on board, they would probably be looking for a new signal caller in about four or so. Bradford is going to be improving for the next few years; Vick is likely the best he's ever going to be right now. So this year, the Rams would be stronger at QB. Long-term, they're much better off there than they would be with Vick.
And then, of course, there's the inevitable off the field stuff which would have cropped up with Vick. Aside from the potential benefit to enterprising merchants selling Ron Mexico jerseys, I'm just not sure there's a lot of positive to be had from Michael Vick on your team. I realise his story is being cast in many circles as one of redemption, an inspirational tale of a man finding a second chance, but I have a hard time seeing it that way. People who make mistakes, who have drug problems or drinking problems or held up a gas station in their wild years, I can see redemption there. For the willfully cruel, though, I'm just not sure I'm ever going to buy that story. Rapists or torturers rarely move my Heart-o-Meter even if they turn into something decent.
In the end, that's where I am with this whole thing. I wasn't in favor of the Rams picking Vick up before the season because I worried about potential distractions and, honestly, because I didn't want to have to try and decide whether or not I would cheer for him. I think Vick has done his time and should absolutely be allowed to make a living however he wishes, including playing in the NFL, but I don't much want him on my team. Partially because I'm not too keen on controversy on my sports teams, but mostly just because I have a problem with Vick himself, and really don't want to have to think about what he's done when I'm rooting for my team.
I will admit that bothers me a little bit. I've never thought of myself as one of those Not In My Backyard types, the sort of people who claim to be okay with another's way of life, but only so long as it doesn't come too close to them. In fact, I mostly dislike people like that. Unfortunately, that seems to be where I am on this issue. I don't like the thought that this makes me a hypocrite, but if the shoe fits I suppose I'd better go ahead and lace that bad boy up.
So I ask you, dear reader: would you, knowing what we know today, go back and change that draft pick? Would you take Ndamukong Suh and trade for Vick, or would you stick with Bradford? Maybe you feel two premium players are better than one, and the Rams would be better off. I certainly can't argue with that. Or maybe you feel a franchise quarterback for a decade or more is worth much more than a couple years of a dynamic veteran and an impact player at a less premium position. Or, maybe you're a little like me and are just happy you don't have to make up your mind whether to cheer for the guy or not when he takes off on a bootleg and goes 35 for the score.
Even beyond my objections to Vick personally, I prefer Bradford. I think the Rams have something truly special on their hands, something that's going to pay huge dividends over the next decade, and I don't think any defensive tackle, no matter how good, will have that same kind of long-term impact. But that's just my opinion. I'd love to hear yours.