Every game-changing drive that Robert Griffin III executes for the Washington Redskins causes fans of the St. Louis Rams to lament what could have been. While it’s true that the Rams got an absolute haul in return for the rights to the services of one RGIII, they had a better name to float around on the trade market: Sam Bradford.
The ripple effect of the RGIII trade results in comparisons being made not just between Griffin and Andrew Luck, the No. 1 pick in Griffin’s 2012 NFL draft class. Comparisons between Griffin and Bradford, the first selection of the 2010 draft and another coveted young quarterback on the trade market last offseason, are also valid.
Bradford’s contract guarantees him as much money ($21 million) over the next two seasons as the total value ($21.1 million) of Griffin’s four-year deal. Imagine how much cap flexibility that swap would have afforded St. Louis. Because of that, Bradford and Griffin likely had different trade values.
We don’t know what sending Bradford away in a trade would have produced for the Rams—but we do know that he had suitors, most notably the Redskins and the Cleveland Browns. Bradford had entertained the idea of playing for Mike Shanahan, head coach of the Redskins.
Cleveland head coach Pat Shurmur was Bradford’s offensive coordinator in St. Louis prior to taking his current job. And that’s where the problem lies with Bradford—his offensive coordinator situation is ever-changing and approaching that of San Francisco 49ers QB Alex Smith, who was also a No. 1 overall pick.
In 2010, it was Shurmur. In 2011, Josh McDaniels tried unsuccessfully to create a high-scoring attack. Now, it’s Brian Schottenheimer who sets the table for a squad that is scoring 18.6 points per game (ranked 28th in the NFL).
Washington, meanwhile, is scoring 26.8 points per game—ranked eighth in the league.
Arguments were made that essentially swapping Bradford for Griffin would be preposterous for the Rams’ football operations. Nothing could be farther from the truth. St. Louis’ Week 2 home win over Washington underlined that perspective and served a dual purpose in the standings: The Rams got a win and the Redskins’ loss was beneficial for St. Louis’ additional 2013 first-round pick.
That’s about where the positives stop.
Since then, the two teams have had nearly identical records, but Griffin has quickly developed into one of the league’s most exciting players. He attracts attention and gets a lot of credit for the Redskins’ ability to stay competitive in games.
Bradford, however, does not get the same praise for his work with the Rams. He’s just not as dynamic.
He's completed 210 of 349 passes for 2,447 yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He’s also rushed 25 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.
On the other hand, RGIII has completed 205 of 304 passes for 2,494 yards, 16 TDs and four picks. He’s rushed the ball 100 times for 642 yards and six touchdowns.
RGIII has more rushing touchdowns than interceptions this season—and he has far more passing scores than rushing TDs.
We may never know whether he would achieve the same level of success in a Rams uniform as he did with the Redskins. However, concerns about Griffin’s longevity as a running quarterback of a less-than-imposing physical stature have quieted (ironically) after his first NFL concussion.
He didn’t miss a game and quickly learned to protect himself by sliding and getting out of bounds. To be fair, Bradford has managed to stay on the field for all 11 of his team’s games this year. He just doesn’t scare NFL defenses the way that Griffin has already begun to do.
Griffin is the younger, less expensive, more electric version of the franchise quarterback than Bradford is. If the Rams called east to Washington to trade Bradford straight up for RGIII today, there may not even be a response on the other end.
Redskins GM Bruce Allen would likely be too busy laughing to speak coherently—which is perhaps the truest measurement of the magnitude of St. Louis’ mistake.
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