By: Garrett Giles
Minnesota is 5-0 on the season. Yes. You read that correctly. The surprising Minnesota Vikings are the lone undefeated team in the NFL. What’s even more surprising is the performance of the man playing quarterback.
From humble beginnings in his crimson and cream days in Norman, Oklahoma, quarterback Sam Bradford has come a long way. He played the game of football at an elite level as a Sooner at the University of Oklahoma. He won two Big XII titles, threw for 8,403 yards, and had 88 touchdowns. He won the Heisman his sophomore year and later led the Sooners to the 2009 BCS Championship game in Miami, Florida but lost due to the efforts of Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin.
Oklahoma faced off against the BYU Cougars at the start of Bradford’s junior year. He injured his throwing shoulder during the game which caused him to miss the rest of the season. The college football never got another chance to see all that was good with Sam Bradford, and Bradford didn’t get another chance to develop further as a quarterback. Who knows, he may have won a national championship at Oklahoma that year.
After suffering the injury, he played three games before undergoing season ending surgery. Bradford then declared that he would entering the NFL Draft in the upcoming spring.
On April 22, 2010, Bradford was selected to the play for the St. Louis Rams. Both the Rams and Bradford have made changes: The Rams moved to Los Angeles and Bradford has stayed healthy with a new team.
When Bradford played for Rams, he suffered three injuries: an ankle sprain in 2011, a torn ACL in 2013, and he tore his ACL during the preseason in 2014 which ended his days with the Rams. He had 10,705 yards passing alongside 59. The Rams record in that four-year span was 22-41-1in which Bradford started in 49 of 64 games.
In 2015 Bradford moved the Pennsylvania to play with the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles seemed a decent fit for Bradford until later in the season where his production as a quarterback went back down, and he injured his shoulder late in the season. He looked like his old self from St. Louis as the Eagles finished with a 7-9 record. Bradford threw for 3,725 yards (the best of his career) and 19 touchdowns.
When Teddy Bridgewater went down for the Vikings this preseason, the signing of Sam Bradford didn’t even seem questionable. When his name was mentioned, experts and fans labeled it as the end of times for Minnesota.
The Vikings made a playoff appearance last season as they lost in the NFC Wild Card game against the Seattle Seahawks 10-9. Hopes to return to the playoffs seemed impossible, and it only got worse for fans who thought a Bradford signing would only set them back even farther.
Now, the Vikings are 5-0. Bradford has already thrown for 990 and 6 touchdowns on 88 of 125 passes. He already has a better completion percentage (70.4) and has throw for an average of 7.92 yards per pass. That’s .92 percent better than his career record setting pace last year before things got bad in Philadelphia.
The best stat for Bradford and the Vikings is this: they haven’t had an interception. Not a single interception has been thrown by Bradford. They are the first team since 1970 to be 5-0 and not throw an interception. There only quality win so far this season has to be when the played the Green Bay Packers a few weeks ago, but give the Vikings all the credit. They’ve given Bradford enough time to do what he needs to do to be average at best, but if average get you to be the best team in the NFL at 5-0 when no one else thought you would be, then please, keep being average.
12-4 is the season prediction by ESPN for the Vikings final record for the season and I would say that is a fair prediction moving forward. The Vikings could certainly win their division if they continue to let Bradford be the average quarterback that he has been. They are protecting him way better than they previous 6 years and two teams he played for has shown. That being said, Bradford could have had seasons like this since the beginning if he had better protection and could’ve stayed healthy. It should be a pleasant surprise for NFL fans to see a once elite quarterback return to what everyone expected him to be.
Bradford is emerging as a new face in the NFL and it will be interesting to see how he works with a team with a winning record and an even better winning mentality. Next weekend they play one of his former teams: The Eagles. The Eagles should win the game which would give the Vikings their first loss, but people shouldn’t expect a loss to set the Vikings back from what they’ve been doing with Bradford at quarterback.
(Featured Image: Rockin’ Rita, Flickr)