Rams' Bradford, McDaniels perfect match

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws a pass to Laurent Robinson for a touchdown during...

St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford throws a pass to Laurent Robinson for a touchdown during the second half of their NFL football game in St. Louis, Missouri, December 26, 2010. Bradford set an NFL record for completions in a rookie season. (REUTERS/Sarah Conard)

MIKE RUTSEY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 4:49 PM ET

It could be the marriage made in heaven.

Sam Bradford, meet Josh McDaniels. Let the good times roll.

In St. Louis these days, there is a buzz about a team other than the Cardinals.

Two years ago, the St. Louis Rams were a 1-15 team and then they drafted Bradford with their No. 1 overall pick.

Last season, thanks to tremendous strides made by Bradford in his rookie season, the Rams came within one victory of making the playoffs and winning the NFC West.

They fell short on the final weekend of the regular season with a loss to the Seattle Seahawks but overall they found a franchise quarterback who was able to breathe life and hope into a franchise that was all but dead.

Under normal circumstances that would provide a lift heading into the 2011 season given Bradford’s performance. But in the off-season another opportunity for the Rams arrived.

Pat Shurmur, the Rams offensive coordinator, was hired away to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns and his replacement would be none other than McDaniels, who was fired as the Denver Broncos head coach in the middle of the season.

McDaniels may have had a crash-and-burn career running the Broncos but his reputation as an offensive coordinator and a developer of young quarterbacks is the stuff of legends.

Last season under the direction of Shurmur, Bradford threw for 3,512 yards with 18 touchdown passes and 15 interceptions. Often, though, it seemed like he was being kept under wraps, that the Rams were attempting to move the ball while taking the safe route, trying to avoid mistakes and not turn over the ball.

A big reason for that cautious approach, of course, was that Bradford was learning the ropes as an NFL quarterback. But the end result was that Bradford’s yards-per-attempt average was 6.0 yards, the second lowest among starting quarterbacks.

Now he gets McDaniels and a spread offence, one similar to the offensive scheme he ran at Oklahoma.

“Any quarterback would be crazy to tell you they wouldn’t be excited to play with Josh,” Bradford told reporters recently of working with McDaniels. “The challenge of learning another new offence is what makes it fun.

“It’s not like it’s something I’ve been doing for 12 years and it’s repetitive and boring. I’m not tired of doing the same things every day. It’s something new. Every day is a challenge. Every day I feel I am getting better. Every day out there I am getting more confident.”

And this season he’ll be throwing the ball down the field a lot more regularly, taking advantage of his talents and those of his teammates.

In the brief time they’ve been together, McDaniels has found Bradford to be the perfect pupil.

“I just know from the short time I’ve been around him, that Sam wants to know everything, wants to be good at everything, and he wants to do both of those things very quickly,” McDaniels said.

Looking back on 2010, Bradford knows the Rams came a long way in a brief amount of time.

But as he told CBSSports.com, he isn’t patting himself on the back for finishing the season 7-9 and out of the playoffs.

“Last year, for example, we were a game from the playoffs,” Bradford said. “And I heard more people say we had a good year. I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ We didn’t make the playoffs. We didn’t win a playoff game. We didn’t make the Super Bowl. You’re telling us we had a great year?”

This season, a playoff possibility is not a pipe dream for the Rams. As far as Bradford goes, it’s a given.

“My expectations are for us to make the playoffs and win the Super Bowl,” he said. “If you don’t think that way, you just settle. That’s the worst thing in the world.”

With McDaniels constructing the offence and tutoring Bradford, those expectations are much closer to being a reality.

TEBOW LOSES FIRST ROUND

The Tim Tebow for president movement — okay, make that starting quarterback for the Denver Broncos — didn’t generate any steam on the weekend in the Broncos’ first scrimmage.

Top gun in the Saturday festivities was veteran quarterback Kyle Orton, even though Tebow — at least by the applause meter — continues to be the people’s choice.

It has been quite a contentious opening couple of weeks for the Broncos and new head coach John Fox as the Tebow vs. Orton factions have been pulling harder for their respective candidates and have their heels dug in. Indeed, they’re about as entrenched as the Tea Party versus the hard left Democrats in the House of Representatives.

But in the controlled scrimmage the opening round clearly went to the unloved and under-appreciated Orton.

It’s no surprise that the seven-year veteran Orton is outplaying Tebow in practice.

Orton didn’t finish off a series for a touchdown but did direct two series that resulted in field goals and overall was 4-for-7 with two drops.

Tebow?

In his nine plays — all against the Broncos’ No. 1 defensive unit — the second-year quarterback was 1-for-3 passing and also suffered three quick-whistle sacks. Not quite the results his die-hard supporters were looking for.

And just who impressed the head coach the most?

“They all made some progress,” Fox said, his butt firmly wedged on the fence. “So we will keep evaluating.”

And the controversy will continue to grow.

QUICK HITS

The Detroit Lions received a jolt of bad news as head coach Jim Schwartz reported that rookie running back Mikel LeShoure would miss the season due to a torn Achilles tendon. A second-round pick out of Illinois, LeShoure entered the draft after a record-setting junior year when he rushed for 1,697 yards and ran for 17 touchdowns ... Buffalo Bills cornerback Drayton Florence will miss the team’s first pre-season game Saturday against the Chicago Bears with a sprained ankle ... To the surprise of no one, Philadelphia wide receiver DeSean Jackson ended his holdout and reported to the Eagles’ camp. A two-time Pro Bowl pick, Jackson, who will earn $565,000 in the final year of his four-year rookie contract, is seeking a new deal. Last season the game-breaker caught 47 passes for 1,056 yards and six touchdowns ... The Baltimore Ravens added some much-needed depth at running back on Monday when they signed Ricky Williams to a two-year contract worth up to $4 million. Last year in his 10th NFL season, Williams rushed for 673 yards on 159 carries and scored two TDs for the Dolphins. He gives the Ravens a big, between-the-tackles back that is a compliment to Ray Rice.


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