When Tavon Austin arrived at Rams Park this morning, the first man to greet him was his new quarterback. Sam Bradford was all smiles (and a little bit mustache) as Les Snead and Jeff Fisher just handed him the keys to the most uniquely dynamic playmaker in the draft.
Imagine how he must feel now that the Rams have added his partner in crime. While Austin piled up the highlight reel runs, Bailey piled up the stats. The two worked defenses ragged inside and out, and personally put 37 of Geno Smith's 43 passing touchdowns in the end zone. The Mountaineers often lined up Bailey on one side, and Austin on the other, and forced defenses to pick their poison. Someone was getting open, and that someone was a threat to score.
Ever since Sam Bradford was drafted as the spearhead of a total franchise transformation, the organizational warning signs were there. The slipshod Rams were not surrouding him with enough talent. They were not doing enough to keep him upright. And they were not able to raise him up in a consistent scheme. These are the three cardinal sins for a team trying to build around a young quarterback, and the Spagnuolo-Devaney Rams commited them all.
The situation was dire enough that when we cleaned house and went shopping for new leadership, outsiders openly questioned whether Bradford was going to be an asset or a liability.
One face to face meeting with Jeff Fisher put that question to rest.
Since his arrival in St. Louis, Fisher has committed 100% to Bradford has his quarterback. And he set himself to replacing the foundational pieces necessary to his success. After little more than 15 months on the job, let's total them up:
* New WCO-friendly offensive coordinator in Brian Schottenheimer
* New offensive line guru in Paul Boudreau
* New elite-caliber left tackle in Jake Long
* New protection-calling center in Scott Wells
* New outside weapons in Chris Givens (speed) and Brian Quick (size)
* New "joker" weapons in Tavon Austin (speed) and Jared Cook (size)
* New pass-catching running backs in Daryl Richardson and Isaiah Pead
Now we add Stedman Bailey, an immensely productive college receiver, and suddenly it feels like this once-bereft offense is adding luxury pieces. While none of these players has seized any fantasy football championship trophies yet, there is a legitimate core of talent from the top to the bottom of the Rams' passing game.
Oh, and the Rams' war room is hardly done. There are still some talented players out there as the 2013 NFL Draft enters the fourth round, including a difference-making running back or two. (Marcus Lattimore anyone?)
Rams fans used to joke about drafting high-risk/high-reward talents like this, the way a condemned man jokes about the weather on the day of his hanging. What did it matter what we thought? We knew we were condemned to mediocrity, or worse.
That was then. This is now. And just in time for Bradford to fully resurrect his standing as the Rams' franchise player.