Realistically, Sam Bradford is going to need more time. The St. Louis Rams' brass knows it. They are prepared to be patient, to take the long view, to continue to build and grow the youngest team in the NFL, one that finally is starting to feel like Bradford's own.
But there is no question inside the Rams that Bradford is the right quarterback to lead the franchise now and moving forward.
"None," St. Louis general manager Les Snead said.
It is time for Bradford to prove it. It is time for him to have a breakout year. It is time for him to have a 4,000-yard passing season. It is time for him to make everyone around him better. And it is time for him to post a winning record, regardless of the Rams' youth at the skill positions on offense.
It is time for it all to come together for the former No. 1 overall draft pick, and I think it will.
Explanations often can sound like excuses, but when it comes to Bradford there are plausible reasons why he has had neither a Matthew Stafford-type statistical season nor the runaway success of Colin Kaepernick, Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III or Russell Wilson.
Until now, Bradford, 25, has never had the same offensive coordinator. Pat Shurmur left to become the head coach of the Cleveland Browns after Bradford was the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2010. Josh McDaniels was fired after the organization decided to clean house following 2011 and start fresh with Jeff Fisher as coach and Snead as the general manager.
That is a lot of upheaval, a lot of learning and relearning. Now Bradford is set to enter Year 2 with Fisher, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer and quarterbacks coach Frank Cignetti. Bradford understandably feels more comfortable running the offense that he also ran last season. He has helped teach it to the rookies, players like wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey, and he has become more of a vocal leader. Familiarity often can breed confidence, and it has in Bradford.
Bradford also has more talent around him than he has had in the past. In two years, Snead has overhauled a roster that was populated by a bunch of guys -- upward of 25 -- who after being released by the Rams were not in the league last year. St. Louis lost running back Steven Jackson, but that is a loss it helped facilitate by writing an opt-out clause into his contract prior to last season.
The Rams went out and signed Jake Long to protect Bradford's blind side. They gave $19 million to tight end Jared Cook, who much like Bradford made his money off of promise rather than production. They moved up in the first round of the 2013 draft to select Austin, the best skill position player in the entire draft.
Every move St. Louis has made has been to support and prop up Bradford. The Rams know there is more work to do -- they have two more first-round picks in 2014 -- but they have given Bradford more to work with than ever before.
And it's not as if Bradford was awful while operating with less. He never had a Mark Sanchez-esque season. He is not a turnover machine. He has a strong arm. He is accurate.
Bradford threw for 3,512 yards as a rookie. In 2011, like many other Rams, he struggled with an injury. He never had McDaniels' complete favored personnel group -- including Jackson, wide receiver Danny Amendola and tight ends Michael Hoomanawanui and Lance Kendricks -- for a single snap due to injuries. Last season, Bradford set career highs in passing yards, yards per attempt and touchdown passes.
Although Bradford is surrounded by youth -- the average age of his receivers and running backs is 23 -- it is youth the Rams believe in. There is great potential there.
"There will be an evolutionary period," Snead said. "Jared Cook to the starting wide receivers will be different, so the more we get on stage and play, the more timing we'll get and the better we will be. But I love the guy [Bradford]. Jacked about him. It's an understatement that you can't go find people of his makeup, smarts and talent. They just don't come around."
The questions Snead has don't have anything to do with Bradford.
"The questions are, did we get the right people around him and did we get the right line in front of him?" Snead said. "We're close. I've compared us a little bit to Green Bay. The Packers started young a few years ago, and then they became the Packers. You didn't know who Greg Jennings was. Now you do. That's how I envision us. Aaron [Rodgers] got time to grow."
Rodgers also sat behind Brett Favre for three years, and when he became the starter in 2008, Jennings was entering his third year. Rodgers also had another 1,000-yard receiver in Donald Driver and a 1,000-yard rusher in Ryan Grant.
Bradford doesn't have that, at least not yet. He has players around him with potential. It is up to him to make them better in a division that is the toughest in football, a division in which he went 4-1-1 a season ago. There is nothing in Bradford's past to suggest his future isn't bright, but it is time for him to prove that the future is now.