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Sam Bradford And Being Wary Of Passer Rating

The project of passer rating fascinates me — it's difficult to imagine Major League Baseball, for instance, ever deciding to come out with a statistic that attempts to divine empirically the best player at a given position, since they're too busy actively deriding that stats that do just that to invent one. But Sam Bradford's 2010 season — specifically his struggles in the St. Louis Rams' loss yesterday to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers — is as good a rebuke as exists to the statistic, which has all the problems that might be expected of a stat designed 40 years ago. 

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Last week Bradford set a career high with a rating of 87.8. He looked pretty great — he finished 18 of 31, he got everybody involved, he through a touchdown and didn't make many mistakes. His other two games over 80 were pretty fair themselves; he went 14 of 25 with 167 yards and two touchdowns in a Week 2 loss at Oakland, and 23 of 41 with 289 yards and two more touchdowns in the Rams' breakout victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

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But to passer rating, all of those games pale in comparison to the 89.6 game he had... yesterday afternoon. Bradford went 13 of 26, averaged just 4.8 yards per attempt, and struggled, as a result, to keep the offense on the field when it needed three more points for most of the second half. Not throwing an interception was an exciting step forward for Bradford, but those 13 incompletions were tough to take for a team that wasn't exactly airing the ball out.