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Sam Bradford And Hall Of Fame Slumps: The Peyton Manning Thing

Okay, okay, so Peyton Manning's never really slumped. But that's exactly it: Our desperation for St. Louis Rams-related optimism and Sam Bradford's superficially appealing numbers created a Bradford of our own design, one the real Bradford couldn't possibly match coming off a lockout-shortened offseason and made to learn a mad scientist's offense with a wide receiver corps bolted together from Dr. Frankenstein's parts. Sam Bradford never was Peyton Manning in 2010-which doesn't mean, I guess, that he couldn't be in 2012.

It just means that we were a little too pleased with that true-rookie yardage record that put him within 200 yards of Manning himself. It was true enough, as it went-Manning was also on an awful team and led the NFL in attempts for a seasn that was more promising than it was impressive.

But what made him Manning wasn't that year-it was all the other ones, and the enormous leaps he made in 1999 and again in 2004. Bradford didn't make the leap in 2011, but it wasn't a step down so much as an injury-shortened lateral move. Now that we know who Bradford really is, maybe we can wait to see who he becomes in 2012.

For a complete look at SB Nation St. Louis's series on Sam Bradford and Hall of Fame quarterbacks who had similarly disastrous starts, click through to this Storystream and subscribe.