Ladies and gentlemen, your NFL offensive rookie of the year is… not Sam Bradford?

Bradford vs Pouncey

We’re only at midseason awards time, so let’s not get too excited…. But both the venerable Peter King and’s Jason La Canfora are weighing in with their midseason awards (King | La Canfora), and both see fit to snub the Rams’ Bradford in favor of a man drafted 17 places behind him: Pittsburgh’s new center, Maurkice Pouncey. (Both Clark Judge and Pete Prisco at CBS Sports vote Bradford, as does the crew at Pro Football Focus.)

Now, as a guy who respects the contributions of the offensive line, I like that Pouncey is getting props. But if this were an actual award, there’s no question in my mind that it would be misplaced.

Both sides of the debate must be heard, though, and I invited Ian of The Steelers N’at to submit his best case. (Want to take the debate to the streets? Hit his Twitter account at @thesteelersnat.)

To say that Pouncey is having a good year at center would be the understatement of the century. Consider this: before the start of the 2009 season, the Steelers signed center Justin Hartwig to a four-year, $10 million contract extension. Last season, the Steelers surrendered 50 sacks, part of a string of 4 seasons where the Steelers line surrendered 49, 47 and 49 sacks. What was the constant? Poor play at the center position.

2009: According to Steelers Depot, Hartwig was responsible for 7.5 of the Steelers 50 sacks.

2008: Based on this post from the Footballs Future forums, Hartwig was the worst center in the league at surrendering sacks with 6.5 on the season.

2007: The Sean Mahan Disaster.

Despite the new contract that Hartwig signed, the Steelers drafted Pouncey in the first round of the draft. By the second week of camp, Pouncey had won the job from Justin Hartwig. By the end of camp, Hartwig had been toted around the trade market and cut from the team while Pouncey assumed the starting role.

Read the rest of the case for Pouncey

The case for Bradford follows…

As if leading a one-win team back to .500 and shocking respectability wasn’t enough, the numbers say Bradford is quietly having one of the three best years for a rookie quarterback ever. If he performs at the same level over the next 8 games, he will have more TD passes than anyone but Jim Kelly and Peyton Manning. His TD-INT ratio will be better than anyone not named Dan Marino, Marc Bulger or Ben Roethlisberger. And he will have thrown and completed more passes than anyone.

All time best years by a rookie quarterback

Peyton Manning 1998 326 575 3739 26 28
Jim Kelly 1986 285 480 3593 22 17
Sam Bradford (projected) 2010 342 584 3348 22 16
Dan Marino 1983 173 296 2210 20 6

[Full Table]

Numbers aside, Bradford stands to be the most impactful draft pick the Rams have had since arriving in St. Louis, perhaps the most impactful since the selection of Eric Dickerson in 1983. (That year Dickerson replaced a guy named Wendell Tyler on a 2-7 team, and averaged 113 yards per game and score 18 TDs, leading the Rams on a deep playoff run.)

Bradford, of course, replaces a carousel of suck at the quarterback position, that last year devolved into giving a rookie 6th round draft pick (ominously named Null) the last four starts of the season. It’s one thing to be wearing the fan blinders and pray for the best from that godawful situation (as we did at the time); it’s another thing all together to be able to replace it with legitimate hope for the present and future.

We knew he was smart, but he outshone our own expectations by having the playbook down by his first minicamp. We knew he was accurate, but he has been lightning quick to establish chemistry with a revolving group of wide receivers, veteran and rookie alike. We didn’t know how durable he’d be, but this year marks the first time since 2006 that the same quarterback has started the Rams’ first eight games.

After signing his $50 million dollar deal, Bradford has done everything right, stabilizing a franchise and giving his young team and coaching staff a rock to lean on. Whether or not he wins the ROY award, there is no one else who could have been a better pick for the Rams. And given our checkered draft history, that is an extremely rare statement.

You decide!

Who do you think deserves to be the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year? Vote here.