Jazz on a rainy Friday morning: What Sam Bradford and John Coltrane have in common

Matt Waldman, an NFL scout and columnist for FootballGuys.com, was riffing earlier this week on what separates the great quarterbacks from the good in the NFL, the physically gifted failures from those who go on to become hall of famers. I favorited his thoughts and filed them away for a rainy day, and this rainy day seems as good as any. 

I’ve said this before, but I think quarterbacking is a lot like actors on a stage or a jazz musicians improvising over rhythm changes.


Like an actor or musician, a quarterback has to convincingly sell his story and the offensive system is his harmony or script.

The greater the subtlety in which a QB can run that offense, the better his performance tends to be because just like a musician or actor who gets his fellow actors/musicians/audience to react to what he’s doing, a QB with a subtlety to his game can do the same w/the defense.

An actor/musician uses voice inflection, dynamics, variation of phrasing, variation of rhythm to tell that story convincingly.

A QB uses snap counts, audibles, motion, play action, pump fakes, his eyes, drops, and varies it all adroitly to sell his story to a defense.

@MattWaldman Absolutely.Just as an amateur musician can get lost n complex chord & key changes when tempo gets fast,so can amateur QB in chaos

@rocktop15 : What you said is why technique is so important. Musicians who can hang at insanely high speeds, practice everything VERY slow.

@rocktop15 : A quarterback has to have his technique down pat to really operate at a breakneck tempo like the NFL.

@rocktop15 : This is also the case for receivers and their technique versus press, RBs and steps to the hole and patience with playcalls

So when I watch Locker, I see a player on tape who rushed when the tempo picked up or rushed when he saw a chance to shine.

The game slows down when you have mastery over technique because your brain isn’t processing it consciously and can focus on the def.

Listening to this exchange, it’s easy to picture the vast difference in the “feel” of the Rams offense — the same ABCs of Shurmur’s play calls with mostly the same receivers — under a young impresario in Sam Bradford, versus an aging session man in Marc Bulger. Bulger really only knew one way to play: the Martz way. And he admitted that he still heard Martz’s voice in his head, in the huddle. Like not being able to get “Smoke on the Water” out of your head while trying to process the changes of a wholly different tune.

It just made me that much more excited to watch Bradford’s evolution in Josh McDaniels’ wide-open offense, where improvisation and adjustments from opponent to opponent and from drive to drive are going to be the critical derterminants of success.

As Rams fans, we have to feel lucky as hell that Sam landed in our laps.

@RamsHerd : I bet you are. Bradford’s only Q was health.