Are the Rams setting up Sam Bradford for stability? Or mediocrity?

Sam Bradford will get one-on-one coaching for the first time since Dick Curl was let go. Photo by Chris Lee, Post-Dispatch.

The Rams followed through on Jeff Fisher’s commitment to hire a quarterbacks coach this week, reportedly recruiting former Rutgers offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. The move is welcome just from the standpoint of having this position filled, and a Ram-nation-wide panic finally quelled. But his resume, like Brian Schottenheimer’s, winds a long path through mediocrity.

The Rams may be getting more stable offensively under Jeff Fisher, but are they getting better? 

Mike Sando tells us that Schottenheimer’s offense is based on Don Coryell’s numbers-based scheme (like half of the offenses in the NFL), but his specific mentors were Jerry Rhome (Martz’s predecessor here in St Louis) and Jimmy Raye in Washington. Both offenses trended toward bland, befuddled messes. But nevertheless, having a quarterbacks coach familiar with that terminology would seem to be a prerequisite. For Cignetti, that experience was learned from the scraps of Norv Turner’s playbook being held by Jim Hostler (a former college teammate) in San Francisco.

Yes, that Jim Hostler, and that San Francisco. This was 2007, or year four in the seven-year revolving-door method of bringing along Alex Smith. Cignetti was his quarterbacks coach for one year, before departing to Pittsburgh. And to say that Alex Smith and the offense struggled under Hostler would be putting it mildly. Notably, Hostler’s offense did not contain the concept of the “hot read” – you know, the basic concept of finding a receiver to throw to when you identify a blitz. 

Smith was sacked 17 times in 210 dropbacks that year. If Smith had thrown in that offense as often as Bradford did in his rookie season, he would have been sacked 50 times. Hopefully, as quarterbacks coach during that carnage, Cignetti picked up a few lessons on what not to do.  

Bradford is now entering his fourth offensive system in as many years, dating back to his days in Oklahoma, and appears to be on a dangerously similar path. The hope is that this hire, and the stability brought to the team overall by Fisher’s presence, will save Bradford from further experience in the “confuse-a-cat” method of coaching. 

But Fisher’s offensive tendencies in the past have never typically required quarterback heroics, preferring creativity and power in the running game. And here, ironically for Bradford’s development, is where Cignetti and Schottenheimer have both excelled. 

We will  have to wait and see how this offense shapes up, and what new pieces are added to it in the draft and free agency. But if Cignetti’s past experience is any guide, we’re not sure Bradford needs any more help in knowing how to hand off, or how to pick himself up off the turf.