While the St. Louis Rams house the pieces on defense to wreak havoc on opposing quarterbacks, it's their own starting signal-caller who led Chris Wesseling to opine that, unless Sam Bradford emerges, St. Louis is "doomed to mediocrity in the NFL's most competitive division."
After passing on both Robert Griffin III and Johnny Manziel in the 2012 and 2014 drafts, respectively, general manager Les Snead believes that a post-surgery Bradford will, at last, flip the switch under play-caller Brian Schottenheimer in 2014.
Color us suspicious.
In an NFC West teeming with some of the league's most creative offensive minds, Schottenheimer stands out as an anomaly: A rigid disciple of the West Coast attack stuck in an era when coaches such as Philladelphia's Chip Kelly and San Francisco's Jim Harbaugh are pushing the envelope weekly.
"I do wonder if Brian Schottenheimer is creative enough to maximize what they have on offense," NFL Media's Brooks told the Around The League Podcast on Thursday. "I know there was a lot of conversation about (the Rams) need a receiver, they need to go and get a Sammy Watkins or somebody to juice it up, but -- the eighth pick in the draft! You're expecting Tavon Austin to be a difference-maker, so now the onus really falls on Brian Schottenheimer to show that he has the ability to craft game plans to maximize the talent."
Beyond Austin, the Rams attacked the drafts in recent years to surround Bradford with weapons in the form of 2012 second-round pick Brian Quick, third-round choices Stedman Bailey and Austin Pettis (respectively taken in the 2013 and 2011 drafts), and 2012 fourth-round draftee Chris Givens. St. Louis also spent a hill of cash in free agency to land pass-catching tight end Jared Cook in 2013.
Despite the talent influx, Rams pass-catchers were held to just 41 receptions of 20-plus yards last season after squeezing out just 43 with a healthy Bradford in 2012. By comparison, Kelly's Eagles ripped off 80 of those plays in 2013 alone.
After cutting his teeth under play-callers Jimmy Raye, Paul Hackett and Cam Cameron -- and sitting down to dinner nightly with his dad, Marty Schottenheimer -- it's little surprise that Brian remains, per Brooks, "very tied and rigid" to his scheme.
Packed with talent, the Rams remain a tough sell in their own division largely because of Bradford's sluggish development in a scheme that has yet to unlock his gifts.
Said Brooks: "There's an art to play-calling, and we always talk about how the best play-callers kind of have a stone-cold mentality. ... Brian Schottenheimer has to understand how to set the table so that he can create those counter plays (within the) game plan."
Until that happens, we'll struggle to side with St. Louis in the rough-and-tumble NFC West.
There's plenty more from Brooks on the latest "Around The League Podcast," so give it a listen, won't you?