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Rams' franchise in limbo after Sam Bradford injury

Taking Sam Bradford No. 1 overall in the 2010 NFL Draft was not a gamble by the previous St. Louis Rams regime. While he had a few detractors, Bradford was the consensus top player available.

Keeping Bradford in 2012 despite having the No. 2 overall pick in the draft was a risk by the latest Rams brain trust. Keeping Bradford in 2014 despite his torn ACL and owning the No. 2 overall pick again was even more of a gamble. It sadly backfired on Saturday when Bradford tore his left ACL again.

It's easy to say in hindsight that the Rams made the wrong decision, but there's no guarantee they would be better off with Robert Griffin III, Blake Bortles or Johnny Manziel. The Rams made a tough choice and then got wildly unlucky.

Bradford's contract complicated factors because it was signed before the new league's collective bargaining agreement. But the "dead money" involved or Bradford's high salary don't explain why the new Rams brass stuck with Bradford. General manager Les Snead and coach Jeff Fisher believe Bradford is a true franchise quarterback that was victimized by some difficult surroundings. We may never know if they were right.

Bradford's career is hardly over, but the Rams can no longer count on him as their primary option at quarterback. It's anyone's guess whether they can work on a new contract for him to return next year. He's been an extremely difficult player to evaluate even when things are right, displaying some positive traits without blowing anyone away. There is an entire generation of quarterbacks drafted after Bradford that have already accomplished more. And they won't face the brutal challenge of coming off back-to-back torn ACLs.

The Rams are a franchise in limbo. They are further away from finding their franchise quarterback than the day Fisher arrived. Any evaluation of Fisher and Snead's progress -- which has been tremendous overall -- will essentially be put on hold for another year.

This feels like a lost season before it's even started, whether Shaun Hill or a veteran quarterback to be named later starts most weeks. They would be better off bottoming out and grabbing another high draft pick, but Fisher's defense is probably too good for that to happen.

After three years of gambling on Bradford, the Rams should make it their first priority to look at other quarterbacks in the offseason. In the meantime, Fisher must convince his players that they aren't just fighting uphill to win seven games again.

The latest "Around the League Podcast" talks quarterback battles and debates the gang's preseason power rankings.

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