Looking For (QB) Love
By Joseph Healy
Special to Pro Football Guru
Coming into the 2014 season, the St. Louis Rams’ quarterback situation is going to be somewhat in flux. And that’s even before you take into consideration Sam Bradford’s recovery from a torn ACL he suffered last season.
Kellen Clemens, who filled in about as well as you could have expected given the circumstances, was a free agent going into the offseason. It was already up in the air as to whether the Rams were going to bring him back or not. A few weeks ago, he signed a deal with the San Diego Chargers to be their backup quarterback.
Behind Clemens, the Rams have Austin Davis. The 24-year-old from Southern Mississippi has been with the club for parts of a couple of seasons now. While that’s certainly a plus, he has yet to appear in any NFL game. Also, the Rams have cut him loose on a couple of occasions in his young career, so it’s not like they think the world of him.
Last week, St. Louis signed veteran quarterback Shaun Hill, who in my opinion is just a version of Clemens that isn’t as familiar with the offense. I don’t think he’s the answer, either.
Clearly, the Rams have a decision to make about who will be on their roster at quarterback as they head into next season. And as far as I’m concerned, it’s no small decision. Their backup quarterback can’t be an afterthought. It’s time for them to find a quarterback they really love.
Don’t read that as me being down on Sam Bradford or anti-Bradford in any way. On the contrary, I feel like I’m one of Sam’s last defenders in this world. He hasn’t had anything to work with in his time in St. Louis and he has been pretty productive. Okay, so I guess maybe he isn’t the superstar that many hoped and thought he would be coming into the league, but to me, that’s fine. He’s still someone the Rams can win with.
But with all that being said, Bradford is not good enough, or consistent enough, for the Rams to just throw away a roster spot at backup quarterback. I know they say they have nothing but confidence in Sam being successful moving forward, but they need to start the search for someone they can groom behind him.
The injuries certainly play a role in my rationale here. I was willing to write off Bradford’s injury in college as fluky. He just got hit hard by a really big human being and was injured. That happens. But then there was the ankle injury in 2011 that cost him six games in his second NFL season. Then, after a very healthy 2012, there was the torn ACL suffered midway through last season.
I tend to give players the benefit of the doubt, but it’s becoming clear that injuries may just be a part of the Bradford experience.
More than that, though, my thoughts on the Rams’ quarterback needs boil down to timing.
This is an incredibly young team. In fact, they were the youngest team in the NFL last season by a significant margin. Their average age was 0.27 years less than the second-youngest team, the Cleveland Browns.
The point is that the Rams “window” is wide open. I realize that largely depends on how good some of these players end up being, but at least in terms of their age, St. Louis has a core that they could have in place for years to come.
For now, Bradford is a part of that. And if he is as good as he was for the first half of last season, I think the Rams will be satisfied and willing to continue forward with him.
But what if he’s not? What if he gets hurt again? What if he takes a step back in his development and Rams change their mind as it pertains to his role within the franchise moving forward?
Here’s hoping that none of those scenarios come to fruition. If they do, what the Rams cannot afford to do is play out the string with someone they don’t believe in for a year or two and then re-tool from there. They have to strike while the iron is hot with their roster and immediately turn the team over to someone they trust to win games. Success in the NFL is so fleeting that you can’t mess around and make assumptions about what your roster will look like in two or three years.
So what are their options?
Free agency is out at this point. Not only have they already brought in someone from free agency, but the pickings are slim. I don’t have to tell you that Seneca Wallace is not going to be a game-changer for the franchise.
That leaves the upcoming NFL Draft, a draft that has some intriguing names, even beyond the marquee names at the top, for a team looking for a quarterback.
Maybe the Rams are impressed by the leadership qualities of Alabama’s A.J. McCarron. Maybe they are blown away by what LSU’s Zach Mettenberger brings. Maybe they want to take a look at a proven winner at a bargain price in Georgia’s Aaron Murray.
In any event, the time is now to find someone to groom. The Rams’ window is wide-open, but if Bradford isn’t the quarterback the team hopes he can be and they don’t have a backup plan in place, they may find it shutting a lot sooner than expected.
Joseph Healy is a marketing writer by day and a sportswriter by night. He's like a superhero in that way, but way lamer. You can follow him on Twitter @Joe_On_Sports. If you're a fellow seam head, you can read his work covering Miami Hurricanes baseball at CanesTime.com.