The Rams are a complete mess at quarterback. When Sam Bradford tore his ACL in the preseason, the Rams turned to veteran backup Shaun Hill. Hill lasted just one half before suffering a thigh injury in Week 1. So, the pendulum swung to Austin Davis.
The same team that cut Davis one year prior suddenly listed him as its only healthy quarterback.
On October 1st, Jeff Fisher announced Davis would remain the starter, despite previously publicly reassuring (several times) that Hill would return when “healthy”. Meanwhile, Davis engineered a game winning drive in his first career start at Tampa Bay, and followed with a strong performance against Dallas, throwing for 327-yards and three-touchdowns.
Fisher offered this statement:
“In my parting comments with Austin, I told him not to look over his shoulder. So he’s going to take this team and run with it.”
Fast-forward to November 12th… Fisher confirms he will revert back to Shaun Hill–essentially benching Davis. Perhaps I misunderstand ‘not looking over one’s shoulder’.
Davis’ presence at quarterback was refreshing for Rams fans.
For one, Davis is highly competitive and emotional. Since 2004, Marc Bulger, Sam Bradford, and 12 others (who I will spare you the pleasure of forgetting) have led the Rams at quarterback. Bulger seemed oblivious at times. Some diagnosed it as Battered Quarterback Syndrome. Bradford’s ‘deer-in-the-headlight’ look was marginally better. But Davis brought visible poise to the position, the so-called “spark plug”.
In addition, Davis could extend the play with his feet and nobody cringed when he went down. Davis is a Busch Camo Can compared to the fragile Waterford China behind center the last decade.
But like every young quarterback, Davis endured the growing pains of life in the NFL. On numerous occasions he took sacks on 3rd down, taking the team out of field goal range. He preferred dink-and-dunk safety nets to homerun shots. But ultimately, Davis threw the football to the opposition. Davis had four of his nine interceptions returned for touchdowns, and he also had two fumbles scooped up for defensive scores.
There are a few ways to look at this situation:
1. The Rams are 3-6, headed towards a seventh consecutive losing season. They have a giant question mark at the most valuable position and yet they bench Davis, who flashed enough pop to warrant more playing time. Instead of allowing Davis to play through the learning curve, they’re essentially throwing cold water on his potential future (with the Rams).
Pros: The team could further evaluate Davis as they contemplate future options at quarterback.
Cons: Possible destruction of Davis’ psyche.
2. Fisher had to stop the bleeding to keep from losing the locker room. I think Davis is well respected in the room. But then again, Jared Cook shoved him after dropping a sure TD vs. Dallas. When things went south last week at Arizona, FOX cameras showed Davis vehemently yelling, “Calm Down! Settle Down!” in the huddle. Players laying their heart on the line understandably get frustrated when guys make mistakes–and the quarterback position is no exception.
Pros: Fisher’s coaching style relies on a unified room. It may sound cliché, but the players truly respect and trust his leadership. Perhaps Hill uses his veteran skill set to manage football games in a way this regime likes to conservatively operate, and the team finishes near .500.
Cons: Hill didn’t exactly light it up against Minnesota. He too threw a costly interception setting up a late TD score. Say the inept offense continues under Hill… perhaps the players lose faith and the team has an invalid final report on Davis.
3. Fisher has been around this game for a long time. He’s in his 30th season as a head coach. Future uncertainty at quarterback does not take precedence over winning games now.
Pros: At 3-6 the team’s ship is severely damaged, but not sunk. He’s trying to build a lasting, winning legacy in St. Louis. If he throws in the towel, his credibility goes out the window.
Cons: Davis’ legitimacy becomes dust in thin air.
This is a tricky situation. But that’s what happens when you fail to address a vulnerable quarterback position despite a bevy of top picks in three different drafts.
Luckily for Hill, it’s only the (7-2) Denver Broncos coming to town in four days.
I’ll preview that tomorrow.
Thanks for reading.