The last thing I'll say about the quarterback position... this week
The Rams have played a grand total of two games in the 2006 season, but the catcalls can be heard across the internet already. Marc Bulger, who in limited time last year boasted a quarterback rating near 95, has gotten off to a slow start in a new offense behind a patchwork offensive line. And almost predictably, some fans are talking about benching or trading him. Never mind that we were playing the second half with Todd Steussie and Adam Goldberg in the starting line-up. Never mind that our starting tight end still has a lot of work to do in the protection department. The calls have been put in Ė Marc Bulger is apparently not the man for the Rams.
Iíve spent the better part of four days arguing why this isnít the case, using simple logic and reasoning to explain why Bulger Ė whose quarterback rating through two games in Linehanís new offense is two points shy of Matt Hasselbeckís rating in his Super Bowl caliber offense Ė is not the guy we should be looking to replace. Even Rams hero Kurt Warner has voiced opinions on how hard it is to change systems, yet some fans across the Ďnet still wonít listen.
The problem with these fans isnít their dissatisfaction with the quarterback position, because I donít think you could find a person alive to say Bulger has been playing great. The problem with fans is the way they want to go about it. Trade Bulger after two weeks? Trade him after five before the deadline? Bench him for Frerotte immediately? These suggestions make little sense, and are not grounded in reality at all.
They say that history stands a good chance of repeating itself, so letís look to the past to see why Marc Bulgerís job is no where near being in danger. After helping Daunte Culpepper put up career numbers in Minnesota during the í03 and í04 seasons, Scott Linehan packed his bags and headed south to the Miami Dolphins organization, making a lateral move to take over their offense under new head coach Nick Saban.
To lead his offense, Linehan could have had a number of interesting signal callers. Jay Fiedler was cut not only because of a huge cap number but also because he wasnít guaranteed the starting job in 2005. That left former Eagles back-up AJ Feeley on the roster, so the Dolphins had to do something to bring competition to the position. They could have signed former Buffalo quarterback Drew Bledsoe. They may have been able to work out a deal with San Diego for Drew Brees, considering the Chargers only a year later let Brees walk into free agency uncontested. Jeff Garcia was available, as were Kelly Holcomb and Brad Johnson. Heck, in an interesting twist, Linehan could have advocated for the Dolphins to sign Kurt Warner to lead their team.
But instead, Linehan went with a guy whose days of being a full-time starter were well behind him Ė Gus Frerotte. Itís no surprise that Frerotte, familiar with the scheme Linehan wanted to implement due to their time together in Minnesota, beat out the young AJ Feeley for the starting quarterback position. And to start the season, Frerotte showed some real promise. He recorded a 96.4 QB rating in a home win against Denver. Things were looking up, eh?
As Lee Corso might say, not so fast my friend. In the next seven contests, Gus Frerotte would only once play well enough to earn a quarterback rating over 70. In fact, after his impressive opening week, Frerotte struggled through the next four games, and instead of benching him in favor of AJ Feeley, the Dolphins traded Feeley away! Frerotte completed the season earning a quarterback rating less than 72 in 11 of 16 games, and his job was never in jeopardy.
Now, based on that, what makes anyone think Scott Linehan, who again ran Miamiís offense with Frerotte behind center, is going to sour on Bulger after two games? The suggestion itself is ridiculous.
However, what remains to be seen is how well Bulger can pick up this offense and whether or not he can stay healthy for a full season. Most Rams fans would like to see results sooner rather than later, but I certainly would not be surprised to see these growing pains last late into the season. Weíre talking about a complete shift of mindset here. Bulger has spent the last 4-5 years in a pass-happy offense that not only didnít care about turnovers but willingly risked them by throwing into tight spots. Now, heís in a more balanced offense that puts its emphasis on protecting the football and throwing the ball away if nothing presents itself.
This kind of complete reversal in philosophy does not happen overnight, nor does it happen in a series of OTAs and practices over the summer. But Iím confident that Bulger can reprogram himself to function in this system. After all, this is an offense that despite taking a while to install in Miami finished strong in 2005, highlighted by Frerotte averaging a rating of 83.6 over the last six games with a TD/INT total of 8/2 in that same span.
So hopefully we can all conclude that Marc Bulgerís job isnít in jeopardy this season. But what about the future?
Finding the man to lead this team down the road isnít a claim without merit. After all, Marc Bulger is not the epitome of health. His injury history certainly makes one cautious about how much you can count on him long term, and though we need to give him time to adjust to Linehanís system, we still have no idea how well heíll play in it.
There were a few Rams fans around the world who wanted to see Jay Cutler in horns, but that would have been a horrible move for a first year head coach to make. Spend a high first round pick on a player who is going to hold a clipboard for the majority of the 2006 season? Talk about a poor statement to send to a team still convinced they could compete for a playoff spot. Jay Cutler could turn into a great professional quarterback, but drafting him in April would have been a very questionable move for the Rams, in my opinion, simply because of the situation we were in.
So where does that leave us? Some would suggest the Rams should be looking for a quarterback in round one this coming spring, where senior signal callers Brady Quinn (Notre Dame) and Drew Stanton (Michigan State) look to be first round locks. If Loiusville quarterback Brian Brohm declares (I suspect he wonít though), heís also a clear first round possibility.
But letís consider history once again. The fact that Frerotte was Linehanís choice to lead in Miami rather than one of the more talented quarterbacks available combined with the balanced ball-control system itself suggest that this offense does not need an elite talent at the quarterback position. Therefore, a first round draft pick could be better spent addressing needs at other positions, such as the offensive line, defensive end, linebacker, or safety.
The only way quarterback becomes a real first round option in 2007 is if the Rams completely struggle this season and end up with a pick that gives them a shot at Brady Quinn, since Quinn would likely be one of the highest graded players on anyoneís board in April. At that point, the Rams may find themselves unable to justify taking anyone else. But given the struggles of other teams in this league, I donít see Quinn available when we pick.
So where does that leave those who want the Rams to address the future of the quarterback position? Admittedly, many things can change between now and April, and player ranks will surely slide up and down. But when I look outside of the projected first round talent for the 2007 draft class, Iím not convinced that this is a great group in terms of depth. In fact, as of this point in time, I actually like the 2008 group from a depth perspective more than I do this coming class. And when you consider that Linehanís balanced ball-control offensive scheme has no real need for an elite first round quarterback, making a second-tier prospect a more likely option, I canít help but wonder if the Rams wouldnít be better off waiting to address the future of the quarterback position in 2008.
Re: The last thing I'll say about the quarterback position... this week
I've been one of the critics of Marc his last game, but my critics are far from what you are saying.
Originally Posted by Nick
My claim is that knowing that he is going to be sacked (not only because our OL is a turnstile but also because at one point we were playing with 4 backups) he didn't get rid of the ball fast enough, throwing it outside. Holding the ball 6 seconds for a elite QB is ok, regretfully we don't have that luxury.
However, failing to understand that Marc is an elite QB, someone that took over one of the most accurate passers, with a ring in his hand, and he took it over with his TDs, and QB rating, not with the mouth like some frustrated QB in Mia now or in Phi. Not only he has to be our QB because he already showed what he is made of, won more games that he lost, and has more TD than INT, or because THE WHOLE TEAM (not the WR, or the OL, all the players) backs him up, but also because there is no other QB better than him available. I would think that he should be rated among the top 10 QB if not the to 5 right now.
Culpepper is playing way worse than Marc, I don't hear the fins wanting to get rid of him, the only QB in danger is the snake, but he's 0-2 with 4 int and 0 TD.
I want the playoffs again, I want the ring again, I want the 400 points a season again, NOW, and its really hard to see us loose against the ***** but be sure that sooner or later this offense will take off, the 400 points will come back and we'll have threats saying "do you remember when you wanted to get rid of the probowler Marc Buler".
FYI I have 3 fantasy teams, I have him in two, never think twice, he was is and will be the starter.