Rams' Bulger lets his game do the talking
By Bryan Burwell
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Sunday, Sep. 11 2005

-- SAN FRANCISCO -- Marc Bulger does not swagger.

Imagine that. The trigger man of a bold NFL offense that prides itself on
swagger and bluster is as flashy as a pair of brown shoes. The guy who
orchestrates a huddle full of high-octane athleticism and ultra-confident
superstar attitudes, generally regulates his own personal ego meter down to
barely detectable levels.

I have seen loaves of bread with more flair than the Rams starting quarterback.
I've seen end-zone cones with more dazzle than the soft-spoken, 28-year-old
gunslinger. His teammates tell you that you can't tell by his demeanor in the
huddle whether the Rams are playing in the first quarter of a meaningless
preseason game or fourth-and-long in the closing seconds of an playoff
thriller.

"It's always the same with him," said Marshall Faulk. "He always has that
perma-smile on his face, like 'Don't worry, everything's cool.' "

But there is something different about the guy who will be trotting onto the
field this afternoon as the Rams open the regular season against the San
Francisco ***** here at Monster Park. There is something about him that tells
you he's no longer that unsure kid trying to not screw up .

Pay close attention. There is a steady, confident air about him now that we
haven't seen before. Whatever hint of uncertainty used to clutter his life,
whatever shadow used to hunker over him like an anvil teetering on a ledge has
gone away (at least until next week).

"It's my third year playing full-time in this offense, and I'm feeling pretty
good," he said early last week after practice. "Everyone says you hit your
stride as a quarterback in the NFL at 31, 32 or 33 years old. But I think I'm a
little ahead of that curve because I've gotten to play at such a young age."

Even when he makes a bold statement like that, it doesn't seem so bold coming
from Bulger. It sounds matter-of-fact.

"I think I'm getting to the point where the intelligence of the offense is
something I really have down," he said. "You can be Brett Favre, the toughest
guy in the world, but if you don't know what you're doing or where to put the
ball, you're going to get beat up in this offense," he said. "At the same time,
if you're not accurate, you're not going to be successful."

It's a long journey from five years ago, when Bulger was a faceless kid on the
bottom of the depth chart just trying to fit in. Now, he is a third-year
starter, a Pro Bowl MVP, who carries himself with an air of quiet confidence
because he knows his teammates believe in him and coach Mike Martz is convinced
that Bulger understands nearly every nuance of his coach's offensive playbook.

Some NFL scouts say he's a system quarterback, a mere product of Martz's good
coaching. Bulger says he no longer worries about those things.

"At first (when he came into the NFL) I was like, 'I want to do this; I want to
do that,' " Bulger admitted. "You want to show that you can help the team win,
but you're also always looking for those personal things. But once you get that
(big) contract and you're the guy somewhere, it all changes.

"Now that I have some security and I'm the Rams (starting) quarterback, the
personal goals - 'I wanna go to the Pro Bowl, I wanna throw 40 touchdowns' - I
don't set them. I just learned from watching Tom Brady and other successful
quarterbacks, that I'll be here a lot longer if we keep winning games. I can
throw 45 touchdowns, but if we're not winning games, I won't have the same
coach, and we won't have the same quarterback."

There is a Brady-like quality to Bulger. Neither was a high draft pick coming
out of college. Neither overwhelms you with their outward athletic abilities.
Neither particularly cares about the spotlight, either. "You just have to win
the games," said Bulger.

Winning games is what Bulger does. When he is healthy, the Rams win. When he
isn't, they struggle. Martz often raves about how Bulger possesses all the
qualities he values most in a passer, toughness, intelligence and accuracy.

"Anything else is just icing on the cake," he says.

And what is the icing that Bulger possesses?

"I think it's knowing how to win," he said. "Somehow you're making plays.
That's what's important in this business."