By Bernie Miklasz
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
Thursday, Oct. 25 2007
Late last season, Marc Bulger called out unnamed teammates for giving less than
maximum effort. The remarks played well in the community, and in the locker
room. And Bulger took a step forward as a leader.
OK, so where is that guy now?
Can we get Bulger to take charge?
The Rams need him to be a positive leader.
Bulger has taken a terrible step back this season, in his performance, and in
his attitude. And this is especially troubling in that Bulger's decline comes a
few months after the franchise gave him a $65 million contract that includes
$27 million in guaranteed money.
Here's what the Rams have gotten, so far, for their investment:
— An 0-7 record.
— The lowest-scoring offense of the Rams' 13 seasons in St. Louis.
— An average of nine points per game in Bulger's five starts.
— A Bulger passer rating of 58.7, which is the lowest by a Rams' starting
quarterback (minimum five starts) since the team moved here in 1995.
Yes, what Bulger has done this season is worse than anything served up by Tony
Banks, the object of hostile ridicule and derision during his term as the Rams'
starting QB from 1996 to 1998. With Bulger teaming with backup Gus Frerotte
(two starts), the Rams are at the
bottom of the NFL in passer rating.
Bulger is playing with a couple of broken ribs, and I respect him for that.
Wednesday, Bulger said he's feeling better — about 80 percent healthy. "It's
not that bad," he said.
Plenty of NFL quarterbacks are hurting. I watched Arizona's Kurt Warner play at
Washington on Sunday with a brace on his left arm, to stabilize a torn elbow
ligament. Warner couldn't use the left arm to hand the ball off; he was a
Warner, shaky early, never stopped battling. He refused to give in to his pain,
the hostile stadium, the physical Redskins defense. Warner completed 13 of 21
for 211 yards in the second half to nearly rally the Cardinals back from a
15-point, fourth-quarter deficit. Washington held on to win by two.
After the game, Redskins assistant Al Saunders, the former Rams assistant,
waited for Warner outside the locker room and commented to reporters, "What a
courageous guy. He can't even lift his left arm. You've got to be tough to play
that position, but that guy's really tough."
Warner left everything he had on that field. No one who saw the game had any
questions about Warner's fire, his competitiveness. That isn't true of Bulger
I realize the offensive line is mostly a collection of spare parts and loose
ends, and Bulger absorbs too many hits. The running game has been sluggish,
with or without Steven Jackson. The coaching is an issue. But at least in one
of Frerotte's starts, against Arizona, the Rams played with energy and put up
31 points in a three-point loss.
No, this isn't all Bulger's fault, but that doesn't mean he gets a waiver on
the crash of this offense. He isn't playing well. Worse, Bulger isn't playing
with any spirit, any kick. At Seattle, Bulger appeared to be mailing it in.
Why was Bulger rolling his eyes and smirking at his head coach on the sideline
in Seattle? Scott Linehan was correct in reminding Bulger of standard QB
procedure: You don't take a sack inside the other team's 5-yard line; throw the
ball away. But Bulger was dumped, and the Rams faced a third-and-goal from the
13, instead of a third-and-goal from the 4.
It was proper for Linehan to say something. That's his job. So, Bulger is so
good, it's OK to wave off coaching? He shouldn't be held accountable? When the
Rams fired Mike Martz and hired Linehan, Bulger expressed his happiness and
took shots at Martz. But it's no secret that Bulger grumbles about Linehan,
too. Perhaps Bulger should lead the search committee for the next head coach so
he can find one that rates his approval.
It's easy to dog the head coach, but what is Bulger doing to make things
better? The same is true of veterans such as Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. They
had a chance to make big plays in Seattle and whiffed. Before he suffered his
groin injury, Jackson lost two fumbles in the season-opening loss to Carolina.
Linehan deserves criticism, but I'm trying to figure out why this team's
high-salaried stars consistently receive a free pass from most fans and media
in this town. The big-ticket guys aren't doing much to reverse this team's
decline, or to improve the morale.
Wednesday, Bulger insisted that everything is swell with Linehan.
"I believe in him," Bulger said. "I think everyone else does. I haven't seen
anyone quitting. ... I think if guys are moping around and quitting you just
hear more, and I haven't heard that. I think we're all 100 percent behind him."
Well, I'm going to have to call Bulger out on that one.
Don't tell us.
Sunday, against Cleveland.