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Brewer & Bulger: Careers Gone South

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  • Brewer & Bulger: Careers Gone South

    Brewer & Bulger: Careers gone south

    Columnist Jeff Gordon

    Calgary Flames star Jarome Iginla fired a shot at Blues goaltender Chris Mason on Thursday night at Scottrade Center.

    Mason got in front of it, but failed to control it. The puck bled through him and trickled toward the goal line. It reached the line, it started to wobble across the line . . . and then Mason lunged back and swatted it to safety.

    A split second later defenseman Eric Brewer arrived, looking to do the same thing. But his hustle backfired. Instead of clearing the puck away from the crease, he whacked it into the net. Own goal!

    Such blunders explain why Brewer has become the favorite whipping boy for Blues fans.

    On a third-and-6 play in the third quarter Sunday in Detroit, Rams quarterback Marc Bulger scrambled out of the pocket and lumbered upfield. He appeared likely to gain a first down, but he went into his feet-first slide one step too soon, leaving him just short of a first down as he got down to avoid getting hit.

    Such mishaps explain why Bulger has become the favorite whipping boy for Rams fans.

    If these two ever got together for a pity party, they would find much common ground while discussing how their once-promising careers in St. Louis went bad.

    Earlier this decade, both players seemed headed toward hugely successful careers.

    Brewer earned an NHL All-Star Game berth while playing for the Edmonton Oilers. He won a gold medal as a member of the 2002 Canadian Olympic team and represented his country in numerous international competitions.

    Bulger earned two Pro Bowl berths as a Ram, earning MVP honors in one of the games. He needed just 56 games to pass for 15,000 yards in his NFL career, tying Kurt Warner and Dan Marino as the fastest to reach that plateau.

    Both players replaced enormously popular players. Brewer arrived in the trade that banished Chris Pronger to Edmonton. Bulger earned his starting job ahead of the beloved Warner, who moved on to the New York Giants.

    Both players have suffered myriad injuries. Brewer tried to play through debilitating back pain before finally shutting down for repairs. He has just come back from back and knee surgeries.

    Bulger is playing with a bruised rotator cuff after missing preseason time with a broken finger. His earlier injuries include cracked ribs and a severe concussion.

    Both players played prominent roles on really, REALLY bad teams. The Blues sank to dead last in the Western Conference on Brewer’s watch. The Rams lost 34 of 39 games with Bulger as the primary starting quarterback.

    Both players earned big money while their team floundered. Bulger is in the midst of a six-year, $65 million extension and Brewer will earn $4.25 million this season and $4.25 million next season as part of his four-year contract extension.

    Both players are struggling to regain their previous form. Bulger has demonstrated symptoms of “battered quarterback syndrome.” When opponents apply pressure, his trademark accuracy dissipates and he becomes skittish in the pocket.

    (These are much greater concerns than, say, Bulger’s unwillingness to take a hit to gain a first down in the middle of the field with his team leading 10-2. It’s not like Marc took a fourth-down dive with his team rallying from behind in the final minute. And it’s not that the Rams lost because Marc went into this slide one step too soon. Sheesh.)

    Before shutting down for repairs, Brewer had become mistake-prone in the defensive zone. His mixed post-surgical returns suggest he could have used a conditioning stint at Peoria to get acclimated to live play.

    Both players have retained the support of their coaches. Steve Spagnuolo hasn’t wavered from his view that Bulger gives this struggling team its best chance to win. And Andy Murray kept Brewer in his role as team captain, even though others led the Blues on their epic second-half run last season.

    Both players remain widely loathed by fans. If Bulger and Brewer disappeared today, the sports forum traffic at might be halved.

    What would the haters do with their lives?

    Moving forward, Brewer has a better shot at redeeming himself with St. Louis fans. As long as Murray is coaching this team, Eric will get every chance to regain his confidence and form.

    As for Bulger, well, only a miraculous Warner-like resurgence in the final eight games can prolong his stay here. Salary cap considerations kept him on the team this season, but 2010 promises more change.

    Just as Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Pisa Tinoisamoa, Tye Hill and Will Witherspoon departed, Bulger will move on, too.

    Before he leaves, perhaps he will stop by Scottrade to commiserate with Brewer and wonder how their once-stellar careers went south.