Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Despite its infancy, the 201 season has already proved to be an unusual one for the St Louis Rams at the quarterback position. Starter Sam Bradford – seemingly in a make-or-break year – went down with a season-ending injury in the third pre-season game (against Cleveland), setting the scene for 34-year old Shaun Hill to take over the reins of this young offense. Hill was bizarrely substituted in the opening game of the regular season, with injury given as the official reason. He is yet to return to the field, his place having been taken by third-year undrafted free agent Austin Davis. The Southern Mississippi product led the Rams to their first victory of the season against the Buccaneers, and put in a brave effort in a heartbreaking loss to Dallas the following week. Since taking over, Davis has posted an impressive completion percentage of 72.4%, throwing three touchdowns, with a rating of 93.1. Unfortunately, he has also thrown three picks, but two of this were in the panicked comeback attempt against the Cowboys.
In his two games as starter, Davis has made a positive impression on both the front office and Rams fan alike. Despite this, however, Jeff Fisher stated – on a number of occasions – that Hill would be taking over as starter upon his return from injury. Hill is a journeyman backup, although he posted solid – though far from stellar – numbers as a starter in San Francisco and Detroit, although his last meaningful action over the course of a season was back in 2010. Fisher subsequently announced that Davis would once again be starting against Philadelphia, once more using Hill’s injury as an excuse. This injury has obviously been plaguing Hill since Week 1, but it has not prevented him from being named backup for every game since. An injury that is not severe enough to prevent him from possibly playing, but that has lingered since Week 1…lucky I am not a conspiracy theorist.
Naming Davis as starter for next weekend’s game makes perfect sense. The quarterback has generated some offensive momentum, particularly in the Cowboys game, and has distributed the ball to his receiving weapons in an impressive manner. This has, in turn, opened up the running game more. Davis is a dynamic quarterback who can make plays with his feet, although his decision-making can be inconsistent – not an unfair assessment to make of a player two games into his starting career. The team is scoring and was only a Jared Cook drop away from winning two consecutive games. To slow this momentum and turn to a career backup seems madness.
Not that Davis will turn the Rams into a Super Bowl-caliber team. The youngster will make mistakes – he is essentially a rookie – but, with Bradford down and no other options available, Davis has proved that he deserves a chance. Hill is clearly not the long-term answer for a team that will probably have to start again at the quarterback position; but Davis might be that answer, and finding out whether that is the case might just be worth a few painful “rookie” moments over the next few weeks.
What do we have to lose? Apart from yet more games, and most of Rams Nation is quite used to that now.