Why Austin Davis Gives the Rams Best Chance to Salvage 2013 Season

Tyson Langland@TysonNFLNFC West Lead WriterOctober 24, 2013

Let’s be honest: Without quarterback Sam Bradford, the St. Louis Rams will be lucky to win another game this season. Their defense is No. 22 in the league in terms of yards allowed per game, their special teams unit has been atrocious (thanks in large part to penalties) and their offensive line has been hit-or-miss, week in and week out.

When you can’t consistently protect the quarterback and you can’t stop anyone on defense, how can you expect to win with your No. 2 quarterback? That’s practically a death sentence, whether it’s Kellen Clemens taking snaps under center or Brady Quinn.

Neither of those players have performed well enough over the course of their careers to elevate the play of those around them. In fact, both quarterbacks have had trouble staying relevant in the NFL. Despite the fact that Clemens was a second-round pick in 2006, he has a career passer rating of 62.2, a completion percentage of 51.8 and more interceptions than touchdowns in eight seasons.

Quinn, on the other hand, has a career passer rating of 64.4, a completion percentage of 53.8 and 12 touchdown passes in 24 games. With nine games left to play, it’s safe to say that St. Louis will be hapless if they pin their hopes on either one of these two veteran signal-callers.

Kellen Clemens' and Brady Quinn's Career Numbers
Kellen Clemens3119838251.82,29071362.2
Brady Quinn2429655053.83,043121764.4

This is the exact reason why the Rams should take a leap of faith and start the youngster Austin Davis.

Davis gives St. Louis its best chance at salvaging its season. The second-year undrafted free agent out of Southern Mississippi may not have the strongest arm, but he has good footwork in the pocket and throws a very catchable ball.

According to SidelineScouting.com, Davis also does a good job of looking off receivers and is able to run for a first down, if need be. One other thing that is very noticeable when one takes the time to examine his college tape is that he comes off as a good decision-maker who rarely turns the ball over.

This aspect of his game would be huge as the team’s starting quarterback. Backup quarterbacks are supposed to come in and manage the game with confidence. They are rarely asked to throw for 300 yards and three touchdowns, which means protecting the ball and making smart throws is the main objective.

Sure, there will be times where a backup will be asked to successfully air the ball out, but to think he will be able to do it on a consistent basis is unrealistic. Most No. 2 quarterbacks are backups for a reason, and it is rare to see one take over for the No. 1 option and absolutely ball out.

Yet, it seems like every few years, one comes out of the woodworks and takes the league by storm. By no means am I saying that Davis will take the NFL by storm immediately, but it would give the Rams an opportunity to develop a young quarterback.

As it stands right now, he’s the only young quarterback they have on their roster. They don’t have one on their practice squad, and they haven’t drafted one under head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead.

There’s a reason they took a chance on signing him after the 2012 draft. In seven career preseason games, Davis has amassed 480 yards passing, three touchdown passes and a quarterback rating of 80.8. Would he have the same success in regular-season games? That is the million-dollar question right now.

We don’t and won’t know the answer until St. Louis gives him the keys to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer’s offense. Even though Davis may be the Rams’ best option for the final nine games of the season, that doesn’t mean it will happen; I get that. The Rams are in a very tough spot right now.

Prior to the season, pundits believed Fisher and Snead had added enough key weapons on offense to turn St. Louis into a playoff contender. On paper, the pundits were right. In free agency, the Rams added the uber-athletic tight end Jared Cook, and in the draft, they added wide receivers Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey.

However, we all know playoff teams don’t win games on paper. Players must live up to expectations, and coaching staffs must utilize their newly acquired weapons correctly. Unfortunately for the Rams, their rookie playmakers haven’t lived up to expectations, and Fisher’s coaching staff hasn’t taken advantage of their strengths.

Undoubtedly, the biggest underachiever on Fisher’s staff has been Schottenheimer. His play-calling lacks creativity, it’s often predictable on early downs and he appears scared to take a shot down the field. His conservative approach has the Rams offense in total disarray.

Heading into Week 8, St. Louis’ offense ranks 30th in the NFL in terms of yards per game, its third-down percentage is 31st, and the team hasn’t garnered a rushing touchdown on 155 attempts.

Schottenheimer’s backfield is the only backfield in the league that hasn’t scored a singlerushing touchdown.

The Rams’ inefficiencies on offense have started to make some players in the locker room uneasy, according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk. This shouldn’t come as a surprise, though, as Schottenheimer was run out of New York for the exact same reasons.

And to think that Fisher actually believes Clemens and Quinn will thrive at quarterback under him. Right. Even if both players seem to be perfect fits for his offense, Davis will be the only quarterback who will help Schottenheimer save face.

Davis could even help Schottenheimer buy more time as a coordinator in St. Louis. With expectations being so low, it would only help his stock if the youngster succeeds under his guidance.

After Clemens bombs on Monday Night Football against the Seattle Seahawks, you may find yourself agreeing with me that Davis does indeed give the Rams the best chance at salvaging the 2013 season.



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