For a few fleeting minutes yesterday afternoon, it seemed as though the old Rams were dead and gone, replaced by a squad that just beat two of the most talented teams in the league and nearly upset the defending AFC champion Patriots at home. Hell, there was even a glimmer of hope for a division title.
Then Marc Bulger unleashed a slew of ill-advised passes, a less-than-healthy Steven Jackson stumbled and bumbled around the field, and the defense showed it still has more holes than a homeless man’s socks.
Yes, this was the 2008 Rams we’ve come to know and love (to hate.)
The most telling point in the game was the end of the first half. After a gut-punching 30-yard TD run by Arizona, the Rams got the ball back with just under two minutes left on the clock. Rather than putting together anything resembling an effective drive, they opted for a quick three and out and a punt.
The Cardinals then showed what good teams do against bad teams to close out the half: they threw a long bomb that bounced off the hands of a Rams corner and went for a touchdown. The final score of 34-13 wouldn’t come for another two hours but the game was already over.
Much was made in the local press about Marc Bulger vs. Super Bowl Hero Kurt Warner (reading the articles, you’d think he changed his name Ocho Cinco style) but the bottom line is this: Bulger is still the Rams’ best QB. And that’s the problem.
Bulger has the resources (Donnie Avery, Torry Holt and Steven Jackson when he’s healthy) but not the inclination. After getting beaten down like Kimbo Slice in prime time for the last year and a half, he’s antsy in the pocket and lets balls fly too early or into double coverage like the pick six in the second quarter yesterday. There’s also his less than enthusiastic on-field leadership, which is best characterized by his Manning-face caliber sour puss (pictured above).
The Rams ought to stick with Bulger for the rest of the season. Throwing Trent Green to the wolves for another concussion is inexcusable and, in any case, a downgrade.
The question is what to do next year. Bulger shouldn’t be around; the fans (and probably his teammates too) have lost confidence and will boo him at every opportunity. However, a high draft pick would probably be better spent replacing Orlando Pace at left tackle, giving the next quarterback the time to throw that Bulger hasn’t had all season. The best bets here are Mississippi’s Michael Oher or Virginia’s Eugene Monroe.
Then use a late first-round or early second-round pick to take the best QB left on the board in hopes of snagging 2009’s Joe Flacco. Who will that be? Well, I’ve heard this guy knows how to throw the ball a little bit.