Warner. Bulger. And now, Goff.
These are the three quarterbacks that we can point to and appreciate in the modern era of the St. Louis/Los Angeles Rams. They were the three guys entrusted as the franchise quarterback and proved their worth. Should Goff be on this list yet? Probably not, but for the sake of this article, were going to assume he plays at a relatively high level for the next 4-6 years at least in Los Angeles.
But what about the players in between? The Rams started seven quarterbacks in between Bulger’s final season with the Rams and Goff’s first start. Some were almost franchise guys and others were journeymen just passing through.
When digging deeper on the team’s recent crop of quarterbacks, I made a system that I believe to creates a definitive ranking of them. It’s not just based on talent, because that would be too easy. The process used seven different metrics to score our quarterbacks based on a variety of different factors.
Here is the breakdown:
Talent – Who was genuinely the best at playing quarterback?
Win Percentage – Total win percentage of games started for the Rams.
Moment – Who’s had the best defining moment during their Rams tenure?
Intestinal Fortitude – When the game was on the line, who’s hands would you want the ball in? Who would you trust to make a big play? Who would be the biggest risk-taker? Which on will put it all on the line to try and will his team to victory?
Effort – Who looked like they were actually trying at all times?
Other Successes – Who had the best career outside of their time with the Rams, whether it happened before or after they played here?
Memorability – When you look back on them, who do you remember the most fondly?
Now we’re talking. We’re breaking down everything from how they performed under pressure to the effort they gave throughout their career with the Rams. The number of points you see is how well they scored in the rankings.
On the eve of Fisherbowl 2018, what better time than now to rank these players?
7. AJ Feeley (2010-2011) – 17 Points
To be honest, I had six quarterbacks in my head when I was breaking down this article. I completely forgot that AJ Feeley started three games for the Rams during Sam Bradford’s injury riddled sophomore season. Which is probably why he scored in the bottom two in five of the seven categories.
You know what was surprising? Feeley placed second for best moment. He delivered the 0-6 Rams a major upset victory against the 5-2 New Orleans Saints. The Saints were so motivated by this loss that it sparked a nine-game winning streak that didn’t end until the divisional round of the playoffs. Of course, the Rams were so elated about the win that they only won one more game all year.
Did Feeley even play well in this game? Not really. He completed 20 of 37 passes with one touchdown and didn’t complete a pass over 20 yards. But he didn’t lose them the game either. He managed the best moment in an otherwise bleak year for the Rams. And it was a great moment.
6. Shaun Hill (2014) – 18 Points
When I was in college, I road-tripped with a couple of Vikings fans to Minneapolis to watch the Rams take on the Vikings. It was a good matchup between two of the NFL’s allegedly rising teams. The game actually lived up to the hype. Early in the fourth, Teddy Bridgewater was knocked out of the game by a cheap shot from LaMarcus Joyner. I asked my friends who the Vikings backup was.
Of course it was. Shaun freaking Hill, supposedly the most reliable backup quarterback in the league. “You could always rely on Shaun Hill,” my friends said. When Sam Bradford went down in the 2014 preseason, we were relieved to have old reliable Shaun Hill as our backup quarterback. Things would be fine!
Narrator: they weren’t.
In hindsight, Hill was the perfect fit for the 2014 Rams. He was an eight-year veteran, who never proved anything while producing a career winning percentage of 50%. Who better to captain Jeff Fisher’s sinking ship?
Hill literally lost his job after a half of football, but he somehow managed to start eight total games in the 2014 season. He played two seasons in Minnesota before calling it quits, where he beat the Rams in overtime of the aforementioned game, because of course he did.
Shaun Hill was the worst. It’s a shame he didn’t come in last.
5. Kellen Clemens (2011-2013) – 18.5 Points
The infamous Kellen Clemens snuck into fifth place by performing well in two categories – effort and memorability.
The two go hand-in-hand. Did you ever watch Clemens and think to yourself “why isn’t this guy trying?” Nobody did. He just wasn’t an NFL-caliber starting quarterback, which is why he ranked abysmally in talent, wins, and other success. Yet Clemens at least came to play when the Rams called on him. It’s hard to call him a disappointment, because what did we really expect? He was a poor quarterback saddled with poor receivers in Brian Schottenheimer’s even worse offensive system.
Clemens was bad, but at least he was trying.
4. Austin Davis (2012-2014) – 32.5 Points
We get a nice spike in points now that we’ve entered the cream of the crop of the transitional Rams quarterbacks, starting with the One True King of Westeros, Austin Davis.
Davis was the man. He took over for Shaun Hill after he was benched in the first game of the 2014 season and brought new life into the year. Davis wasn’t the best quarterback, but he willed the Rams to a Week 2 victory and salvaged the season. He gave the players the rest of the team a reason to play. His relentless effort was infectious.
Who wouldn’t want to play with this guy? Well, probably people that actually want to win titles, but that isn’t what this list is about.
Davis is exactly what any team would want from a backup quarterback. He gives it his all on. Daivs also knows his role and elevates a team’s energy even after all hope is lost. Most importantly, Davis is surprisingly fun to watch go to work.
Which is why Davis ranked first in the same two categories that kept Clemens out of last place – effort and memorability. Nobody tried harder than this guy. He gave me a reason to watch the 2014 Rams. The Austin Davis era will always hold a place in my heart.
Truthfully, I wish Davis would have ranked first, but he didn’t make the team in 2015. Unfortunately, he hasn’t recorded any success elsewhere, which placed him last in the other successes category.
3. Nick Foles (2015) – 35 Points
Nick Foles finishing so high on this list comes as a suprise. He ranked poorly in the effort and memorability categories that boosted Davis and Clemens in the rankings. Foles was a major disappointment as a whole in 2015, especially since it became clear as the year went on that he wasn’t giving his all on every play. The Rams gave up on the only potential franchise quarterback on this list to give Foles a chance, and he let everyone down. But it didn’t start that way. Nick Foles ranked first in two categories, because of his first game with the team.
The St. Louis Rams opened the 2015 season with a showdown against the defending champion Seattle Seahawks. The Rams came out swinging, and entered the fourth quarter with a 24-13 lead thanks to a Tavon Austin punt return touchdown.
At that point, the Rams reverted to the same form they’d shown for the last decade. Seattle stormed back, scoring 21 unanswered points and capping it off by housing a Nick Foles fumble. The Rams imploded, just like they had in big games for the last 10 years. Foles fumbled away the victory and the team would suffer another colossally bad season.
Yet, that’s not what happened. Foles refused to let the Rams fall apart. He drove the Rams right back down the field and capped off the drive with a 37-yard touchdown pass to Lance Kendricks. Then in overtime, Foles delivered one of the greatest plays I’ve seen in my years watching the Rams with a beautiful corner ball to Stedman Bailey. The degree of difficulty on this throw was absolutely insane. Foles possessed the fortitude to throw a corner route to an undersized receiver blanketed in double coverage by two of the best defensive backs of the past 20 years. If Foles doesn’t throw a perfect pass, the game is over. Instead, he won the game for the Rams.
Despite his major flaws, Foles never backed down. He placed first in three categories: intestinal fortitude and moment, both mainly because of that one pass to Bailey. The third was other successes, because throwing 27 touchdowns and two interceptions in a season is still mind-blowing. Foles was incredibly disappointing as a whole, but he gave us the most memorable performance out of any of these quarterbacks on the list.
2. Sam Bradford (2010-2014) – 37 Points
Should Sam Bradford even be on this list?
We’re talking about a bunch of backups and transitional quarterbacks in the same group as Sam Bradford, a former No. 1 overall pick who led the Rams to their best season of the playoff drought. Had it not been for injuries, he’d probably still be the Rams’ starting quarterback. You could argue that its insulting he is even listed with these guys.
Unfortunately, the injuries happened, and Bradford quickly morphed from franchise quarterback to unreliable injury risk. When the news broke that the Rams chose to trade him for Nick Foles and a second-round pick, it was both surprising and unsurprising at the same time. We didn’t expect the Rams to trade Bradford, but nobody could blame them. Bradford had missed 25 straight regular season games and was basically made of glass. The Rams needed to head into a different direction.
Still, Bradford compiled the best tenure with the Rams out of anyone on this list. He ranked first in one category (talent) and didn’t rank below four in any other category. We always knew that Bradford was at the very worst a low-level starter in this league, and he proved that and more in his post-Rams life, breaking the record for single-season completion percentage in 2016.
When I look back on his career with the Rams now that all the cards are out of the deck, it stirs up a lot of mixed emotions. He had the incredible rookie season, the “clipboard jesus” game, the injury-riddled sophomore year, the bounce-back season with Fisher, the injury, the other injury, and the trade. How truly memorable was Bradford’s run with the Rams? He earned five points for memorability simply because the guys behind him were far less memorable.
Bradford and the top quarterback were neck and neck in four categories: talent, win percentage, other successes, and memorability. Bradford got the edge in talent and narrowly squeaked into first in other successes due to his ridiculous completion percentage in 2016. But the negatives any Rams fan remembers from his time here could not be ignored. They cost him the top spot.
1. Case Keenum (2015-2016) – 39 Points
Case Keenum’s unbelievable 2017 season in Minnesota has been a revelation. This journeyman third-string quarterback came out of nowhere to lead a dominant Vikings team to the NFC Championship Game. As I’m writing this, were just days removed from his touchdown pass to Stefon Diggs that will forever immortalize Keenum in the NFL history books. He may not be the franchise quarterback in Minnesota, but he is bound to be a starting quarterback for years to come, which has become a shock to many people.
But deep down, we knew Keenum was good enough to be a starter. We always knew.
Keenum took the starting job from Foles. In his first start for the Rams, Keenum was minutes away from leading the Rams to victory in Baltimore before a concussion knocked him out. The concussion kept him out for weeks, but Keenum earned his starting job back as soon as he was healthy, leading the Rams to three straight victories and basically saving Jeff Fisher’s job.
The Rams traded up to take Jared Goff first overall in the 2016 NFL Draft, but Keenum still the started the season under center. He led the Rams to a 3-1 start against all odds. Keenum also set a franchise record with 19 consecutive completions. Even with all this, we called for his job and wanted Goff. It was never about Keenum. We knew he could be a decent quarterback in this league, we just didn’t want it to be with us.
In the end, it worked out for everybody. Goff and Keenum both led their teams to a division title. The Rams got their franchise guy, and Case got his opportunity. Anyone who knows Keenum knows he deserved it.
Keenum placed second in four different categories – talent, effort, intestinal fortitude, and memorability. He always brought all he had to give. Keenum also placed third in other successes, but I wouldn’t be surprised if he jumped to first in that category sooner rather than later.
The category he placed first in? Winning. All these guys were saddled with bad teams in St. Louis, but Keenum is truly a winner, and proved it by winning half of his games here. I’m glad it all worked out for him.
For reference, here are the full rankings:
Steve Rebeiro is a staff writer and podcast host for Rams Talk. He graduated from Marquette University in 2016. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.