Marc Bulger is one of the most underappreciated players in St. Louis Rams history. Many fans remember him for his rapid decline late in his career, but Bulger should be remembered for leading the Rams to the playoffs twice and putting up monster numbers in the process. He did have one of the best stretches for a quarterback in Rams history, despite a very brief prime.
Bulger was a star in college at the University of West Virginia, but his career with the Mountaineers ended abruptly due to an injury during his senior season. His draft stock took a hit as a result, and the New Orleans Saints selected him in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft. Bulger found a spot on the Rams practice squad during his rookie year and remained a part of it during the Rams 2001 NFC Championship season.
Bulger made the roster in 2002, serving as the third-string quarterback behind reigning MVP Kurt Warner and his backup Jamie Martin. The Rams began the season 0-5, despite Warner starting three games before suffering an injury. Bulger finally got his shot when Martin went down with an injury following Week 5. Bulger led the Rams on a five-game winning streak, throwing for 1,496 yards and 12 touchdowns during that stretch. He finished the 2002 season with a 6-0 record in games he both started and finished.
Warner was still the Rams’ starter going into the 2003 season, but Bulger took over following Warner’s poor Week 1 performance and never looked back. The St Louis Rams finished 12-4, winning the NFC West and earning a first round bye. Bulger’s performance served as the catalyst for the Rams success. He threw for 3,845 yards and 22 touchdowns. He would later be named MVP of the 2004 Pro Bowl.
Bulger continued his success in 2004; he threw for 3,964 yards and 21 touchdowns in 14 games. The Rams finished 8-8 and earned a wildcard berth. Bulger and the Rams defeated the Seattle Seahawks in the first round, their last playoff victory as of the 2015 season.
Bulger recorded a career year in 2006 after an injury-riddled 2005 season. He set career highs in passing yards (4,301) and touchdowns (24) while playing in 16 games for the first time in his career. Bulger was selected to his second Pro Bowl and led the Rams to an 8-8 record, barely missing the playoffs.
Everything went downhill for Bulger following the 2006 season. Bulger started 35 games over the next three years, winning just five of them. Bulger threw 34 interceptions and only 27 touchdowns during that stretch. The Rams’ brutal offensive line was a big part of Bulger’s downfall. He was sacked 89 times over this three-year stretch and a total of 254 times in his career. This resulted in rib injuries and concussions, two injuries that would be recurring during his final few years in St. Louis. Bulger was placed on the injury report 21 times during his last three years with the Rams. He left the Rams following the 2009 season and went to Baltimore, but he never threw a pass in his one season with the Ravens.
It’s hard for any quarterback to accumulate success without the right talent around him. Bulger put up outstanding numbers when he had both Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce at the peak of their careers. But once age caught up to both of them, it seemed to catch up to Bulger as well. Although his prime was brief, it was one of the better stints any quarterback has had in a Rams uniform.