Rams Must Pass Torch to Austin Davis Following Loss to Arizona

Steven GerwelContributor IIIDecember 8, 2013

Aug 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Kellen Clemens (10) and quarterback Austin Davis (9) getting ready to throw during warm-ups before the game against the Cleveland Browns at FirstEnergy Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The St. Louis Rams (5-8) suffered a 30-10 loss against the Arizona Cardinals (8-5), and the lackluster showing on offense could mean a change at quarterback. 

Kellen Clemens has led the way ever since Sam Bradford was lost to a knee injury in Week 7 at Carolina, but that could change very soon.  

#Rams announce torn ACL for QB Sam Bradford and say he is out for the season, confirming reports.

— Mike Sando, ESPN.com (@SandoESPN) October 21, 2013

The Rams suffered narrow losses to Seattle and Tennessee in Clemens' first two starts, but the team was competitive in both games, which made it an easy decision to stick with Clemens moving forward. 

The next two games, against Chicago and Indianapolis, Clemens had the two best games of his eight-year career. 

Clemens threw for a total of 414 yards and three touchdowns in those two games. The Rams beat the Chicago Bears and Indianapolis Colts by a combined score of 80-29, and it appeared Clemens was about to make things interesting. 

Then, the last two games happened... 

In Week 13 against San Francisco, Clemens was highly erratic, even by his standards. He completed just over 51 percent of his passes. He was picked off once, and the offense's only touchdown was the result of fourth-quarter pity after the game was well out of hand. 

Against Arizona, Clemens completed less than 60 percent of his passes for the seventh time this season. He coughed up two picks—one was returned for a score—and fumbled once. His offense was highly unproductive for the entire game. 

Expecting Kellen Clemens to lead a 99-yard TD drive is like expecting nfl refs to do their jobs fairly and accurately.

— Rams Fan (@STLRams2013) December 8, 2013

Kellen Clemens has an interception returned for a touchdown by Karlos Dansby. It's getting ugly. #Cardinals lead the #Rams 21-3.

— Rams Talk (@TalkRams) December 8, 2013

Clemens was effective in his first four starts only because the run game was clicking. Now that Zac Stacy has been contained the last two weeks, it has forced the Rams to rely on the pass, exposing Clemens' abilities as a quarterback. 

Now, it's time to move on. 


Here Comes Austin Davis

Austin Davis is a second-year pro out of Southern Mississippi and is clearly the next in line at quarterback, unless you consider Brady Quinn a viable option (no one does). 

The coaching staff is obviously pondering a change at quarterback, and Davis is the player in mind. If that's not the case, then why does this video clip exist from the Arizona game? 


Davis generated hype as a rookie during the 2012 preseason after completing over 64 percent of his passes and showing promising mobility in the pocket. Overall, he was simply a fun player to watch. 

In fact, Davis was supposed to be the No. 2 quarterback in 2013, according Jim Thomas of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch last February:

It’s nearly three months before the Rams do any full-squad practice work, but it looks very much like quarterback Austin Davis has been promoted.

Asked Friday about his plans at backup QB, coach Jeff Fisher said, “Well, we’ve got Austin Davis. I was really happy with his progress.”

Davis ultimately lost the job to Clemens, despite being all but guaranteed the No. 2 spot. It's not that Clemens visibly outplayed Davis in the preseason, it's just that Davis did not do enough to outweigh Clemens' experience. Clemens was the safer choice.

Although, while Davis failed to impress, he was hardly a disaster. He only completed 51.1 percent of his passes, but he did have three touchdowns. And unlike Clemens, he was able to avoid throwing a single pick during the preseason. 

At the very worst, the preseason battle ended in a tie. And with that being the case, Davis deserves a shot just as much as Clemens. 

It's difficult to determine when Davis will see the field. The Rams take on a tough New Orleans team a week from now, and that's an awfully tough scenario to dump on a second-year player in his first NFL start. 

But before the season ends, Davis will take his first NFL snap under center. 


Why Does It Matter? 

Aug 8, 2013; Cleveland, OH, USA; St. Louis Rams quarterback Austin Davis (9) scrambles against the Cleveland Browns during the second quarter at FirstEnergy Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports
Ron Schwane-USA TODAY Sports

You may disagree with switching up the quarterback position. After all, what's the point? 

In a best-case scenario, Clemens can reignite the fire he showed against Chicago and Indianapolis and pick up a few wins. In a worst-case scenario, the Rams lose out and secure a lofty draft pick. 

So, why make the change? 

Well, because the Rams need to know what they have in Davis. Clemens is clearly not the answer as a No. 2 quarterback, which means the Rams will inevitably draft a backup in the spring. Before that happens, it'd be wise to evaluate Davis' abilities. 

If Davis excels, it could save the team a draft pick and allow the Rams to have a solid No. 2 moving forward. If he fails, then it allows the Rams to confidently write "backup quarterback" on their spring wish list with no regrets or "what if's."

There's not a lot to play for this season, but there's a lot to gain by playing Davis.

There's not a single team in the NFL willing to cough up a draft pick for Clemens. However, if a 24-year-old Davis can show potential on the field, it would provide the Rams with a nice bit of trade bait moving forward. 

Until Bradford returns to the lineup, the Rams will struggle at quarterback. In the meantime, they better cover all their bases by giving Davis a proper evaluation. 

Use the comment section and share your thoughts on St. Louis' current quarterback situation. 


Steven Gerwel is the longest-tenured Rams Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report and serves as the Rams game-day correspondent. You can find more of Gerwel's work by visiting his writer's profile or by following him on Twitter.