Browsing around the interweb I came across this article at Philly.com featuring a quote from Kurt Warner saying that he knew Eagles QB Donovan McNabb would bounce back to form. Whether you agree with Warner's assessment or not, Kurt's a guy who would know all about bouncing back. When the Rams unceremoniously parted ways with the QB that led them to their last Super Bowl title, Warner looked like he was finished. Obviously he wasn't. Anyway, this got me thinking, can Marc Bulger, a two-time Pro Bowl QB, bounce back like the Rams need him to?
I'd like to think the answer is yes. Let's go back to Warner for a moment to make a point. During his last great season with the Rams, 2001, Warner was sacked 38 times, and the Rams had one of the highest sack totals in the league that season. Prior to 2001, Warner was sacked 49 times in 27 games (he missed 5 games, remember in 2000 with a broken hand). Three seasons, 87 sacks; that's a lot of abuse for a QB to endure. And, as you can see from his stats, he wasn't the same the QB when he started the 2002 season, throwing 7 INTs and a lone TD in three games to start the season before a broken finger further derailed his year. Six fumbles into the first game of the 2003 season, Warner's time with the Rams effectively ended and he was released in June 2004. He looked like he was finished, even after playing well to start the 2005 season with the Cardinals. One Matt Leinart underage hot tub incident and a list of other antics and Warner was back to his old self.
So what about Bulger? During his career season in 2006, he was sacked a whopping 49 times, second most of any QB in the league that season...except for John Kitna of the Lions. (Man, the Rams and the Lions have been dangerously close comparisons lately). In the three seasons prior to that, Bulger was sacked 104 times - holy s#*t! - in just 37 games (remember he only played 8 games in 2005). In the last two seasons, Bulger's been sacked 75 times. How do expect a QB to make plays under those circumstances? You can't.
Now, Bulger was hardly an innocent bystander in the Rams failure this season, but the team deserves much of the blame for not adequately addressing glaring problems on its O-line...to say nothing of embracing an offensive philosophy that overlooked sacks for six seasons with Martz as head coach.
So can Bulger recover? Yes, eventually, but it would be foolish to think he can recapture his previous form for the 2009 season. He can, however, play well enough in an offensive system featuring a power running game at its core to be a functional quarterback...if the Rams upgrade the offensive line as promised. Of course, having a competent backup who can start in Bulger's stead without missing a beat would help tremendously too, but without holes on the line filled it doesn't matter if they reanimate Joe Montana (oh, he's still alive?).
In actuallity, as a Rams fan with fond memories of Kurt Warner, I overlooked a player who is probably a better comparison for Bulger: Chad Pennington. Though he didn't endure as much of his damage from sacks as Bulger, he bounced back well this season with a solid line in front of him and a running game.