ESPN's Jeffri Chadiha has a Marc Bulger "make-or-break season" feature article over the ESPN web site. It's worth a read, but Rams fans won't find any revelations that haven't been covered here and throughout the news and talk radio scene. The piece does do a nice job of recapping the debate that has swirled around Bulger for the last couple seasons.
How much heat Bulger deserves for the Rams failings recently can be argued. As the face of the team, the QB is a natural lightening rod for criticism, and Bulger has certainly earned his fair share. Factors like having to follow Kurt Warner and Bulger's guarded personality all figure into the discussion as well.
Speaking of which, lets open that up for discussion: how much or how little of Bulger's and the Rams struggles have to do with his approach, his personality? Remember how much better the Rams played in 2006 when Bulger publically lambasted some of his teammates for slacking? It was the most vocal we've maybe ever seen him, and the team responded. I know many of his detractors cite his leadership style, or lack thereof, as part of his problem.
Nevertheless, the new regime is committed to him. While that might be as much about salary concerns as anything else, it still means the Rams need Bulger to improve in oder to be successful in the near term. A post last week found some statistical reason for guarded optimism in Bulger's turnover efficiency, much improved last season from the year before and back to career norms, despite his ugly TD to INT ratio.
There are two things the team is doing to get some return out of their QB investment this year: installing a new offense seeks to limit the damage Bulger can inflict under center and a refurbishing the offensive line. Here's Chadiha summing up the team's thinking on the new offense:
What this team can do, however, is put Bulger in a position to play to his strengths. Spagnuolo said he's always respected Bulger's ability, especially the quarterback's penchant for getting rid of the ball quickly and managing the game well. Those traits will be vital in the West Coast offense that new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur has installed.
The offensive line should be improved too. Jason Brown is a huge upgrade at center, which was the softest spot up front last year and really impacted what the Rams could do with the running game. At tackle, the Rams will miss Pace, even though he's past his Pro Bowl level play, but could have stability with Barron at left and Smith at right. (Midlly annoying is that the article refers to Jason Smith as the Rams LT. He will be, but just not yet). That means the rest is up to Bulger. We'll know for sure whether or not the Rams made the right decision soon enough. But don't let that stop you from a healthy debate...