Every Rams fan who's old enough remembers the ‘Cinderella’ story of Kurt Warner - the former grocery store clerk -who got his improbable chance to lead the 1999 St. Louis Rams to a Super Bowl Championship and earn the league MVP, whilst doing so. Firing through the record book, he came from nowhere and burned himself into the hearts and minds of Rams fans for eternity. Despite a talented and balanced roster, it is Kurt Warner who gets the credit for that magnificent season, even though he is routinely the first to acknowledge and give praise to everyone else on the team. His humility only adds to the legend...and there’s the rub...Kurt Warner is legend in St. Louis and every quarterback since has been measured against that standard.
Is it fair? Probably not, but it was inescapable after the circumstances that brought Austin Davis to the field: Sam Bradford re-injuring his ACL in pre-season and Shaun Hill getting injured in the season opener versus Minnesota. Davis himself contributed to the myth tie-in by putting up some good numbers in his first shot at leading an NFL squad. After the win over Seattle, Brett Favre had this to say...
"Not to sound off my rocker, but he -- in my mind -- can be the next Tom Brady or Kurt Warner," Favre told ESPN. "(Brian) Hoyer as well. Austin, like those mentioned, just needed a legit opportunity."
There you go- direct comparison by someone who should know a thing or two about quarterbacking. Perhaps not coincidentally, also the guy who had his college records broken by the same Austin Davis.
So, is Austin Davis the next Kurt Warner?
Let’s look at his stats so far this year-
One thing is immediately apparent from these stats: inconsistency. A completion percentage ranging from 50% to 85%, QBR from a low of 44.6 to a high of 132.3 (Oddly enough, the low and the high were both wins). With an average QBR of 87.8, Davis ranks 30th amongst quarterbacks, just ahead of Ryan Fitzpatrick(87.1) and Matthew Stafford(86.5) and while his 11 TD passes aren’t igniting the record books, Phillip Rivers(8), Andrew Luck(9), Jay Cutler(8), Matt Ryan(8), Nick Foles(10) and Joe Flacco(8) have all thrown more interceptions. That is throwing an average of .93 INTs vs 1.4 TDs per game.
But do statistics tell the whole story?
Nope. Without proper context and interpretation, statistics alone are pretty worthless. Take this recent play by FSU quarterback Jameis Winston for example...
That play goes into the record books as a 47 yard touchdown pass. In reality, that ball should have been intercepted, so just looking at the post-game stats really doesn’t tell the whole story, does it? The only game I've missed so far this season, was the contest vs Tampa Bay. What I have witnessed only confirms the confusing statistical picture. One moment Davis looks like Drew Brees, and the next he's channeling Ryan Leaf...
So, let’s look at some other factors...
We really should take a moment to acknowledge that the entire Rams team has been highly inconsistent this year. Sack City was nonexistent for the first six game, but first showed some signs of life and then burst onto the scene this last week, with 8 sacks on one of the NFL’s most slippery quarterbacks. Janoris Jenkins has been sharp for the most part, but will likely be long remembered for his getting torched on that 80 yard touchdown pass in game one vs the 49ers. James Laurinaitis, wasn’t much of a factor until the second stilt against 49ers. Brian Quick started hot, but then got skunked before getting injured. All in all, Aaron Donald and Johnny Hekker have been the only consistently good players, and guard Davin Joseph has been consistently bad. The offensive line has not been consistent or especially good; injuries have taken their toll here, especially the season ending re-injury of Jake Long’s ACL. The run game has been a mystery to fans, experts and seemingly the coaching staff. It shouldn’t be a surprise that the quarterback is having his ups and downs also.
What Davis did do however, was excite the fans. During his first start against Tampa - through the game against Seattle - he had the league buzzing; comparisons to past and present greats spewed forth, from the likes of Brett Favre. Even while losing, he was putting up some great numbers and his fire and desire were evident on every play.
That fervor has cooled these last couple of weeks as he struggled against the Chiefs and the 49ers. In truth, those games were just downright ugly. But it should be noted that San Francisco ranks 3rd against the pass, while Kansas ranks numero uno.
So, should Austin Davis be compared to Kurt Warner?
Probably not yet. I would think it is fair to compare him to Blake Bortles, however. The Jaguars #3 overall draft selection, has only played one and a half a game less than Austin Davis, this being their first year in the league as starters.
Overall grade C
Austin Davis has shown some very good things on the field, and has also made some terrible decisions. But as you can see, he is outperforming a first round draft pick. There is promise in him. If he can make his reads faster, develop more mature throws and calm down when the game is on the line, he could be quite good. His coaching staff can help by not changing the game plan entirely for every single game; giving him something to settle into. As with everything else Rams, only time will tell...