The Rams appear to be nothing more than a consistent quarterback away from being a very good team. There are a lot of plays being left on the field on Sundays, and the vast majority can be attributed to quarterback play.
This is not to say Austin Davis has not been really good (at times). But he is merely a solid stop gap QB. He is someone that if he wanted could stay in this league for the next 12 yrs, but it would be as a back-up, with a few opportunities to start sprinkled in. Once he hits his prime, he will probably develop into a solid 6 win QB. Meaning if he starts 16 games regularly you will have enough plays left on the field (physical limitations not mental) that it will be hard to win games that require specific passing game plans.
But Sam Bradford can win those games. Now, I am the same person that said in May, if Bradford suffers another injury the Rams will have to leave him go. But only a fool will cut ties with a talent like that without a viable option to step in. The fact is, so far - and there is still half a season to be played - there has not been the usual back-up comes in and shows what he has, but heads to free agency and someone gives him a chance (Matt Flynn, Matt Schabb, Nick Foles, etc) moment. It is looking like the Quarterback market will be very dry this off-season.
As for the draft, well the pickings are slim. Also, this Rams team is good enough to win 6-7 games without a viable option at quarterback. Which means no matter what, they are likely to play themselves out of position to draft a top 5 talent. In my opinion the best quarterback in the country is Jameis Winston. Marcus Mariota gets a lot of attention and hype, but I'm not buying it. I trust my eyes more than someone's opinion. I don't see a franchise QB when I see Mariota, I simply see a player benefiting from an excellent system. And 6'4" 212 lbs is not prototype nor imposing size, but rather a tall, lanky, kid.
Winston on the other hand (6'4" 230 lbs) has it all. He has the arm strength, the accuracy, understanding of route concepts, reads defenses, poise, clutch, pro style, mobile, strong, tough, maintains composure, pocket presence, etc... But his most impressive trait is his on-field leadership. The fire and passion he plays with burns through his teammates with every word he speaks. He got an entire team to buy into him only a few weeks into the season as a freshman. He's very vocal and respected, even with the off field issues, his teammates still shut up and listen when he speaks (seniors included). That takes a special kind of leader. He also works hard. He spent six hours watching film with Florida State back up Sean Maguire, to help him prepare for the game against Clemson during Winston's suspension.
I love this video because it shows his composure and poise. The kid simply does not get rattled, he has the that killer instinct you look for in all athletes...
The issue is I am not believing that he will enter the draft this off-season. He's smarter than he gets credit for and probably will stay to rebuild his reputation. He also loves the college life and that is very clear. While he could go on to the next level today and have an impact, his heart is still all in with Florida State.
So where does this leave the Rams?
With little options available the team will have to make a decision, and sooner than later. Jeff Fisher is not going anywhere this off-season. Maybe after the 2015 season if the current return of investment maintains its pace we can talk about that, but for now he's safe. He has a lot of say so in football operations and that doesn't look to change either. Fisher is not the type to take a QB just because one is needed. He has to be all in.
Which brings me to my point. He is definitely all in on Bradford. He proved that already. Not only did he take the job because of the opportunity to work with him, but he also refused to draft another QB in the early rounds. It seems likely the team will bring in some competition/insurance (via either draft or free agency), and enter next years camp with Bradford, Davis, Garrett Gilbert, and the new comer.
Of course this would mean Bradford will have re-signed with the team. No way Bradford comes back at his current $12.985mil 2015 salary. It seems 100% feasible he may return on a restructured deal slightly less than half of that of about $6 million. Of course something in the neighborhood of 70% of that total is going to be tied to a plethora of playing time incentives.
The simple fact is the Rams' hands are tied. With the exception of Winston, there just aren't any quarterbacks truly separating themselves from the pack. With the pickings being as thin as they are, it wouldn't make much sense to bring in an average or below average player to learn a new system and hope he leads the team to the post-season.
The best option is to bring back both Sam Bradford and Austin Davis - both have spent an equal amount of time in the system and know it as well as the supporting cast extremely well - Garrett Gilbert, and some competition/insurance, and look for better options the following year. In other words, as crazy as it sounds, Bradford still gives this team their best chance to win.
Happy Birthday Sammy!!!