Since Kurt Warner fell into the fortunate arms of the St. Louis Rams in 1999, helping lead the team to a Super Bowl victory that year and 37 regular season wins during his all-too-short stint as the franchise quarterback, the team has employed a significant number of notable starters between him and the recently-acquired Matthew Stafford.
In fact, Stafford is the third former number one overall pick who has become the starter for the Rams in the last 11 years alone.
It’s hard to believe that somewhere in the mix of the six names we’re about to recall, the Rams still had time to be led in passing yards by Austin Davis in 2014. Some could even say that Davis’s 2014 season was better than the worst seasons had by a former two-time Pro Bowler, two former number one picks, a quarterback who once led the Vikings to the NFC Championship game, a journeyman starter for nine different teams, and a Super Bowl MVP.
But Austin Davis doesn’t quite deserve a place on this list, as the other six quarterbacks all had better seasons — at some point in their careers — than what Davis accomplished in 2014.
Which of these quarterbacks who played for the Rams after Kurt Warner had the best peak season?
Rams QB: 2002-2009
Best Season: 2006 (64.3%, 24 TD, 8 INT, 7.3 Y/A, 92.9 rating, 49 sacks)
Bulger was drafted by the Saints (going ahead of Tom Brady, which means that if New Orleans had opted to go with Brady, the Rams might have avoided the Patriots in the Super Bowl one year later), had a short stint with the Falcons, then landed as the third string QB behind the reigning MVP with the Rams.
Bulger then became the Rams starter for an injured Warner and Jamie Martin in 2002, reaching the Pro Bowl in 2003 even though he led the NFL with 22 interceptions. I definitely considered using 2003 here for Bulger’s season — the Rams went 12-4 and there are some more favorable stats here as compared to 2006 — but the high rate of interceptions and the quick postseason exit tilted the scales for me.
I’ll never forget where I was during that double-overtime loss to the Carolina Panthers. Playing a home game poker tournament with high school friends. We thought maybe that game would never end. But it did and the rebound for Mike Martz and Bulger never quite came in the seasons that followed, yet Bulger developed into a formidable passer.
In 2006, Bulger was fourth in the NFL in touchdowns, only trailing Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, and Drew Brees. And he threw fewer picks that year than all of them. One of the biggest concerns that year would be sacks: only Jon Kitna’s 63 with the Detroit Lions surpassed Bulger’s 49 that season.
Rams QB: 2005-2006
Best Season: 2015 with Jets (59.6% completions, 31 TD, 15 INT, 6.9 Y/A, 88 rating, 19 sacks)
In 2005, the Rams spent a seventh round pick on a quarterback and that should almost never be relevant news. Not at the time and certainly not 16 years later. Somehow, beyond all odds, that seventh round quarterback is preparing to start for a team this coming season.
Jets, Patriots, 2015, the last glimmer and only such hope of a playoff team over the last eight seasons.— Jets X-Factor (@jetsxfactor) April 7, 2020
Bill Belichick kicks, Ryan Fitzpatrick to Eric Decker sends everybody home happy. #TakeFlight pic.twitter.com/c56K2KNIwU
The Washington Football Team will be Fitzpatrick’s ninth NFL franchise and he’s started a game for every single one of them. Fitzpatrick has turned that seventh round selection into 146 career starts, 223 touchdowns, 169 interceptions, but an overall record of 59-86-1 with zero postseason appearances.
Fitzpatrick made three starts for the Rams as a rookie in 2005 and things went about as bad as expected. But three years later he made 12 starts for the Bengals and he really hasn’t stopped since. He’s only changed locations.
Things were perhaps never better than 2015, when he posted a career-high 31 touchdowns and came as close to a postseason berth as he ever did before or since, leading the Jets to a 10-6 record.
Rams QB: 2010-2014
Best Season: 2016 with Vikings (71.6%, 20 TD, 5 INT, 7 Y/A, 99.3 rating, 37 sacks)
In Bulger’s final campaign, the Rams went 1-7 in his starts, 0-4 when Kyle Boller started, and 0-4 when Keith Null was out there. That helped St. Louis obtain the number one pick in 2010, which was the year that Heisman phenom Sam Bradford would be available. Though he had missed virtually all of his junior campaign with injury, Bradford was a consensus number one pick based on the 86 touchdowns and 16 interceptions he posted as a freshman and sophomore at Oklahoma.
It may have even helped that Bradford’s replacement, Landry Jones, was fairly terrible while playing at the same program and with much of the same supporting cast.
In 2010, Bradford broke Peyton Manning’s rookie record for completions (354) and attempts (590), but as you can imagine, those numbers no longer stand alone on top: Carson Wentz completed 379 passes in 2016, then Justin Herbert completed 396 in only 15 games in 2020. Andrew Luck’s 627 passing attempts now stands as the rookie record.
But the injury bug returned to Bradford in 2011 and the Rams went only 1-9 during his 10 starts. He managed only six touchdowns in those 10 games, completing just 53.5% of his passes and throwing six interceptions. When the team hired Jeff Fisher in 2012, and opted to not go for a quarterback like Robert Griffin III in the draft, Bradford responded with his best statistical season for the Rams.
However, I’m going to say that it was his 2016 season in Minnesota, in which Bradford led the NFL in completion percentage and posted a career-high 99.3 passer rating, that stands as his career-best. Unfortunately for the Vikings, a 5-0 start wasn’t enough to get into the playoffs, as the offense only managed eight touchdown passes over the next nine games, leading to a 2-7 record in those contests.
Rams QB: 2015
Best Season: 2013 with Eagles (64%, 27 TD, 2 INT, 9.1 Y/A, 119.2 passer rating, 28 sacks)
It will never not be one of the craziest facts in NFL history: the same year that Peyton Manning broke records and dominated the league like few others ever had before him, the league was led in TD%, Y/A, Y/C, ANY/A, and passer rating by one Nick Foles.
Though he only threw 317 pass attempts in 10 starts, nearly every throw that came out of his hands that year led to some success for the Eagles. Chip Kelly’s team went 10-6 and made the postseason, with Foles throwing a touchdown pass to Zach Ertz in the final minutes of a wild card game against the Saints. That score gave Philadelphia a 24-23 lead with 4:58 remaining.
But on the ensuing drive, Brees simply helped nudge the Saints slowly down the field and they kicked a 32-yard game-winning field goal as time expired.
After one more season with the Eagles, Foles was traded to the Rams in a swap that involved Bradford, and he made a career-high 11 starts with 337 pass attempts in the final St. Louis season for the Rams. Two years after that, Foles won a Super Bowl with Philadelphia and was named the MVP of the game.
In the three years since winning Super Bowl MVP, Foles has made 16 starts, split between the Eagles, Jaguars, and Bears, throwing a combined 20 touchdowns and 14 interceptions.
Rams QB: 2015-2016
Best Season: 2017 with Vikings (67.6%, 22 TD, 7 INT, 7.4 Y/A, 98.3 rating, 22 sacks)
Two years after going 0-8 during his NFL debut with the Houston Texans, Keenum was a backup for Fisher in St. Louis. He was also with the team as they moved to Los Angeles in 2016 and he helped usher in the Jared Goff era by starting nine games for the Rams that year. Keenum was fine that season, not good, and certainly didn’t do much to dissuade the team from previewing Goff’s future eventually.
But then in 2017, with Bradford’s ACL bothering him again (and just as he had won NFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 1, his first time getting that honor), Keenum took over and started 14 games for Minnesota. The Vikings went 11-3 in those starts and Keenum posted better than average numbers while ushering in a new era that included Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs.
Following a wild card bye week, Keenum found himself starting a divisional round game at home against Drew Brees. The Vikings were down 24-23 with 0:25 seconds left when they got the ball back on their own 25. The first play of the drive was a five-yard penalty.
The second play was a 19-yard completion to Diggs.
The third play was incomplete.
The fourth play was incomplete.
There was 0:10 seconds left and Minnesota was on their own 39.
STEFON DIGGS GAME WINNING TOUCHDOWN SAINTS VS VIKINGS pic.twitter.com/hiHNmBU4Pu— willie (@episness) January 15, 2018
If it is more important to be memorable than to win a Super Bowl, then I’d say that Keenum had quite an important moment in 2017. I’ve forgotten most Super Bowls. I won’t forget that play.
Rams QB: 2016-2020
Best Season: 2018 (64.9%, 32 TD, 12 INT, 8.4 Y/A, 101.1 rating, 33 sacks)
Given how recent his time with the Rams is, I don’t think much needs to be said about Goff. You could argue that 2017 was a better season than 2018, but let’s just give the nod to the Super Bowl year, shall we? Besides, most of his stats did improve in the second year under Sean McVay.
Goff did more while with the Rams than Bulger, Bradford, Foles, or Keenum ever did, that’s undeniable. Now we’ll see what his post-Rams career looks like and whether or not he’ll one day be playing in the postseason, with the Vikings, and somehow beyond all odds against Drew Brees.
Incredible postseason moments are not out of Goff’s reach in the future and he’s still only 26.
Which of these former Rams QBs had the best CAREER season?
This poll is closed
Marc Bulger (2006)
Ryan Fitzpatrick (2015)
Sam Bradford (2017)
Nick Foles (2013)
Nick Foles (2017 Super Bowl run)
Case Keenum (2017)
Jared Goff (2018)