The Los Angeles Rams have had some drama at the quarterback position over the past week with the uncertainty of Matthew Stafford. Stafford injured the UCL in his thumb in the Week 8 loss against the Dallas Cowboys and didn’t practice all week. If Stafford is unable to go, the Rams will be relying on backup quarterback Brett Rypien.
Rypien doesn’t give off a lot of confidence in what is a must-win game in Week 9 for the Rams against the Green Bay Packers. The Rams backup went 5-for-10 in limited action last week and has throw three touchdowns to five interceptions in three career starts.
Following last season in which head coach Sean McVay had to rely on John Wolford and Bryce Perkins to run the offense until Baker Mayfield became available, the Rams made it a point to address the backup quarterback position this offseason.
While that didn’t mean signing a veteran quarterback like Mike White or Jacoby Brissett, they did use one of their higher draft selections on a quarterback.
Through the first eight weeks of the season, the Rams have reaped the benefits of a good draft class. They hit home runs with Steve Avila, Byron Young, Kobie Turner, and Puka Nacua. All of those rookies have showed up big in moments and shown that they are players that can be built around.
However, it’s their biggest miss that’s being felt the most right now and that is at the quarterback position.
In the fourth-round, the Rams selected quarterback Stetson Bennett IV out of Georgia. It’s clear that Les Snead and McVay wanted the backup quarterback position to be a set it and forget it type of situation. They wanted to draft Bennett with the idea that he could be their long-term backup and not have to think about the position for awhile.
Things started off strong for Bennett as he showed poise in his first preseason game against the Los Angeles Chargers. In that game, Bennett went 17-for-29 for 191 yards and threw a touchdown to Nacua.
That’s as good as it got for Bennett as it has been a downward trajectory ever since. Even in that first game, he had three turnover-worthy plays and that trend continued in his remaining preseason action. Bennett tied for the most turnover-worthy plays in the preseason and his 8.5 turnover worthy play percentage led all quarterbacks.
Shortly after the first game against the Seattle Seahawks, Bennett was placed on the NFI-list with McVay not providing a lot of details. All the Rams coach said at the time was,
“Out of respect for him and the situation, I’m going to leave all of those specifics and particulars in-house. Want to be able to do that out of respect for that situation.”
It’s fair to have empathy for Bennett as he deals with whatever he’s going through. It’s clearly a sensitive and serious situation as McVay wouldn’t discuss any of the particulars. However, it’s also fair to criticize the Rams’ process. You can separate the personal stuff from football.
When the Rams drafted Bennett in the fourth round, many thought that was a lot higher than he should have gone. Lance Zierlein of NFL.com projected Bennett as a fifth or sixth-round pick. Ian Cummings of Pro Football Network graded Bennett as a late-Day 3 pick and wrote that the Round 4 selection was, “rich in the eyes of some evaluators.”
Some thought that Bennett may even go undrafted. ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler laid out some of the concerns for Bennett and wrote that one NFL executive said he may go ‘undrafted’.
“Bennett’s size (5-11, 192 pounds) is bound to be a concern for some teams. And many interviewed have non-football concerns about Bennett, who was arrested for public intoxication on Jan. 29 and did not receive universally high marks on combine interviews. Said an NFC exec: ‘To me, he’s clearly better than those other guys [in this tier]. He does some good stuff. But he might go undrafted. His pre-draft has not been good and there are questions about whether he’ll be the pro that you need out of a backup QB.”
Those concerns have shown their ugly face before Bennett’s career could even really begin. What makes the decision to draft Bennett that much more confusing is some of the success of other mid-round quarterbacks.
Aidan O’Connell was selected seven picks after Bennett. The Las Vegas Raiders selected O’Connell to be a backup and The Athletic’s Tashan Reed wrote this week, “According to league sources, multiple assistant coaches still on staff genuinely believe he’s the best quarterback on the roster.”
Clayton Tune was taken four picks after O’Connell and is getting his first start with the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. Dorian Thomas-Robinson was selected one pick after Tune and was arguably the best rookie quarterback in the preseason.
After losing Kirk Cousins for the season, the Minnesota Vikings will be turning to fifth-round rookie Jaren Hall while Josh Dobbs gets up to speed.
That doesn’t even mention Tyson Bagent who got his first start and a win two weeks ago for the Chicago Bears. Bagent went undrafted.
While O’Connell, Tune, Thomas-Robinson, Hall, and Bagent may not turn out to be starting-level quarterbacks, they are at least contributing what they were drafted to do and that’s be the backup quarterback for their team.
At this point, it’s not even certain if Bennett will be on the team moving forward let along re-join them this season. The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue reported,
“McVay also said Monday that Bennett is “less likely than he is likely” to return to the Rams this season. There is hope among some in the organization, but not certainty, that Bennett eventually returns to the team.”
If Bennett doesn’t return to the team, the Rams are right back where they started at square one with the backup quarterback position. Again, they will either need to sign a free agent or likely draft a young quarterback in what will be a strong class next offseason.
For now, the Rams are stuck with Rypien and will hope that he can get the job done in the case that the team is without Stafford at any point this season.