If we’ve learned anything about the Los Angeles Rams quarterback situation in the six previous years under Sean McVay, it’s that the team’s one true success was trading for a proven veteran. Credit McVay for getting as much out of Jared Goff as he reasonably could, but none of the low-risk moves at the position, nor the belief that the team showed in previous backups, has produced anyone who isn’t short of being a good backup.
Stetson Bennett is the second-biggest shot taken at the quarterback position by the Rams in the McVay era and he may one day prove to be a good backup. That day likely won’t come in 2023. The Rams need to go find a real backup for Matthew Stafford.
Despite Bennett doing well enough in his preseason debut to merit a highlights-only clip on The Pat McAfee Show, in which one person in the studio compared him to Brock Purdy, the entire body of work by the fourth round pick out of Georgia shows a player who is far too inconsistent and bad at decision making to warrant being one injury away from playing in a regular season NFL game. Former NFL QB J.T. O’Sullivan noted that Bennett got away with three near-interceptions in that same debut, all on his first drive, and the rookie’s play in the past two games has not been worthy of Sundays.
Bennett was supposed to play the entire first half in Saturday’s 41-0 loss to the Denver Broncos, but Sean McVay pulled him in the second quarter and even noted during the broadcast interview that he couldn’t risk giving him anymore drives while the team was trying to evaluate its other players. Think about that: The Rams couldn’t risk Bennett getting more reps in the preseason even when he was going against Denver’s 2s and 3s.
Bennett finished the game 4-of-9 for 14 yards with two interceptions.
In last week’s 34-17 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, Bennett went 15-of-24 for 142 yards with an interception. He threw four interceptions in three preseason games, totaling only about two games worth of action, and he had at least four other dropped interceptions.
If McVay puts Stetson Bennett one play away from the field by making him Stafford’s backup, the veteran who missed half of 2022 and will be playing behind a shaky offensive line that hasn’t even named five starters yet, the whispers of “tanking” will only grow louder.
Too many were ready to crown Stetson Bennett the heir to Matthew Stafford after the Chargers game. There's a reason he was drafted in the 4th-round and maybe should have gone in the 6th. That's Bennett's third INT of the preseason.— Blaine Grisak (@bgrisakTST) August 27, 2023
If you think Stetson Bennett deserves slack because he’s a rookie, no problem. If you think he needs more time to develop then great, give him time. In fact, guarantee him more time by not making him the backup. There’s just no way that Bennett can go from playing like that against backups to facing experienced and highly-drafted, highly-paid defensive players in the regular season. There’s just no way.
The only way that can happen is if Bennett wins the job as L.A.’s third quarterback, with a new rule that allows teams to keep him inactive on Sundays but eligible to enter the game if there are two injuries ahead of him. That should be Bennett’s job when they travel to Seattle to play the Seahawks in two weeks. Not as Stafford’s backup.
The problem is that Brett Rypien couldn’t possibly be Stafford’s backup either. And definitely not Dresser Winn, who made his debut in this game in part maybe because Bennett had to be pulled so early.
There will be talk of Carson Wentz, who remains a free agent, but that’s only if Wentz would be interested in backing up Stafford. The situation has some similarities to Baker Mayfield’s five-game stint with the Rams in 2022.
More likely, the Rams will wait to see which quarterbacks don’t make their own 53-man rosters by Tuesday. They might even try to complete a trade for someone like Malik Willis, Brian Hoyer, Matt Corral, or Marcus Mariota.
But something needs to happen. Someone besides Stetson Bennett should be the backup to Stafford. If Bennett is the backup, one step from the field, the rumors won’t go away any time soon.