Rams need to find a quarterback who can challenge Bradford
ST. LOUIS — All three seasons under Jeff Fisher, the St. Louis Rams have been near contending status but have fallen short with one of the youngest teams in the NFL.
Adding veterans might be just what’s needed to end a string of 11 years without a winning record. Another theory is that the Rams (6-10) need the players they’ve been nurturing to continue to improve.
"You’ve got a good feel now for who they are, what our strengths are, what are weaknesses are," general manager Les Snead said Wednesday. "I’m not saying the answer is `Let’s go take the veteran free agent.’ It could be the boring answer is our guys are becoming veterans, so I think that helps."
The biggest need, either in free agency or the draft, is a quarterback who can challenge injury-prone Sam Bradford for the starting job after 25 consecutive games missed due to knee injuries.
Snead said the two fill-ins last season, veteran Shaun Hill and neophyte Austin Davis, would be acceptable second-stringers.
The Rams failed to address quarterback early in last year’s draft, settling for Garrett Gilbert in the sixth round. Gilbert ran a spread offense at SMU and needed time to learn the more complicated pro attack, time that the Rams did not have after Bradford was sidelined in the preseason.
"All of a sudden we went from having a healthy starting quarterback to `Boy, we’re in if you want to call it `intensive care,’" Snead said. "Like where Garrett is now with New England and Brady, you’ve got a little more time to develop.
"As opposed to, we need someone to play tomorrow."
The Rams had two first-rounders last year, but went for promising offensive tackle Greg Robinson at No. 2 overall and defensive tackle Aaron Donald, who led rookies in sacks and is headed to the Pro Bowl. They added starting running back Tre Mason in the third, but passed up a chance to get a quarterback in the fourth round when they took safety Maurice Alexander.
With Bradford in the lineup, the Rams can make a case for finishing .500 or better.
Snead recalled being in his office with Fisher and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff in late August after the bad news came in on Bradford. All believed the Rams had enough talent to overcome it.
"We actually believed as a group we would beat the odds," Snead said. "Usually when you go to your No. 2 quarterback it’s hard to be above .500. Nothing against No. 2s."
Among the lowlights — St. Louis squandered a 21-point lead against Dallas and a 14-point cushion against San Francisco, both at home.
"Hey, I have replays in my mind," Snead said. "The whole Dallas thing, didn’t close that one. The interception at the goal-line, that’s a flashback.
"All of those things could have gone the other way so you’re going to lose sleep over that."
The Rams have another pressing issue to address with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer leaving Wednesday to take the same job at Georgia.
Fisher said after the season finale that he didn’t anticipate staff changes and complimented Schottenheimer’s work, but the move after three seasons didn’t come as a total surprise.
Don’t expect an immediate replacement. Fisher went the entire 2012 season without a defensive coordinator after Gregg Williams was suspended in the Saints bounty gate case, finally hiring Tim Walton as defensive coordinator in mid-February of 2013. He took his time firing Walton after the 2013 season, restoring Williams to the post.
"I think there’s always a list," Snead said. "I think Jeff’s philosophy has always been, `Be patient, don’t rush into it.’ I think that’s what you’ll see."