The National Football League is often said to be a quarterback driven league. For the past fourteen years, the Rams have been trying to find a way to replace the production of Hall of Fame legend Kurt Warner.
Then in St. Louis, the Rams thought they had found their guy in Marc Bulger after he led the Rams to a 12-4 finish in 2003. The Rams would instead get knocked out in the divisional round of the playoffs and Bulger never finished with anything better than an 8-8 record before moving on somewhat acrimoniously in 2009.
The Rams then banked their franchise on former Heisman winner Sam Bradford, but an injury-plagued career forced the Rams to eventually make a trade for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, himself a Pro Bowl talent. The Rams still haven’t won more than eight games since 2006. In fact, they've only even accomplished that feat twice since 2003.
Whatever the opinion one may have on Bulger or Bradford, it would be unfair to throw all of the Rams’ problems at their feet. Injuries are a part of the game and the Rams have had unfortunate luck when it comes to injuries in the quarterback department. Given that knowledge, Adam Schefter’s report that the Rams have interest in possibly bringing Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to Los Angeles next year is certainly all that much more curious.
Schefter notes the obvious hurdles preventing a Manning move to Los Angeles, but adds that he will likely not be back with Denver, if he even decides to stick around and play. Should Manning opt to stick around and play another season, a move to Los Angeles is certainly something 345 Park Avenue would have little objection to seeing happen. The idea that the NFL could see one of their most marketable athletes in one of the largest markets in the nation makes dollars and sense to everyone involved.
But does it really? Some might scoff at the notion of Manning joining the NFC West. In the past couple of years, Manning has had neck injuries, thigh injuries, knee injuries, hip injuries, and just about any other type of injury you can imagine. In fact, ESPN's Stephanie Bell wrote up a fairly detailed history of just how bad it's been for Manning lately. It would certainly give any GM pause.
Imagine you’re staring at a sheet of piece containing a layout of every NFL team by division. You’re a smart fan and you realize that Manning hasn’t quite been able to make it through an entire season the past couple of years and it seems likely he might miss a game or two even if he decides to stick around. This is the NFL, after all, guys get injured all the time.
Knowing that, you decide to cross off any division where defenses rule the roost because it doesn’t make sense to take an aging and oft-injured quarterback and put him in a situation where he’s going to be under constant fire. Would the NFC West still be available on your list of destinations?
Maybe it should be.
The current NFC West has been a throwback to the Black and Blue Division. To win the division, teams have had to face some the league’s toughest defenses week in and week out. As tough as the division has been, quarterbacks like Kurt Warner and Carson Palmer, once thought to be past their useful prime, have found second lives and careers in the NFC West. Warner and Palmer were a bit younger than Manning, but there are enough similarities to make the example fair.
The St. Louis Rams led the NFL when it came to fewest sacks allowed. If Manning were to join the Rams, he would be doing so with a line built to protect. As our Nate Latsch noted in his Draft outlook, the Rams’ greatest needs are at the quarterback and receiver position. With Manning, the Rams would have the quarterback need completely filled and this would then allow them to go out and draft a playmaker at the wide receiver position.
An additional benefit to Manning would be his ability to help them bring along Case Keenum. Manning isn’t necessarily known as a nurturer, but Keenum is smart enough to pick things up in practice, film sessions, and through watching Manning run the offense. Whether he wants to be Big Brother is up to him, but the entire Rams offense is sure to benefit from having a proven veteran like Manning on the roster. At the bare minimum, their knowledge in film and movies will greatly improve.
Whether the Rams go with Manning, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, or draft a guy like Paxton Lynch, the franchise is going to be linked with just about every available quarterback likely some that aren’t. How the Rams handle it isn’t likely to have too terrible of impact on an NFL-starved Los Angeles fanbase, but the franchise is toiling away in their 11th season of mediocrity and the failures in Tinseltown are hung with the brightest of lights.
General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher will not have very long before the press and the masses turn on them. Fisher is 27-36-1 in his time with the Rams and it’s become harder and harder to justify any good reason for keeping him when his last winning season came the same year No Country for Old Men won the Oscar for Best Picture (2008). Five straight losing seasons for Fisher and the Los Angeles media might be loud enough to force a change.
Manning or no Manning, the Rams need to get things sorted out at the quarterback position. The Rams franchise has been home to some of the greatest to ever play the game and a few quarterbacks along the way that time seems to have forgotten. This once great franchise is starving for a future leader and the bright lights of Los Angeles are only going to illuminate that vacancy more.
There are no quick answers in the NFL, but Peyton Manning is the closest thing you’ll ever get to a sure thing if the Rams feel he has one more good year left in him.