Sticking with Clemens the right move

October, 30, 2013
10/30/13
2:00
PM ET
EARTH CITY, Mo. -- Let there be no debate. St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher made it clear Tuesday that Kellen Clemens is his quarterback now and likely for the foreseeable future this season.

“Yeah, we’re good," Fisher said. "He’s a little sore. I don’t know if he’ll do much [Wednesday] but he’ll be fine. I think he only stands to improve.”

So it's clear that Clemens will indeed make another start this week against Tennessee. Fisher and the Rams believe Clemens gives them the best chance to win and that another week of practice should serve him well in terms of getting on the same page with his offensive teammates.

[+] EnlargeKellen Clemens
AP Photo/Tom GannamKellen Clemens may not have the upside to be more than a backup in the NFL, but he gives the Rams the best chance to win.
Of course, just because the head coach makes himself clear on a topic doesn't mean he won't be second- or third-guessed from the outside. In fact, some fans were disappointed enough in Clemens' first start of the season that they're already asking for Austin Davis or even Brady Quinn to get a turn. St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz made arguments for Davis to get a chance in his blog Tuesday.

In this corner of cyberspace, we'll respectfully disagree with that idea.

There was a time when the Rams considered Davis the possible backup for starter Sam Bradford. It wasn't that long ago that Fisher indicated strongly at the NFL scouting combine that Davis would be the No. 2 this year. There was a course reversal along the way when the team signed Clemens and suddenly Davis was competing for the job.

The whole dynamic changed again in the preseason and training camp. Clemens and Davis competed for the job but neither impressed, and the selection of Clemens was more based on experience than either of them outright winning the job. Davis appeared to regress from his rookie season and the Rams didn't think enough of him at the time to even bring him back to the practice squad. The view of him as a potential long-term backup obviously dissipated.

When the Rams re-signed Davis last week, it was because he knows Brian Schottenheimer's offense, not because they hoped to revive him as a possible prospect. Finding the young quarterback to fit that bill will likely have to wait until the offseason.

As we've discussed in this space many times since starter Sam Bradford's injury, none of the quarterback options on the roster or on the free-agent market were going to come in and carry the team to victories. Theoretically, that means it shouldn't matter who plays quarterback, so why not take a chance on an unproven QB versus one who is what he is at this point in his career?

Well, first of all, the Rams have no intention of giving up on this season and using it as a chance to hold some sort of auditions. If they had been successful in pursuit of someone like Ryan Griffin, who opted to stay in New Orleans, maybe it would be different. They want to win games and Clemens gives them the best chance to do that. No, he's not going to morph into a legitimate NFL starter in these final eight weeks. He's been a career backup for a reason and he'll play like one in the interim.

Clemens also brings the type of fire and passion that his teammates can rally around. When he took off running and didn't slide before taking a few hits against Seattle, it didn't look pretty but it kept teammates wanting to keep battling on his behalf. At this point, Davis has only practiced a handful of times in the past two months. Even if the Rams wanted to take a look, now is not the time.

But to me, the biggest factor here is simple: Clemens' experience is absolutely a necessity for a team with the youngest group of skill-position players in the league. He's not very accurate and he can make some bad decisions but Clemens is the consummate professional and can at least provide guidance for players like Brian Quick, Tavon Austin and Chris Givens. Davis knows the offense but he doesn't know it like Clemens and certainly doesn't know it well enough to direct young pass-catchers on the field.

So while the Rams do need to be concerned with developing some young offensive players on the roster, it's not a young quarterback they should be worried about.

Nick Wagoner

ESPN St. Louis Rams reporter

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