Why Are Crappy NFL Teams Like The Jets And Rams Wasting Their Time On Veteran Quarterbacks?
Rams coach Jeff Fisher announced today that he'd changed his mind and will start 34-year-old veteran journeyman Shaun Hill at quarterback after another disappointing game from Austin Davis. The 25-year-old Davis was solid after taking over for Hill early in the year, but three fourth quarter turnovers was apparently too much for the team to overlook, and now he's back on the bench.
The Rams are 3-6 in a division where the three other teams (Cardinals, Seahawks, 49ers) are over .500. Unless Drew Stanton drives Arizona off a cliff, and the Legion of Boom literally explodes, and the Niners suck the rest of the way, the Rams aren't making the playoffs. So what exactly is this team playing for now?
The answer: The future. When the playoffs are out of reach, a team needs to examine which of its current pieces are contributing to the problem (the problem being a 3-6 record), and which could be part of the solution. Playing for pride is one thing, and you don't want to waste the time and effort that the good players put in each week, but if you're playing Shaun Hill for the next seven games in order to improve your record (and thus slip further down the draft board), you're doing it wrong.
The Jets are taking a similar approach, benching their flailing and inept young starter for the experienced, if limited, veteran. Geno Smith was the future to start the year, but Michael Vick has taken over. While guys like Chris Johnson think it's appropriate to go back and second-guess their coaches' decision to stick with the young QB, everyone knows that it's too late now anyway. So the plan is to try to win a few more games than they would have otherwise.
Starting Smith to begin the season was a good idea. He's still young -- it's just his second year -- and giving somebody reps is arguably the best way to let him improve. You can only learn so much about the speed of the game and making split-second decisions in practice. Same goes for Davis. Young guys are going to throw interceptions and lose fumbles at critical junctures and misread routes and pull it down when they should air it out and so on. Only so many guys can step in right away and be the man like Andrew Luck.
Meanwhile, we know the ceiling for Hill and Vick. Hill is a stop-gap guy who at his best threw 16 touchdowns in 11 games (four years ago). He's not going to be "the man" for St. Louis in three, two, or even a single year. Vick is 34 and has played a full season exactly once in his entire career. Even if he came back next season, it would be in the "veteran mentor" mold again, albeit perhaps as the starter rather than the backup.
Starting the young QBs gives these crappy teams a few things: a chance to really see what they have in these guys (and no, I don't think 24 games is enough time to pass judgment on a guy like Smith) without the pressure of actually needing them to win games; perhaps a worse record (and thus more options in next year's draft); a better chance to keep their veteran quarterback for next season, rather than losing them like the Bears lost Josh McCown to Tampa Bay last offseason.
Or how about this, if you're really sick of Smith or Davis behind center -- bring in another guy entirely. Let Matt Simms start for the Jets, and bring Tim freakin' Tebow to St. Louis, as was rumored when Sam Bradford first went down. Quarterback is the most important position in football, and having a bad record this late into the season gives a team options and time to figure out who that guy might be.
The most obvious answer is that the coaches of these teams -- Rex Ryan and Jeff Fisher of the Jets and Rams, respectively -- are trying to save their asses by winning some games. It's a shortsighted move by each franchise. The past is in the past, and for these teams, the present is not the future. So why not keep trying to develop future prospects rather than stringing together meaningless victories -- victories that may actually hurt you in the long run.
I'm not saying Geno Smith and Austin Davis are the answers for these franchises. But the guys who are replacing them aren't either. There's no point in heading back towards shore now, you guys. Time to go down with these ships. Who knows? You might even float to safety on their bashed-in hulls.
Photo via Getty
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