The football seasons of Chicago and St. Louis have turned and will continue to turn for the time being at least, on backup quarterbacks.
The one in Chicago has worked out very well. The one in St. Louis, not so well.
Both Josh McCown and Kellen Clemens have been backups for most of their careers. McCown, a third-round pick of the Arizona Cardinals in 2002 is in his 11th season and has 35 career starts.
Clemens was a second-round pick of the New York Jets in 2006. He was 4-5 as a starter with New York before being released and signed by St. Louis in 2011. He lost his first five starts for the Rams (three in 2011, two this year) before winning two weeks ago in Indianapolis.
When Rams starter Sam Bradford was lost for the season with a knee injury in against the Carolina Panthers a month ago, the Rams were 3-3 and coming off back-to-back wins. Since then the Rams have gone 1-2 under Clemens.
When McCown took over in the second half of the Washington game, he brought the Bears to within a play of a comeback win and did it with a 119.6 passer rating, no turnovers and a touchdown pass.
When Clemens replaced Bradford, he lost two fumbles in the span of four plays, albeit against a strong Carolina defense.
The Rams then lost Clemens’ first two starts, home defeats by Seattle and Tennessee, before winning at Indianapolis. That demolition of the Colts, however, had more to do with touchdowns on fumble and punt returns as well as three interceptions of Andrew Luck.
But Clemens completed nine of 16 passes, two for touchdowns, and a rating of 140.6, although his season completion percentage is just 53.5 and passer rating 79.3.
“Kellen, he’s got experience, years in the league, but also experience in the system under [offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer],” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher. “He’s improving. Anytime a guy has kind of been a backup for so long, really the only experience you get is in the preseason, and that experience comes with inexperienced players.
“Since he has taken over, he has done a great job leading the offense. Guys trust him, and he knows this offense very well. It’s the break the huddle and the constant reminders to the younger receivers, so with each week we feel like he’s just getting better.”
Fisher has seen the same of McCown, who is currently playing at a level far above his career history.
“Someone once said a long time ago, the difference between a very good player and an average player is reps,” Fisher said. “And that’s clearly what we see on tape with Josh. He’s a fine football player. He’s playing very well. His numbers reflect that.”