Last week, the Ravens reached out to former Rams starter Marc Bulger and signed him to a one year deal to be the backup quarterback to Joe Flacco.
Some fans and the media questioned the move, especially considering Bulger will earn more than Flacco will this season and the fact that the Ravens already had two capable backups in former Heisman winner Troy Smith and John Beck, a former second round pick who ran offensive coordinator Cam Cameron’s system down in Miami.
While this move may mean the end of a career in Baltimore for either Smith or Beck soon, there are a few people out there who see Bulger as a good move for the Ravens.
It not only showing their fans that they want a better insurance policy for a Super Bowl run if Flacco should get hurt, but also exemplifies the fact that the organization continues to better help the progression of Joe Flacco from a starter at the University of Delaware to a Pro-Bowl caliber starter in the NFL.
One of those approving of the move is a former player who knows Bulger well. That would be former Tennessee Titans and St. Louis Rams wide receiver Drew Bennett, who spent nine years in the NFL.
A former QB at UCLA, he went undrafted and found his way with the Titans as a wide receiver. After seven productive seasons with Tennessee, he signed a five year deal with the Rams to be one of the top receiving options for who else…Marc Bulger.
Bennett in his career has caught over 300 balls for 4000 yards and 28 TDs. His best season came in 2004 when he caught 80 passes for 1,247 yards and 12 scores.
For those that remember, Bennett also signed with the Ravens right before training camp last year but retired two days later after a lingering knee injury flared up right after taking his physical, forcing him to retire.
Bennett may not have spent a ton of time with Bulger as he did with former Raven Steve McNair in Tennessee, but he knows what kind of guy he is and how good of a quarterback he is.
“He knows the game as much any quarterback in the NFL,” Bennett, now an analyst for ESPN, told Thyrl Nelson last week after Bulger’s signing was announced on Wednesday. “This will be great for both Flacco and Bulger.”
Bennett likened the move to when he was with the Titans when they brought in Neil O’Donnell to back up Steve McNair a few years into his young career.
“When I played in Tennessee for six years, Neil O’ Donnell was the signing there…and he was there to strictly to back him up. There was never competition on who was going to be the starter. McNair learned so much.”
Bennett said that this was probably not a move that was initiated from the owner or the GM; this was a move from the coaching staff to improve the teaching of an NFL playbook to a young QB.
“That’s probably the main reason. The coaches said ‘We have a young quarterback who’s successful. He can take the next step if he learns to look at a defense like Marc Bulger could’.”
After catching 33 balls from Bulger in 2007, Bennett said that Bulger is just as accurate as the All-Pro caliber QB he succeeded in Kurt Warner. It’s just that Bulger’s personality never helped him gain a ton of attention, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“Bulger is a little bit of an introvert. [He] is just as accurate as Kurt Warner. Obviously he doesn’t have the resume with all the championships, but he is a guy that does a lot in the community. He’s just not as large as life as Kurt Warner was. Baltimore will grow to like him.”
Bulger,33, had played his entire 10-year career all with the Rams. He was drafted in the sixth round of the 2000 NFL Draft by the Saints, but was waived before the start of the season by New Orleans as well as the Falcons.
He was a starter for St Louis the last seven years before replacing the injured Kurt Warner and Jamie Martin in 2002. Since then, he has thrown for 22,000 yards, and 122 TDs to 93 INTs. His numbers have fallen the last three seasons due to the poor product put on the field by the Rams.
But while quiet in nature, Bennett said when he is the huddle, he changes to a determined leader and it’s he’s the expert in the room.
“To have a guy like Bulger that’s played…and understands the game so much or talking to Bulger in the huddle or during a time out during a game, his understanding on what the defense is trying to do is top notch. Having a guy like that every day in the meeting rooms, in the huddle, and at practice with a guy like Flacco is really going to make him a better player.”
In fact, Bennett said Bulger really didn’t get a fair shake in St. Louis given the struggles of the Rams the last few years with the coaching staff falling apart, no offensive weapons, and in Bulger’s case, one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL, around him.
“He was just getting beaten up,” Bennett replied. “The town was a little against the Rams.”
Bennett felt like the change of scenery for Bulger will be nothing less than a symbiotic relationship for the former QB of West Virginia. Baltimore will be able to help him, and his skills as a quarterback will help Flacco, and if need be, he will be a more serviceable starter than Beck or Smith if Flacco were to get hurt.
“Not only are you getting an underrated quarterback, he’s going to have a little life injected in him cause he’s in a spot where the team is more successful and the team is loved.”
And even if Bulger never sees the field, he is not going to open his mouth about not playing the way the incumbent backup, Troy Smith, did.
“I think he’ll help the team. He’s not going to be a guy giving a fuss about being a backup. He’s not going to be a guy badmouthing anybody. He’s a team player, and I think he’ll fit in really well there.”
Tune into WNST and WNST.net for more Raven News as we make our way toward the start of the 2010 NFL Season!