Clemens made case to stay with Rams

ST. LOUIS -- The St. Louis Rams need to select a quarterback in the 2014 NFL draft.

The ACL injury that cost Sam Bradford more than half the 2013 season highlighted the importance of finding a young quarterback with upside who can step in, play and give the team some long-term value.

In the meantime, veteran Kellen Clemens took the reins. To the surprise of many, present company included, Clemens exceeded his previous career performance and led the Rams to four victories in his nine starts, matching his career total as a starter from his previous dozen starts.

While Clemens didn't put up any eye-popping numbers, he did enough to earn another shot with the Rams in 2014.

Whether that happens for the pending free agent remains to be seen, but for his (funny) part Clemens would like to return.

"I don't know," Clemens said. "I would certainly love to be here. I love this organization and the direction that we're heading in, but it's a little different than my senior prom. I have to have a date for this one. It's a true story, actually."

Wait, so how did that all work out?

"I actually had a blast," Clemens said, laughing. "I had a blast. It's a lot cheaper going solo, for those of you considering it."

The opposite is true when it comes to the prom that is NFL free agency. Without a dance partner, it would actually cost Clemens a nice chunk of change. Whether or not another girl will ask Clemens to the prom is hard to say but there's ample reason for the Rams to ask him to come back.

Statistically, Clemens' numbers were rather pedestrian compared to other starters around the league as he completed 58.7 percent of his passes for 1,673 yards, eight touchdowns and seven interceptions for a passer rating of 78.8 and a QBR of 38.2.

Those numbers mostly fall short of what you'd want from a starting quarterback but that's not the point. Clemens is a backup and proved to be a bit better in his role than many expected. Without Bradford (and even before his injury), the Rams became a run-heavy team hoping to create chances for big passing plays off the run.

When the Rams were able to get the run game going first, such as games against New Orleans, Chicago and Tampa Bay, Clemens was able to take advantage with big passing plays while still limiting the number of attempts. When the run game wasn't working, such as games against Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco, Clemens was unable to generate much offense.

That's not a difficult formula to understand as Clemens clearly has his limitations. Of course, finding a backup quarterback in the NFL without his share of limitations is a difficult exercise in itself.

To be clear, I'm not advocating Clemens return as the guaranteed backup to Bradford in 2014. The Rams must add a young quarterback to the mix via the draft and begin to develop him with hope of making him the backup in the short term with possible long-term starter potential.

The Rams carried three quarterbacks on the roster for most of 2012 and did so again for a spell this past season after Bradford's injury. Doing it again next season with Clemens as one of the three makes sense because he would provide a veteran option should Bradford and an anonymous rookie signal-caller be unable to start the season. More importantly, he could provide valuable guidance to said rookie.

After all, tutoring young players would be nothing new to Clemens.

"If I look back, I think the one thing that I will hang my hat on is that a lot of times you see a backup come in and guys don't continue to grow," Clemens said. "And I'm talking about the young guys that I mentioned before. I think that Tavon [Austin], Stedman [Bailey], Zac [Stacy], I think Jared [Cook], who was fairly new to this offense, I think they continued to grow even with me in there and so hopefully next year we see signs of that improvement and they'll be even better for Sam. I think that's really probably what I'll hang my hat on this year."

It's also another good reason for the Rams to bring him back for another go in 2014.