ST. LOUIS — Shaun Hill opted to sign with the Rams as a free agent this offseason for several reasons, the quarterback said back during OTAs.
“My wife and I just had our first kid, so being close to home was really a nice part of it,” said Hill, who has a home near the Lake of the Ozarks. “But also, you just see how this organization is being built and you can see which direction they are going. Coach (Jeff) Fisher is a guy I’ve always respected throughout my career. There were really a lot of things that went into it. (Quarterbacks coach) Frank Cignetti I’ve played for before and really enjoyed my time with him. There were a lot of influences in it.”
Among the reasons the 34-year-old liked the Rams was the direction the team was going. Now, after Sam Bradford’s season-ending ACL re-injury on Saturday night, the former Lions, 49ers and Vikings quarterback will be the man trying to keep the Rams headed in the right direction.
That won’t be an easy task, but St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher publicly endorsed the veteran as the guy to take over the Rams’ offense.
“We move forward as a football team,” Fisher said. “Shaun is our guy. We brought him here. He’s got experience. We’ve got all the confidence in the world in him. We have, around our quarterback position right now, probably as good of talent as we’ve had since we came here. Shaun is excited about that and I know he’ll benefit from that.”
The signing of Hill didn’t generate much buzz this offseason, but he was the veteran quarterback the Rams felt was the best fit to back up Bradford for the 2014 season.
Fisher and general manager Les Snead were content to let Kellen Clemens walk away, and sign a two-year free agent deal with the Chargers, after Clemens started the final nine games in place of Bradford last season and led the Rams to a 4-5 record in those starts as the team went 7-9.
“Shaun is very smart,” Fisher said during OTAs. “He’s got a lot of experience. Most of the experience comes in the preseason, but he’s a settling factor. He’s a lot like Kellen (Clemens). He’s going to know what to do. He doesn’t necessarily need a lot of reps. He understands offenses, understands defenses and can push the ball down the field.”
Hill, the oldest player on the Rams roster, has a strong resume for a player who has been a fairly little used backup over the years.
He has won 13 games and lost 13 games in 26 starts, but his 61.9 completion percentage, 41 touchdowns to 23 interceptions and 85.9 quarterback rating in 34 career games represents an upgrade over many backup quarterbacks throughout the NFL.
By comparison, Bradford, in his 49-game career, has a 58.6 completion percentage, 59 touchdowns to 38 interceptions and a 79.3 QB rating.
How Hill fares this season is still to be determined, of course, but the Rams feel like they are in capable hands for now.
“He has a great feel for the offense right now and we’re going to move forward with it,” Fisher said Sunday. “We’re not going to change anything. He knows the system. Again, everybody knows we’re going to run the football first. We’re going to do that and we’ve got to do that well and we’ve got to do that to start the season. Everything else will come off of that.”
Nate Latsch has been covering sports in St. Louis for more than a decade, working for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, FOX Sports Midwest, FOX Sports, STLhighschoolsports.com, Scout.com and other newspapers and websites. You can follow Nate Latsch on Twitter at @NateLatsch, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and read more of his Rams coverage at GridironGateway.com.