Unrealized potential. That's a familiar concept for Rams fans, all too familiar (my mother uses those terms about me alot too). I saw this entry on the Fifth Down blog a while back and meant to comment on it then, but head coaching excitement took over. Anyway, sticking with those guys that have potential but fail to translate is how a team gets so woefully devoid of talent. It's a problem that's plagued the Rams for a long time, killing not just coaches but setting the franchise back years in terms of building quality depth at key positions. Who are these loaded-wtih-potential anchors weighing down the team?
First, the theory at play here, from Don Shula's 1972 book, "The Playmakers"
A lot of coaches have a tendency stay too long with people with potential. We call them coach killers. As soon as you find out who the coach killers are on your team, the better off you are. You go with the guys who may have lesser talent, but more dedication, more singleness of purpose. You spot them and stick with them because in a big game, they’ll win it for you.
Just off the top of my head, here's a look at some of the Rams players, loaded with potential, but light on performance. I'm keeping this limited to players still on the roster, sorry Jimmy Kennedy fans.
OT Alex Barron - the poster boy for this. Once thought to be the replacement for Orlando Pace, the penalty machine known as Alex Barron has been hit and miss for so long, you kind of take him for granted. Had Barron lived up to his potential, the Rams offense would have looked much different these last tow years. What to do about '09, his last season under contract?
TE Joel Klopfenstein - Had he lived up to his potential, Bulger would have had the mid-field target he so desperately needed on quick dumpoffs with McMichael out of the lineup. In fact, had Klop lived up to his promise, the team wouldn't have even signed McMichael. I can't imagine this guy's on the team for '09.
CB Tye Hill - Injury-riddled, Hill showed some of that potential down the stretch in '06, but really hit rock bottom this season, getting burned by the no-namest of no-name receivers before hitting IR. Obviously, he's not starting for the Rams this season, which makes it easier to keep him on the roster. Ron Bartell sure was worth the wait, but he played much better than Hill at the same point in his career. Does Hill get one more chance in the Spagnuolo era?
FB Brian Leonard - He did play one game this season, his second in the league. He might not be on this list at all were it not for the fact that the Rams drafted him in the second round. What role does he really have going forward? He's not good enough to be the #2 RB we need; he's not the blocking FB we need, and Kenneth Darby has him beat on third down, receiving duties.
G Richie Incognito - You've got to expand your definition a little bit here. Cogs played well in 2006, and after being limited to jsut 4 games last season with injury, he let his inner knucklehead take over this season. His lapses on penalties and in pass protection only hurt the team's already struggling offense.
Those are the big names on the current roster; am I missing anyone?
Now, there are those out there who would argue that DT Adam Carriker is at risk of falling into this category. Carriker's played well enough, but has dealt with injuries and a poor supporting cast. I think the hiring of Spagnuolo will keep him from turning into a bust, giving the promising youngster the coaching he needs as well as finding the supporting players the team needs.
Some past names on this list who have since moved on: Few stand out quite like DTs Jimmy Kennedy and Claude Wroten. Of course who can forget malcontents like DE Anthony Hargrove or OL Claude Terrell? What about LB Robert Thomas? The undersized MLB (a theme for the Rams) was our first round pick in '02.
This kind of thing ends with the Devaney in Spagnuolo era; it has to if the Rams are going to move forward.