With the younger mix of players and a completely reorganized front office and coaching staff, the lopsided games we got used to in recent seasons should be a thing of the past. One thing you can count on for 2009, though, is hearing about the franchise being for sale ad nauseum...every game, every news report, every fantasy magazine article, every Sports Center...get used to it. Annoying as it will be for the fans, think of how this news affects the players, coaches and front office. How much is the 'for sale' talk going to affect the on-field product?
There's a couple layers to it. First, it's reasonable to assume that Devaney and Spagnuolo, as the twin faces of the Rams' day-to-day leadership, will make every effort to minimize the distraction and put building a winning team atop their priorities list. Nevertheless, this is the kind of thing that seeps into places you don't expect it to. The Rams could surprise everyone with a major upset win over a leading contender, but the post-game presser would still feature questions about the potential sale of the franchise.
Ostensibly, the coaches can coach and the players can play while all this news swirls around the team; however, new owners, whenever they are found, inherit the prerogative to hold sway over who fills what job. Under most circumstances that probably wouldn't be a problem because Devaney, Spagnuolo, etc. seem to be making progress cleaning up the mess at Rams Park, but there could always be someone out there looking to join the ranks of the NFL's most flamboyant owners, like Jerry Jones or the zombie that resides in Al Davis formaldehyde-filled body. If that becomes a concern - though it's not likely to be one until a new majority owner is found, and even then - we could see it resonate through the locker room, especially if the players start sensing their playing for a lame duck. That Stan Kroenke wants to retain his 40% stake bodes well for that scenario not happening.
Devaney and Spagnuolo have experience working through distraction. Devaney, you'll recall, was pretty high up in the Atlanta front office in 2007 as the Michael Vick saga played out. He left Atlanta the year after. Spagnuolo was a defensive assistant coach with the Eagles during the Terrell Owens fiasco as well as a successful coach for a team in the hyper-scrutinized NYC media market. St. Louis, with one daily newspaper (for how long?), is a different ball game, and the national media doesn't pay enough attention to the Rams, yet, to be a consistent distraction about this issue.
Will talk of the franchise's future be a distraction? Ultimately, it's like everything else with the Rams this year, we'll just have to wait and see.