I can't believe it's over. With the whimper that was a Sunday night game I will forever refer to as the Seattle Screwjob, a period and not an ellipses was tagged on the end of our 2010 season. Forgive the indulgence, but just a few thoughts I need to puke out in order to regain equilibrium.
As we move forward into the off-season, I'm of the opinion that a few things are painstakingly clear:
1. We are in good hands with Sam at the wheel. He outlived every expectation and hope I had. He grew up before our very eyes. He evolved, he excelled, and made mistakes. The journey for him will be long and filled with obstacles, but I believe that in the next year or two, when he's starting his first playoff game or Pro Bowl (whichever comes first), we will all feel like our boy has growns up, and is off to the prom.
2. Changes must be made. This season was a cock-tease, the champagne room of football teams. Granted, expectations were tempered. We all bought into the rebuild for the long-haul. Then Warner retired, the 49ers imploded, and we were convinced we had a legit shot at post-season. If we are to experience competitive playoff coitus, very basic changes need to be carried out.
3. The Four Pillars works. I know, I know.. I get hypothetical trade/FA signing happy too. I wish we would go out and chase VJ, or had brought on Moss for stretch. But it's obvious that this cheesy, new-age philosophy being implemented has value that reflects itself in the win column.
In the hundreds of hours we've spent following this team, I would think we're all in agreement with the above. Now, let me editorialize.
-Offense. It just wasn't working for most of the season. Our hurry up packages were successful at times, but when Cris Collinsworth starts ridiculing your vanilla playcalling in what is essentially a playoff game, you have to be concerned. I understand our personnel has dictated offensive philosophy, but Shurmur needs to rethink this approach in the offseason (If he doesn't land in Cleveland). I would personally like to see the team have him consult with an outside-the-organization guy during OTAs... Maybe a Norm Chow, Mike Leach, or even Jay Gruden. It's obvious Shurmur is/felt limited because of talent and experience level. He needs to be coaxed out of this rut if he's going to stay on board, and the team should facilitate the awakening. Not in an attempt to overthrow his system, but to allow him to learn and encourage an open-minded approach to adding packages and offensive elements.
- Front Office. I have enormous respect for Devaney and company. I feel like they've righted the ship to an extent. But I also feel like with so much inexperience fumbling around Rams Park (first time GM, first time HC, first time coordinators, rookies galore), it might make new owner Kroenke feel more at ease and connected to base camp if he hired his own guy to be a VP on the ground. I can see from Kroenke's POV how it would seem that the kids are running the candy store. So- install A Vice President of Common Sense Decision Making. A mentor. Someone to encourage the FO with stature and also act as liaison between the team, Kroenke, and the community. I think the perfect person for such a job is Dick Vermeil.
- Draft/Free Agency. Suffice it to say, this team has very little depth. We were beyond lucky that the injury bug didn't hit us this year as in the past. While I don't think our moves in Free Agency will land us a Pro-Bowler, I do think we are capable of adding some depth. Defensive Backfield and Offensive Line come to mind. But even with the savviest of FA signings, I will fight any man to the death who doesn't believe our top 3 draft priorities should be WR/OLB/OG, not necessarily in that order. Spags has proven to me that he's a fine soldier. He's made sacrifices for the greater good. But ponder this- here's a guy who was hired based on his defensive track record, and he's only been allowed 1 defensive player in the first two rounds of the draft during his tenure. I watched the Sunday Night Game with my future Mother-in-Law (who has surprisingly little football knowledge), but her exact quote was "Howie Long's kid and that number 55 can't do it all by themselves!" On the flipside, The Seattle Screwjob blatantly exposed our need for a Green/Jones/Baldwin type, but if Spags wants to draft D, then I'd say he's earned the right.
All in all, I wouldn't want to root for any other team than this one. Rams fans are cut from a certain masochistic cloth that makes victory so much greater when attained. I have emotional highs and lows based on their performance (childish? yes.), evident in this Dec 19th Facebook post- "Right now I feel like the Rams are actually Mola Ram, and I'm that poor sonofabitch getting his heart ripped out before being dunked in the ole' pit of magma. The Mola Rams. Has a nice ring to it."
So it goes, I will suffer through the playoffs and Superbowl, wondering what might have been.. the rest of the winter will be rough on us. But we needn't worry- the miserable winter will be short. Because the Rams fear no shadow! (h/t punxatawney phil).
A lot of memories from these past 16 games. I feel like we're very close to having something special again in St. Louis. Enjoyed every minute of Sunday game threads (shout out to SonGohan), until my soul crushing job prevented me from participating. I would also like to add my name to the list of those who appreciate all the hours Van, 3k, ram_rod, Tevin, VTRamsFan, etc.. put into this site. Countdown to the draft begins now. Can't wait to put the jersey back on.