I guess they don't call him "Silent Stan" for nothing. Since his infamous post-game meeting with St. Louis Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo after a disappointing loss to the New York Giants in week 2, there has barely been a mention of Rams owner Stan Kroenke. Without a doubt he's watching the games, watching bad calls and punt return touchdowns chipping away at his investment. The question many are asking today is when/if Kroenke will send the head coach and general manager packing, and it's increasingly becoming more a question of "when" not "if."
The Rams are, infamously, 9-31 since Spagnuolo took over as head coach. Spags got a mulligan for the first season of his run as head coach. He beat expectations last season with a 7-9 run that ended with a prime time flop in week 17, costing the Rams the division title and a trip to the playoffs. Things were supposed to be different this year, and they finally looked like the team might in fact be arriving at its potential with a well-played win over the Saints in week 8. Unfortunately, Spagnuolo and the Rams followed that up with the debacle in the desert.
The defense really did seem to build on its work from the week before, limiting Arizona to just 13 points during regulation. On the other side of the ball, the Rams' offense looked more like a version of football you might see in a Laurel and Hardy movie.
Spagnuolo said after the game that the decision to go for it on fourth down rather than kick the potentially game-winning field goal from 51-yards out in the dry desert air with the roof open on the stadium. Strange, most other times Spagnuolo is more than content to kick a field goal. Don't forget the inexplicable decision to kick to Patrick Peterson in overtime, Peterson having three punt-return touchdowns up to that point.
Spagnuolo's inability to manage the clock after three seasons as head coaching defies logic, but clock management is hardly the biggest of the current staff's faults and failures.
Josh McDaniels' offensive game planning is hardly living up to expectations. His work with second-year quarterback Sam Bradford is even worse. The Rams' $78 million investment is mired in a sophomore slump for the ages. Bradford's indecision played a big role in getting sacked four times. Still, Bradford's regression is just part of a general theme with these Rams.
The inconsistency and the lack of discipline shown by this team might be the most troubling aspect, the kind of thing that gets people fired. The Rams took nine penalties in this game, and despite that, they still managed to pick up yardage. Most offensive of all, the Rams just failed to find a way to come up with the plays they needed to get the win. The offensive line was owned by the Cardinals in short yardage, and the Rams converted just three of 14 third downs. Whatever fire they dug deep to find last week in a 31-point outburst was extinguished somewhere on the trip to Arizona.
Following the loss to the Redskins, a source intimately familiar with life inside the Rams' locker room painted for me a picture of a dysfunctional place. Most telling of all this person called Spagnuolo "insecure" and a coach who won't let his "players be pros." That's just one source, so make of it what you will. Who knows, it might just be another employee who doesn't like his boss, like 85 percent of America. I'm not sure it's necessarily applicable across the board, but I only know what I see on television and in the media. Personally, I'm more inclined to believe it's a bit simpler, that the coach just lacks the talent to do the job. However, the statement does resonate when the Rams continually fail to play with any consistency or urgency. Whatever the diagnosis, it's clear that something is amiss at Rams Park.
So where does Stan Kroenke stand in all of this? Nobody knows, at least not outside of the building in Earth City. We can probably draw the conclusion that he isn't happy. Kroenke is a competitive business man who like for his sports teams to win. Kroenke may be silent about the Rams, but he has been pretty forthcoming about another one of his sports assets, the Arsenal.
Last month, Kroenke publicly praised Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger for his leadership of the franchise. Why is he so fond of Wegner? Here's what Kroenke said about Wegner recently.
Billy Beane is a very famous guy in America, and do you know who his idol is? Arsene Wenger. No kidding. You know why? His ability to spend money and extract value. That is what being successful in pro sports is all about.
Uh oh. The Rams have done a fine job of spending money. In fact, they manage their roster pretty well financially, as COO Kevin Demoff explained to TST. I'm still inclined to believe that the Rams have done a decent job of drafting over the last four years. Extracting value, however, has been another problem all together. If this is the standard Kroenke expects from his employees, it's probably not a very good sign for Spagnuolo and Devaney.
Kroenke likely isn't saying anything because there really isn't much to say. The Rams clearly are not meeting certain standards and expectations. Offering meaningless platitudes in the midst of this mess is an insult to us all. I suspect Kroenke will make a statement of his own by acting sometime between now and the end of the season. Despite his current silence, we can't say we weren't warned when it does finally happen.