"Coaching is nothing more than eliminating mistakes before you get fired." - Lou Holtz
The question for the St. Louis Rams and owner Stan Kroenke is if Steve Spagnuolo has made too many mistakes. Does he deserve to be fired, or should he be allowed to stick around next year on the last year of his contract? The hot seat for Spags has been warming up, especially since Todd Haley and Jack Del Rio were both fired.
Proponents of firing Spags say that he he has been a total failure as a head coach and he seems better suited as a defensive coordinator. The Rams are 10-35 under Spahnuolo's guidance. Also, some say he hasn't properly developed players.
On the other hand, he inherited a team that was basically an expansion team. The team he inherited wasn't ready to compete in the NFL, simply due to a lack a talent. Some say this talent famine could not be overcome in just three years and that the Rams overachieved last season to get seven wins. Additionally, the injuries have been crippling to the Rams this season.
So get comfortable and make sure you have adequate time, because after the jump, you will see both side of the argument, and be able to decide for yourself if Steve Spagnuolo should be relieved of his duties as head coach of your St. Louis Rams.
So should Spags be fired? Let's find out.
First up is the one, the only, the great Douglas M.
Spags is an extremely talented defensive coach, make no mistake about it. As a first time head coach, he just doesn't have the over all skill set needed to re-build a team. I think he would be incredibly successful on an already established team carrying the team forward. He has never had to build a coaching staff before, and in this he failed for the Rams. Spags would be an excellent choice to succeed Tom Coghlin in New York or Andy Reid in Philly. The Rams need to move on though, and Spags just isn't the one to do it.
Next is T. Ram. Be sure to follow Tevin on Twitter, y'all.
Spags should be allowed to stay if he can give the owner a good plan on why he should stay. Also who will replace him? Do we really want an old coach out of retirement? Also who would we hire as a coach if we go young? The OC's in Carolina and Cincinnati could be intriguing. He can't control how horrible the Rams offense is, that's been destroyed by injuries. Also his defense has been good all things considering.
To my mind the biggest reason to punt on Spagnuolo has nothing to do with his roster decisions or his record to date. The roster he has is playing hard, and with more talent or better luck with injuries, the record would be better by a certain measure. Neither of those are in his control.
No, the biggest reason to doubt Spagnuolo is his appalling lack of gameday feel. Up until recently, I was convinced that this was not a "learnable" quantity, that some men are simply born with an ability to juggle the infinite number of on-field variables in their minds, and make snap decisions based on some ineffable instinct that are, more often than not, the exact right decision. Those that have it go on to become great coaches and win Super Bowls. Those that don't, don't, unless they are lucky enough to have been tutored by one of the great ones.
By this thinking, you could give Spags the keys to the '85 Bears or the '92 Cowboys and he would drive them into the ground. Every time. He just wasn't a "winner."
But that just doesn't make sense. For every Don Shula that won right out of the gate, there's a Bill Walsh (or a Dick Vermeil) that struggled for years before the light came on. Both of these men are considered coaching geniuses and great leaders of men, but one of them had to "learn how to win" along the way. I was reminded of this by my conversation with Aaron Nagler earlier this week, who offered the early resume of one Mike McCarthy, coaching genius, as a comparable to Spagnuolo's tactical struggles.
Great leadership, that's harder to learn in my opinion, and harder to replace. Spagnuolo has that, and that differentiates him from bums of the past (Scott Linehan, etc.). That leadership is what drives the constantly-running motor of this team, why his players have not quit, why Bradford has to be sedated to keep him out of harm's way. That leadership was completely absent in the run-down years before he arrived.
Ironically, to change the losing culture of the Rams, we might have to stick with a "loser" who has already led a massive culture change within Rams Park.
TST's own EddieP. Follow him on Twitter.
Steven Christoper Spagnuolo should be fired AS SOON AS POSSIBLE! The offense just absolutely horrendous! A lot of thought it was Shurmur calling the conservative BS plays last year. He's gone but the 3rd-and-20 run plays are still here. It's Spags fault that we run the ball in obvious passing situations!! Then we pass in obvious running situations - like in goal line situations where SJ39 can easily run it in but instead they choose to throw it three times and then kick a field goal. Terrible game management. Terrible at calling appropriate plays. His defense is ok though. Too bad we'll never know how good the D really is since they're on the field 80% of the time and they're dead tired.
Next up is TST's fantasy guru Mike Dietrich. Be sure to follow him on Twitter so you can ask him questions about your fake football teams as they enter into their fake playoffs.
Spags needs to be relieved from his job. He coordinated a roster turnover with Devaney and now they are a 2 win team that has the 5th oldest roster in the NFL. They mis-evaluated all these one year stop gaps who took spots of younger guys that should hev been kept. He also hired Josh McDaniels knowing full well there would be a lockout and the team would not have the time to digest this system. His ultra conservative micro management also cost the Rams some close games last year. Finally the main reason for me is he is a defensive coach that has a defense that has been the worst against the run in his 3 years with a healthy front 7. Nice guy, and the team looks like they are playing hard but he is another good coordinator who excelled with great talent with the Giants but could not coach up the Rams players he helped procure.
Here's Jeff from Ramsgab. His response was very detailed and much appreciated. Be sure to check out his fantastic blog.
I think it is time to fire Steve Spagnuolo.
It was not an easy call on my part, because I think Spagnuolo is a good coach and will get another head coaching job in the future and may have more success with a team that has more talent on his arrival. The 10 wins over 3 seasons is the defining stat of his era in St. Louis and there is no getting away from it or sugar coating it. To paraphrase Game of Thrones, in the NFL, you win or you are fired. And Spagnuolo has not won, presiding over seasons with win totals of 1, 7 and 2. Three seasons is a long time in the NFL as each franchise has very high roster turnover from year to year and very low threshold for losing.
Granted the Rams were a bigger job than most, raising the talent level across the board, but with full power over the 53 man roster, Spags has raised that level, but not enough. The Rams stated philosophy was to draft and develop their roster, building through the draft with selective additions through free agency. And the Rams have drafted the players, but they have been failed to be developed under Spagnuolo and his coaches. Jason Smith, a high talent selection who needed lots of grooming never got his footwork figured out and now his career is in doubt due to injury. Smith is an easy target, but the Rams have failed to develop any young offensive lineman to step in when injuries hit.
The Rams roster is not full of drafted or undrafted free agent young players slowly learning and building their potential ready to show what they can do. Their depth positions are full of veterans who have already reached their potential or are on the down slope of their careers. Soon after Spagnuolo's arrival in St. Louis, the Rams were one of the youngest teams in the NFL and quickly they moved to one of the oldest. If the Rams wanted to build a team that could overcome injuries and have new players step up when starters left the team or were injured, they would need to have backups and depth players developed and ready to step in.
Steve Spagnuolo's regime failed to develop enough players, so they had to resort to underwhelming veterans as depth (and at some positions, starters). When that depth was forced onto the field, the disaster that was looming struck. Steve Spagnuolo has already hurt the Rams present and recent past with his inability to develop talent on both sides of the ball. The Rams need to let him go before he hurts their future any more than he already has.
While 2010 does not excuse this season's failures, at the same time the short comings of the 2011 Rams should not wash away last year's success. It's a mind bender I know. But one that deserves serious thought. For example, Sunday's loss to Seattle featured a terrible offensive game plan offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. In his first year of installing a new and complex offense McDaniels was given little time to prepare and work with his new players. Not to mention installing his new schemes into the Rams offense required Sam Bradford to not only learn another new system but new players as well. Aside from Steven Jackson nearly every target of his is new to him. Injuries are not an excuse but also cannot be ignored. Danny Amendola went down, Marc Clayton came and went and Lance Kendricks, Austin Pettis, and Brandon Lloyd are all new to Sam. And before he was mercifully let go so was Mike Sims-Walker.
Bradford and the offense did their best to get together during the lockout but most of those parts were either hurt or gone before the season even got underway. And to that point, another issue on frustration for many is the fact that McDaniels did not bring in a quarterback's coach to work with Sammy franchise. Well, get a QB coach and bring him in early and let them get to work. If it makes Stan feel better, he can make a list of coaching candidates and keep it in a safe place. If next year goes south early...pull the trigger. That would no more damaging than getting rid of Spagnuolo and McDaniels now, or in the off season, then ushering in regime for 2012. Neither one will speed up the development of Bradford or the team as a whole. Continuity and consistency are good things for a young team. And from all accounts the players like and play hard for Spags.
Give Sam a full off season with his receivers and quarterbacks coach. Give Spagnuolo a healthy roster and what will be a more representative schedule. Give McDaniels or the new offensive coordinator (Brad Childress) the appropriate time to teach this offense. Give Spagnuolo the opportunity to prove 2010 was what can be expected, that this, this ugliness is but a mere outlier of his coaching resume.
And last and certainly might be the least is Joe McAtee or as you all know him, 3k. You are not interneting correctly, if you do not follow this man's Twitter.
My absolute definitive answer is...uh, I guess. If I have to guess something.
In his defense, he's coached a team that is radically different than the one that was put together this offseason. O-line and cornerback injuries tanked the most important offensive unit and a key defensive unit for his press defense. And overhauling a team that went 1-15 (that deserved to go 1-15) is hard to do in two years.
On the other hand, he's been unable to develop a single young player to greater levels of success save for Chris Long and maybe James Laurinaitis. And mid to late draftees have quickly faded out of the limelight. From 2010, Saffold, Murphy and Hooomanawanui all enter 2011 with serious injury concerns, while Mardy Gilyard, Fendi Onobun and George Selvie are gone. And while the 2009 draft yielded Laurinaitis, the most worrisome knees on the Rams may not belong to Danario Alexander but Bradley Fletcher. The rest of that draft brought Jason Smith, Dorell Scott, Brooks Foster, and Keith Null.
So what has he done to deserve to come back besides signing a contract that runs through next year? Not much. But we've seen the defense play to a level that reminds us of what he was supposed to provide: a defensive mind that pressures opposing quarterbacks to get the ball in the hands of your franchise QB. The problem is that we never filled in what that franchise QB was supposed to do or how. And whether it was Pat Shurmur's safe but sad dinkery or Josh McDaniels' "You have no idea what's going to happen next because I have no idea what's going to happen next" approach, the offense (despite Bradford, Steven Jackson, an incredibly expensive/overpaid O-line and a flood of young WRs to say nothing of Brandon Lloyd) absolutely sucks.
I am just out of confidence that Spags can manage a team whose offense is run by a subordinate. And as the field CEO, which is the real job of the modern NFL head coach, his business is bankrupt. Hey, severance pay for CEOs is great these days. I'm sure he'll be fine.
So if you add all that up, that would be 7 for firing Spags and 2 for keeping him for the last year of his contract. If you add me into that, it would 7 for and 3 against.
My thoughts are that there is only one year left on his deal, and who could the Rams bring in that would make us an instant contender with this group? No one. I've seen too many times where a coach is fired too early and he goes on to become a good coach. Bill Belichick is a good example of this. Patience pays off. For example would the Houston Texans have clinched the AFC South this year if they fired Gary Kubiak, probably not.
Also, as has been said before, with all the injuries that the Rams have suffered, one cannot expect them to be successful. Should they be better than what they are now? Possibly, but with all the injuries the Rams have suffered, that's almost an impossible task. Both starting tackles went out leaving the O-line in scrambles to where they can't protect the QB. 10 corners are on IR, forcing the Rams to play bad corners in Justin King and Josh Gordy as starters. The franchise QB has been hurt all year and that's dramatically hurt his performance. The most reliable WR went down early in the year, leaving Sam with no go to guy, until we got Lloyd of course. There are too many injuries for the Rams to be able to field an competitive team week in and week out. Let the team get healthy. Have a good draft and free agency period and let's see what Spags can do.
Another thing that sticks out to me is that the players still play hard. They have quit on Spags as they did with Scott Linehan. I still see a fire in this team, especially in the defense. I really think our defense is only a few pieces away, and a few players getting healthy, from being one of the elite defenses in the NFL. Our offense needs work and that's why I would only keep Spags if he had a major overhaul of offensive coaches. The WR coach and the O-line coach need to go. Furthermore, I'm hoping that McDaniels takes another job or gets fired, because his offense just isn't working. People want to keep Sam in the same system, but what good will that do when the players in the system simply can't run it?
Now that you've seen both sides, you can make up your mind. Should the Rams fired Steve Spagnuolo or should they give him one more year?