This is very, very long.
With a view of die hard, teary-eyed, and loyal fan of the Rams, I find reviewing this season inflicts varying degrees of negative conditions, varying from nausea, disgust, but more than anything disappointment. At the end of every terrible season, as a couch coach, you reflect on the exact causes of the season that has been, and resolve solutions possibly to alleviate them going forward. Here I resolve the following of what happened, why, and what could possibly address the very heart of the matter.
An utter disaster of what most likely will end up being a 14 loss season, is enough said, but to add salt to injury this was a team by nearly all analyst predictions a supposed division winner and playoff team. What ended up happening, was:
*A page back in the offense, with the absolute worst air attack in the NFL.
*An offensive line that looked very respectable and promising a year earlier, looked horrifying.
*An addition of depth in key areas, was not nearly enough, as this team was absolutely ravaged by injury.
There are so many causes and reasons to say, "hey this is why we sucked", but not one specific reason is sole but the combination of many produced what we all know, that this team just flat fell. Some reasons that are very appropriate to review:
* The LOCKOUT and the madness behind the preparation. Now the lockout hurt more than just the Rams and quite frankly was something that every team had to deal with it, but take a look at two teams that tried to make large changes with their schemes and the results. One the Rams, deciding to fully turn the offense over to Josh McDaniels and his exotic offense he brought over from New England to Denver and now the Rams. Now I am sure everyone is familiar with the success that New England had when McDaniels was in charge of implementing the passing attack in New England, and many were aware of what success he had in Denver in developing Kyle Orton and Brandon Lloyd, but if everyone can take a look back at his first year as Denver's head coach. His team started 6-2 and everyone was raving about his success, but what many do not realize was the defense at the time was killing it, keeping scores low, causing turnovers and harassing the quarterback. No the fact of the matter the offenses there really didn't go full swing until after they started to spiral. Now there is no denying he had success there developing the offense, but not at light speed, no this took time. That my friends is exactly what went wrong with this season and the Lockout. Trying to implement, this already slow to move offensive system coupled with the lockout, just caused absolute chaos and now has the Rams Nation wondering where we have talent and where we don't, case in point Jason Brown. By all accounts the year before the Ram's Center actually played very well and looked solid in the three to five step drops Sam had to take, but under the new system and the 7 step drops Sam had to take, he looked completely lost in odd looking blitz schemes. To validate my point in regards to installing a complex system, is the Eagles Defense, under Johnson they had utilized the same defensive system for years, then came along their new DC and the mayhem of trying to utilize a wide front line formation was not just foolish, but cost what many deemed the "Dream Team" into the nightmare season (perhaps by perspective worse than ours).
*"Mickey-Mousing" the Receiving Corp
Now I know everyone has know for years the Rams have been deficient at the Receiver position, lacking a true number one threat, but boy this season was highly effected by not addressing the receiving corp properly this off-season. The Rams elected to use their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th round pick on receivers and tight ends that had solid college careers and could be quite impressive down the line, but none of those picks nor the players on roster were ready to take the role of a primary target, instead they all started the year like "who me" with the role of being our top target. Matter of fact the only experienced receiver the Rams were bringing to start the season was Mark Clayton (a player we knew was hurt going into the start) and Mike Simms-Walker, an athletic yet very inconsistent receiver from the Jaguars, who never quite caught on. The end result was Amendola going down, the first six games of having receivers constantly dropping passes to start a trend of doubt and low performance.
The schedule sucked and the Rams were totally ill prepared to meet the challenges due mainly inconsistency on the offensive side of the ball
How to address the "heart of the matter"
As of this moment I have heard countless cries for the head of Spags and his staff and in the past I have been all for the dismissal of bad coaches, both HCs and their coordinators, but like one other time I disagree. Spags is a "good coach" (good being optimal word here), but not a winning coach. Now you may say you can't be a good coach if you do not win, and I whole heartily disagree, case in point look at Belicheck, by some accounts a great coach, by others a horrible downright cheater, but at the end of the day he didn't start with success, quite the opposite he was middle of the road kind of coach who was fired from previous employment, but what he was before was a good coach at schemes, but had not figured out how to win. In Spagnola's case his schemes on defense are very good, his ability to get players to play hard is without doubt, but his decisions with personnel and in game strategy, including adjustments on the offensive side is somewhat lacking and needs improvement. When people wanted Linehan gone, I agreed, when people were calling for Martz departure, I agreed, and when everyone said hey Haslett really can not work out, I agreed, but several years ago, when the Rams looked absolutely terrible going 3-13 with then Coach Vermiel, and heard the calls for his head I disagreed whole heartily and this time I do too. In reviewing Spags you have to say does he get players to play? yes, does he excel with his in game time decision? answer is no and this is where an off-season of him looking at what other coaches are doing to win and what he needs to do. Though his coordinators definitely need evaluating, though one I wouldn't let go is Coach McDaniels, instead of trying to confuse Sam with another off-season with a different style offense I would definitely look at a fully developed McDaniel's offense looks after a mosh posh seasons and a full off-season to develop.
There is one area of management that may need heavy consideration and that is of the team's General Manager. Devaney who has had mixed success in the draft and very little in free agency, really rolled the dice with the receiving corp, a dice roll I believe was a quintessentially reason we failed so miserably. Notice how nearly every team entering the playoffs has not only a go to guy in their passing game, but game changers in those positions. A quarterback needs those options no matter how good they are. Now if you look at Devaney's drafts you see Bradford, Laurenitis, Saffold, then you see Smith, you see Gylliard, and others that don't quite cut it. Though I think there are value picks he has made and has had some success with the "mickey-mouse" approach, such as Amendola, Lloyd, Clayton, his approach has not solved a problem that has been there now for more than four years.
If things are going to get better, change with maintaining consistency is necessary, change in that we actually get playmakers on the field, but consistency is trying to find the right scheme and plan that works. That may mean keeping McDaniels, but having him make sure everyone knows what they are doing, making sure that Sam has options to alter plays to hot routes if necessary. Change we need is depth, consistency we need is effort.
I know this is long, but the heart of the matter on this one is very, very deep.