Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports
I've watched the Rams play football for more decades than I care to count. Whether out of loyalty to the team itself, or fealty to long held fond memories of watching games with my father, this is my favorite NFL franchise. The good with the bad - the brilliant and woeful, the Rams have been a part of me, and will always be...
I wrote a rather scalding "Quick Five" post yesterday after the Rams eeked out a win in Buffalo. Some thought I was being negative, but I tell you here and now that wasn't why the article read the way it did. For those that don't know me well, you may want to consider my just this side of obsessive nature in all things I study closely. I mark trends, whether highs or lows, and try to discern how things happen. I like to learn...
The Rams have been incredibly fun to watch this year for me. This is a team that's trending upward, and I find myself transitioning from simply watching each of their games, to closely dissecting each play and player. While I'm firmly confident that I'll never be close to all knowing when it comes to the NFL - and I regularly tell anyone who asks how little I know in the broad scheme - the Rams are an area in which I excel as a fan and analyst. The 2012 Rams have turned a corner, so the logical question which comes to my mind is -"What's next?" I'm not talking about the gobs of draft picks in the first round over the next couple years; I'm talking about right now.
This entire season thus far has been marked by the wobbly baby steps of a very young team. If there's another team with as many first round draft picks already on its roster - and very high picks at that - let me know. We have one of the most successful coaches in the last 20 years guiding this team now. Gone are the days of coordinators pretending to be NFL coaches for the Rams and I couldn't be happier. My team is making solid picks in the NFL draft. They're taking chances on talented college players who wouldn't have been considered eligible by former Rams coaches, and the dividends are evident on game day.
This team is growing up before our eyes. They have a ways to go, but over the last four weeks I've seen an uptick in what they're capable of doing. It's also why I was so harsh in my "Quick Five", and I'm un-remorseful in what I wrote too. You see, I want more, and I'm sure the team does too. I'm going to call them on miscues on occasion because that's a good thing to do. Accepting a one step forward, one step back Rams team is no longer going to happen. These young men and their coaching staff have shown me they want to win. They play with a fire not seen in the St. Louis Rams in a very long time. They believe - as I do - that this team can step on the field with any team in the NFL - on any given Sunday - and challenge the game's outcome to the final second.
Because I believe this, I won't be giving the "Oh gosh, better luck next time" to any St. Louis Ram. Sam Bradford is the kind of quarterback who can lead this team onward. I say it's time he takes that next step, regardless of the talent he has around him. Sammy boy, if you can march down the field in the fourth quarter, there are three other quarters that need your attention too. Sorry, but you've shown us who you can be, so it's time for you to deliver. I'm not going to wait for some mythical wide receiver or lineman to land in St. Louis from the NFL Draft. You've impressed me, so my latent streak of hedonism says you have three regular season game to show us the something special I know you have inside. What's more, I KNOW you can do it.
The Rams defense is getting stronger by the day, so the idea any team can overcome them outright is as laughable to me as it is to every player on our team. Yes - OUR - team. The Rams have grown from that dark day in London into a different team altogether. This defensive line just pounded the best one-two punch running back duo in the NFL. They smacked Frank Gore around, and they'll make Adrian Peterson question his thoughts of taking down Eric Dickerson's record too. Our defensive secondary has seen enough to shed the training wheels, and the Rams linebacker know what needs to be done.
In my article yesterday, I smacked around the Rams' coaching staff, and some questioned my thoughts. Here's the thing: Why in the world do coaches EVER get a pass. They've had a 14 week honeymoon, the team is moderately healthy and they know the teams we're about to face. They've chosen these players for a reason, so it's time they maintain our faith by taking the kid gloves off. The closer this team gets to the post season, the more the mainstream media will focus on what they have or haven't done. This is pressure time for Jeff Fisher and Co. How they attack the next three weeks will define the young players on the Rams roster. If they carry a winning attitude into the off season, it will mark this team well for the 2013. Fisher knows this, and I have very little problem in believing he won't be sleeping all that well for the next 21 days. You made Rams fans believers Jeff, so sound the charge and let's get this battle started.
Do I think the Rams will make the post season? Nope, but that doesn't mean I don't expect to see a hell bent - wild dive toward that end. What I find most remarkable of where the Rams currently sit is they really can't lose, so why not go for it? No one outside of Rams fans think this team can make the post season, so if you think about it, they can only confound expectations. The national media likes to shove the Rams off to the side for the "real NFL teams", so this kind of freedom works in Jeff Fisher's favor. I think we've been favored to win a game once this season. Can you even imagine how big an underdog the Rams will be if they make the post season?
Most people know me as the incredible optimist I've always been, and that's not going to change any time soon. But just as you - the fan - have to transition from rooting for a pre-2012 Rams team to a winner, so do people who write the stories you read about your favorite team. This staff has to stay ahead of expectations, and hopefully understand how this team goes through transitions. It's why I'll be dialing up what I see, and will call players to account for their failing and successes - whoever they may be.
It's time to raise our expectation, don't you think?