I've played Texas Hold'em at some interesting locales. Around the table, there are every type of player, from wan-a-be WPC imitators, to guys there just for something entertaining to do. Put me in the latter category, since I really don't know what I'm doing most of the time. "Stay in with a 3 and 5 of clubs? Hmm... Well the odds are against me, so.... RAISE!" Yes, I actually play that way, and NO, I don't do what you'd call WIN much. But I have fun, and since it's just a game to me, why not test the boundaries of the odds, right?
The St. Louis Rams have washed away the hype and promise of the preseason. They aren't a stalwart piece of the briefly touted NFC West, or at least they aren't yet. But they will be, of this I have ZERO doubt. Anyone who knows even the slightest thing about football and the NFL has to see some very interesting prospects on the Rams' roster. It's quite simply filled with guys who are bursting to be at the top of the league among their peers at a variety of positions.
On offense, the talent is there, no matter what the win-loss record says currently. The Rams' offensive line isn't nearly as bad as many have a right to think. No, hear me out. What I've been looking at is how the Rams' offense schemes a play. So much is dependent on if "A" blocks here, then "B" must be there to do "C". In other words, you've got the 3 ("A") and 5 ("B") of clubs, and you're praying to the Yugo Gods for a card ("C") to make those two cards mean something - ANYTHING - so you can stay in the game. What makes this kind of situation problematic for the Rams, is they're "hoping" more than "playing". If you're truly playing a bad hand, throw in the cards. You can't keep bluffing, and this is where Brian Schottenheimer's offense comes glaringly into symmetry with my little poker example.
"Check" and "Check Down" have an eery commonality here. The Rams have been "Check-ing" on offense all season. Opposing teams raise, and now the Rams sit wondering what to do. (Am I clever, or what?) Run the ball, run the ball, pass, punt. Then there's pass the ball, run the ball, pass the ball on third and long, punt. Yes, Zac Stacy has made the "run the ball" part more intriguing, but it's the "pass" part that's failing, and it's because - if equated to a bet in poker - it's not enough to make the play worth while. Last week against the Titans, the decision making tree for Kellen Clemens cost the Rams the game. Forget about his fumble; it's one of those things that just happens from time to time. Over and over again, wide receivers were open underneath the Titans' safety coverage, but Clemens immediately "checked down" to short passing options for little or no gain. I've seen Sam Bradford do the same thing the last couple years too, so I have to think it's a product of the overall offensive scheme and paradigm.
I think Schottenheimer's offense is predicated on a mistaken risk to benefit ratio. ( I wink and smile at Dubs here) While the concept of safe game management is mildly sound, it's also dependent on "C" miraculously happening, or - in the Rams' case many times - not happening. Penalties have completely skewed Schottenheimer's pedestrian offense at times. But more often than not, it's this very lack of scheme latitude that has opposing defensive coordinators only having to use half their thinking caps while preparing to play the Rams each week. Now that Rams have a viable running attack, this could shift things, but I don't think so.
The problem here, is Schottenheimer's lack of originality. If he were a player at a poker table, he'd be down to the felt in chips in no time. He has little or no gamble in him, and I almost think it's to protect some mythical future head coaching promise he may have for himself? The youth on the Rams roster is the worst possible combination for a guy like Shottenheimer. He needs everything to work as he envisioned down to the nano-second, and it simply won't happen with a bunch of fresh out of college frat parties guys. What's more, it seems to have spilled over into the Rams' defense too. Last season, they were a wild, crazy bunch, who physically battered opponents each week. This year, they have an almost prevent look to them - 3-s and 5-s - and we've seen how it's worked out, right?
My thoughts on the current Rams situation - and more particularly Schottenheimer's - is that it's time to change the game. They started the year out trying to be a "spread offense", but under Schottenheimer's near Quaker-esk lack of imagination, it faltered badly. As the Rams shifted to a more conventional offense, it was rather easy for top flight defensive coordinators to adjust too. So my solution? It's time to start PLAYING, and not sitting back waiting for the right hand to be dealt. Fling it, throw it, screen it, or quarterback sneak it. It's time to take the lid off, and play "All In"...