Les Snead: The Rams And The "Grit" Year

USA TODAY Sports

Les Snead shared his thoughts this past week about rebuilding a franchise, the "Grit" year, and the state of the Rams - combining optimism and practical realism. Look out for the Rams in 2014.

Some people - like myself - are just optimists by nature. We see the cup as being half full [as opposed to it being half empty]. That expression highlights the tendency for two people to see the same situation in different ways. It's commonly used to emphasize the difference between positive and negative thinking, optimism and pessimism, and - cynically - irresponsible hopefulness and practical realism.

Optimism and practical realism need not be mutually exclusive. St. Louis Rams General Manager Les Snead - in interviews conducted this past week - exemplified that notion:

"Year 2 in any type of regime change, I call it "Grit Year". You term it that because you have to have the passion and perseverance for your long-term vision. Now long-term vision’s pretty simple: We want to be a team that wins consistently. We want to do that as rapidly as possible."

"Now is when you've got to learn grit. They're going to know we're coming."

"If you look at all the teams that build something that lasts, even the 49ers under Bill Walsh, it’s usually somewhere in Year 3 they catch on and they get in their window."

"The only way to get experience is to go on stage. And you go on stage, you have growing pains, you feel it. I’m not discouraged at all."

"He sees an offense that has developed an identity, a special teams unit that is maturing and a defense that is improving."We’re starting to feel it become a team."

Les Snead's remarks exhibit both optimism and practical realism. Optimism based on the talent he sees on the football field, and how the team is coming together. Practical realism in understanding that rebuilding a football team from scratch takes time, patience, and a long-term vision. A rebuilding project that he, Jeff Fisher, and the rest of the organization embarked on during the 2011-12 off season.

In an article for Turf Show Times, "The Blueprint For Building A Successful Franchise" (link), I alluded to - in my own words - the very same thoughts articulated by Les Snead this past week:

"The Rams are now into year two of building a successful franchise. They have not yet achieved the continuity, longevity of success, and stability of the franchises mentioned in this article. This will take time. There will be bumps in the road along the way, setbacks, mistakes made, and times when the Rams faithful will question the direction the team is heading in. The Rams are the youngest team in the league, and have turned over 75% of the roster since January, 2012. This team is only a third of the way into a four year plan. A plan to reach the Super Bowl, and once again become a successful franchise. For now, you just have to sit back, take a deep breath, enjoy watching the team [and organization] mature...and see the forest for the trees."

Snead, a keen student of franchise building, pointed out that many rebuilding teams begin reaping the benefits of a successful long-term plan in Year 3. He used the Seattle Seahawks and Carolina Panthers as primary examples of his theory, describing the current position of the Carolina Panthers:

"You take the Panthers right now. Everybody’s been killing the Panthers. (Saying) they’re terrible. And this year, early in the year, ‘They stink.’ But they’ve caught on. They’re a young team that’s catching on."

The accompanying chart presents the records of the Seattle Seahawks [since 2010] and the Carolina Panthers [since 2011]:

Year Seattle Carolina
2010 7 9
2011 7 9 6 10
2012 11 5 7 9
2013 10 1 7 3

The Seahawks are in the 4th year of the Pete Carroll regime. They achieved 7-9 records in their first two years under Carroll. In the third year, Seattle made the playoffs with an 11-5 record. This year, the Seahawks lead the NFC and are a Super Bowl contender. Carolina is now in the third year of rebuilding under Ron Rivera. The Panthers were 6-10 and 7-9 in the first two years under Rivera. They started this season 1-3, and since then have reeled off 6 consecutive victories. The Panthers look primed to reach the playoffs this season. The Rams are in the second year of rebuilding under Les Snead and Jeff Fisher. St. Louis achieved a 7-8-1 record in the first year under the new regime. Despite the season-ending injury to Sam Bradford, the Rams could realistically finish this season with a 7-9 record. This compares favorably to both Seattle and Carolina.

Both Les Snead and I will be looking for the St. Louis Rams to break out in 2014. Perhaps one can have hope and optimism - while still being realistic - after all.

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