The St. Louis Rams set high expectations for themselves early in the 2012, the moment that Jeff Fisher decided that regular rides in Stephen Ross' helicopter wasn't for him. Anticipation built when GM Les Snead dealt the second pick in the draft that year to Washington in exchange for franchise-saving basket of draft picks. Roll that into a surprising 7-8-1 record -- quite a jump from two wins the year before -- and ratcheted up enthusiasm for 2013.
Maybe the Rams were a little too successful too quickly.
Pro Football Talk has a dubiously sourced report out Sunday morning that a trio of heads inside Rams Park could be marched up to Stan Kroenke's guillotine. Defensive coordinator Tim Walton and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer are on that list, not surprisingly. In a bit of a shocker, so is Snead.
PFT linked back to a report from Sep. 27 about players reportedly "grumbling" about Schottenheimer. That was at the height of the team's offensive futility, when the OC insisted on trying to implement some kind of two-bit spread system that mostly just got the team into trouble.
Walton's defense has put forth a miserable effort this season, even before injuries took a heavy toll on the secondary. The unit isn't playing at the same level it did last season, when the team used a coordinator-by-committee approach. Worse, talented young players like Janoris Jenkins haven't progressed in their second season. Jenkins has arguably regressed.
But the PFT report doesn't cite even the ubiquitous "league sources" on the fate of the coordinators. He does for Les Snead.
Change also could be coming to the front office. There's scuttlebutt in league circles that G.M. Les Snead could be in trouble after only two years on the job.
That seems little harder to believe.
The Rams' record in free agency over the last two seasons has been a mixed bag. Pricey additions like Jared Cook and Cortland Finnegan (who has the largest cap hit of any player this season) haven't paid dividends. There are also missed draft picks, most pointedly guys like Isaiah Pead and Brian Quick; two of three second-rounders in 2012 relegated to spot duty. It didn't help that fans were treated to three months of chatter about Quick as the best receiver in the draft. Other draft picks are playing well, like Michael Brockers and Zac Stacy. More importantly, two seasons isn't enough time to judge an entire draft class.
In retrospect, Snead's masterstroke was the haul he got from Washington. His trade up for Tavon Austin may end up being the trade he's judged by in the future. Austin's been lapped by other receivers in the draft, including Cordarrelle Patterson, Nuke Hopkins and third-round pick Keenan Allen, who will likely win Rookie of the Year. But it's still way too early to judge the deal for Austin.
Mike Silver of the NFL Network refuted the report that Snead was on the hot seat, and that makes sense. Like the team overall, Snead's lost some of his sheen in year two, but it's still way too early to pull the rug out from underneath him.
Besides, there's also the matter of how much sway Fisher holds over personnel decisions in-house. The Rams made it clear when Snead was hired that it would be a partnership. A pair of puff pieces from Mike Silver in 2012 and Peter King in 2013 from inside the draft room sure made it look like Fisher had plenty of say over the personnel moves.
Not to mention two of the team's worst, most expensive free agent signings, Cook and Finnegan, are former Titans.
Florio's sketchy rumor-mongering aside, the real issue here is the one about missed expectations. Both the offense and the defense failed to progress this season, even before Sam Bradford's knee injury. It was never realistic to think that the Rams were a 10-win or better team this year -- close games, bad bounces & the rest of the random things that skew a 16-game sample size and overall record -- but it was reasonable to think the team's talented youngsters would improve on where they left off last year.
It hasn't happened.
The Rams are having a hard time connecting with fans in St. Louis, even after taking a new direction in 2012. Staying the course with Schottenheimer and Walton might not be an option.