Some things just take time. No matter how impatient you are or how many times you are irritated for having to wait in line for your Quarter Pounder (yuk!), sometimes you just have to wait.
Such is the case for our Rams and the first couple of preseason games this 2013-14 season.
I know, I know..you were on the edge of throwing in the towel after the last preseason game with Green Bay weren't you? You shouldn't have, but many of us are treating this relationship with our Rams with kid gloves. You want to believe and your football inner self says "this are looking up", but in reality potential is as potential does.
Just hold on and be patient, there is a real football organization in town called the St. Louis Rams. Jeff Fisher is at the helm and he has a plan for success. It involves patience and planning.
I have watched Les Snead and Jeff Fisher put together some crafty drafts and some solid choices on players. There aren't many that you can say that you don't understand why they picked one guy or another. Most of their choices are football logical, hence as a Rams fan, you can go with it. Even when you look at keeping Kellen Clemens around just for his knowledge of the offensive system, when leaving emotions at the door, you still can understand, You may not like it but you can't say you don't understand.
Therefore consider this...a coach always wants to win, but I think we have a coach that wants to win when it matters most. For Jeff Fisher that is the regular season. So why even play preseason ball? Why even participate in the nonsense that many fans consider preseason to be? I understand why.
Change is inevitable and it comes to every team each season in one form or another. New players, new coaches, new assistants, new DC, OC, hydration specialist or even although rarely, a new owner may walk onto the scene and cause an effect on the club. Minute or enormous, change on a team is inevitable.
This is what the Rams have experienced a lot over the last decade. Our hope is that if anything, we will see Snead and Fisher at the helm for years to come, but this year had it's changes.
First, aren't we just choked full o rookies? We are possibly the youngest team in the league this year and since this draft brought in even more, the preseason games give those that are truly ready for the transition to professional football a chance to get the butterflies out. Get loose and know what it feels like to walk in the dome, see some fans in the stands, hear some yays and boos. Preseason games give a mock experience for the rooks and the cream rises to the top.
Hence another reason why preseason is important; evaluation. During this time, coaches can see what they are getting for their time and effort with these young men. They can ask questions like, "How many actually carried what was learned on the practice field to the lights? Who shines under these conditions and who fades? What do we need to work on next with the players?" The real question is, who has the chops to make it in this league?
These games help a team do that without suffering their chances of an invitation to the big dance at the end the season.
The Rams also went out and snatched up two major players by the names of Jake Long and Jared Cook. This was masterful by the way. Jared Cook is just a giant receiving threat and Jake Long could be a real brick wall. Sure there are caveats to that statement but still. Top notch talent acquisitions. They need the preseason games probably even more than the rookies. Altthough chemistry is chemistry, but it has to be conveyed both on the practice field as well as the football battlefield.
This past off season the Rams not only were fortunate to hire a new DC this season, but he also happens to be a rookie himself, who has no real background of working with Jeff Fisher before. Tim Walton has documented proof that he is a leader of men, but has never proven that he can strategically call a defensive game for 60 minutes or the fraction of that which would encompass defense in the NFL. Yet, more than a handful of the coaches on the Rams team have (Jeff Fisher, Dave McGinnis, Chuck Cecil and Frank Bush). He's surrounded by great Defensive minds that can prep him for game day, ensure he knows what to look for and can make the calls he needs to make. Preseason allows for the rookie coaches to also get some time under the lights in the game-like scenario to figure out how that coach wants his staff to work with him and how he wants things to roll.
So Pre season Games 1 & 2 are also a fine tuning for the staff at large. How does Jeff Fisher want it? That is the most important thing out of all of that. What will it take to ensure the fact that this head coach is getting what he needs in order to manage the game as efficiently as possible? This preseason, it was learning how to manage his new staff members, preparing the new young guys on the team, working with new vets and the rationing out of the pressing that is always needed from a real coach during a game to get the most out of his players. Pretty much business as usual for Coach Fisher the last couple years. Yet still it is change.
So given all of the changes above, I can tell you that Cleveland and Green Bay were necessary, not to win, but to get some things established. As a young Rams player, you are needing to know how we travel as a team and what is our process? How do we prepare for a home game and what is our process? What is the best salve to a losing effort, both home and away? You experience all of these things in just two games. Then comes the real dress rehearsal....Pre Season - Week 3
This is the game where things get a bit turned up. Why? Because game planning has finally come into play for the Rams. In his interview before the game he stated that they would "give them (meaning the players) a little more". Well, we came to play at above sea level, against the Denver Broncos, Peyton Manning and his 'ones'. We brought a headache for him and his entire squad. The Rams did this with ALL of the Broncos players present, except for Champ Bailey, and provided the main ingredient; competition!
See, in watching all of the preseason games so far and getting the chance to go to some of the public practices, I have seen that Jeff Fisher has a recipe for success; that is patience and planning. When this was sprinkled on these young men this past weekend, we found that although many mistakes were made, the young Rams were playing against elite players and holding their own. Better yet, beating the one's at one point during the game 20-10.
Our worst enemy that game was ourselves, the St. Louis Rams player's inability to execute. That is something that can be coached by the way.
Jeff Fisher doesn't rush to make a decisions nor does he rush to grab a preseason win. That is not what Jeff Fisher uses the preseason games for. He uses them to evaluate players. He uses them to strengthen his core guys. He uses them to remove the rust and he also uses them to prepare his staff.
So when we see a little bit of Benny Cunningham and have an actual opinion of his power running, it's because the game was planned and managed to ensure that Benny got the time to show his stuff. We can also rest assured that this player has been evaluated for many hours before he even comes in front of the fans.
Patience is making the call to keep Alec Ogletree in a little longer cause he needs the work. How else would he know that unless the coach has been paying attention.
Patience is about ensuring that Tavon Austin only gives the NFL a taste before the feast. Fisher makes sure our vets are ready to play by knowing when to rest them and when to push.
To my point, last season he could easily have told Brian Schottenheimer to 'floor it' during a game, but then that gases out the Offense and the D is left the save the day hoping that special teams comes up with a big play. Why not simply play the game, try to manage time of possession and know when it is right to either go for it on 4th and down or call a fake punt. You can only do this if you have taken out the time to use these preseason games as a barometer for your players both old and new. Fisher knows what his players can do and also knows their ceiling. He knows that this game is played in a full hour. He said they would game-plan for Denver and they stuck to it
So I hope you can see, we truly do not have to worry about our Rams like before when the 4 pillars stood for losing. We finally have a coach that knows the recipe for better game play. Know your staff, know your team, know your playbook, be patient, plan it out and most of all...be a real coach.
Lastly, hats off to the guys I think are about to snatch up a spot on the 53 man squad:
Ray Ray Armstrong - I tell you this guy may be a better option by October to roll with JL and Ogletree out there. My only concern is his weight. He will need to bulk up in order to handle an NFL back through a full game.
Benny Cunningham - yeah the run yard avg will make you frown, but this boy has the Mott's! He has been running with the #2 and #3 Offensive lines. If given proper holes, he can do a lot of damage.
Cody Davis - This is a great pick up by the Rams and I am hoping they follow through and give him a spot on the 53. Yet he might wanna bulk up too as I saw him get a little man handled in the last couple games.
Gerald Rivers - This cat has gotten major work and has shown why. They should ensure that this guy has a spot. He has been working with the 'ones'. He's another one of those gems that the Rams find in camp for the second year in a row.