In less than 2 weeks, everyone will be dissecting the 2014 Draft Class and start making predictions for next season. Only we know better. Before we crown the Rams as the 2014 NFC West champions like every year let’s take a look at how things developed during last season.
The 2013 version of the St. Louis Rams managed to do no better than its 2012 predecessor, winning only 7 games for the second straight season.
Factors like the development of young guys like Sam Bradford and Chris Givens, along with another strong draft class and solid free agency acquisitions kept building fan expectations for the upcoming season. After all, the rams didn’t lose in all of 2012 to then NFC Champion San Francisco and went 4-1-1 in the NFC West which is the NFL’s best division.
The young talent had one year of seasoning and could only get better. The draft class was universally acclaimed. What could go wrong?
Then the season began…
Although the Rams were just a couple of points away from being 2-0 for the first time since 2001, the passing attack wasn’t that good and everything else was a work in progress. The running game was non-existent; the defense showed signs of regression under first-time coordinator Tim Walton, the special teams were not so special during a stretch of games that kept taking good plays away with silly penalties.
All of a sudden, the once promising Rams were 1-3 and at the bottom of the division.
The most embarrassing moment of the season came when the Rams kneeled down the ball so the game would mercifully end in front of their home crowd during the final moments of a 35-11 defeat to an ailing 49ers team. It was looking more and more that the 2013 experiment was officially over.
But then the light went on. Fisher replaced the pass-first attack with his trademark run oriented offense and inserted rookie RB Zac Stacy into the mix and the change was huge. The Rams finally seemed to have found their rhythm and started playing with more confidence until Sam Bradford tore his ACL and was put on IR.
The second half of the season was thought to be a disaster but Fisher and company kept it interesting. Playing the underdog against juggernaut Seattle, the Rams were a mere yard away from pulling the upset.
Backup QB Kellen Clemens did an admirable job filling in for Bradford, but make no mistake, while he didn’t cost the team much with mistakes, he failed to make big plays with the players around him and the offense regressed, which is a shame since the defense actually progressed during this period.
All said and done, the 7-9 Rams campaign was, being put in Jerry Jones’ words, "a moral victory" in the sense that the team didn’t packed it up after Bradford’s injury or after a terrible start to the season but it also didn't even have a winning record again.
The young talent developed further and the prime example of that is the emergence of All-Pro Robert Quinn. Guys like Stacy, OL Rodger Saffold, Ogletree, CB Trumaine Johnson, RB Benny Cunningham, WR Stedman Bailey and even K Greg Zuerlein showed a lot of promise.
The 2013 season showed that this team doesn’t lack heart. It only lacks experience, so if a lesson had to be learned from last year is would be this, PATIENCE. Remember that it wasn’t long ago that even a 7-9 season was out of the question for St. Louis.
Maybe 2014 is the year in which guys like Brian Quick finally live up to their potential or at least one of the other WRs breaks out.
Maybe 2014 is the year in which the all the potential finally starts being translated into wins.
The talent is there. The coaching is there. Just don’t crown these Rams just yet. Let them prove first that they are ready to play with the big guys.