Remember that feeling, fleeting though it was, you had last spring as the Rams draft picks came off the board? We didn't quite know what to make of it entirely, but it had an entirely different feeling, that it had been done right, unlike so many drafts of the past. It felt like things might be heading in the right direction. Things were heading in the right direction, with just a few more rivers to cross.
Hiring Spagnuolo completes the desperately needed overhaul the Rams leadership, the one that started with Chip Rosenbloom's hands-on approach to the franchise, Linehan's firing and the removal of Zygmunt, and the promotion of Billy Devaney. Spagnuolo and Devaney have a big job(s) ahead of them. They must bring back and add more fans, helping them build a deeper connection with the Rams and use gains in the standings to stabilize a franchise with an uncertain future.
Spagnuolo has a big job ahead of him, but he's comes with a proven track record as a leader and, more importantly, someone who knows what it feels like to win and is unwilling to settle for anything less.
A "To Do" for the Rams new head coach, Steve Spagnuolo:
- Impart a winning mentality in a locker room used to losing. Spagnuolo's ability to get the Giants to buy into his system last season in his first season as their defensive coordinator and continuing to push them after a rough start to the season impressed me. Through his guidance (and, obviously, others get credit too) the Giants defense transformed itself into a Super Bowl champion. The Rams may not be looking at a championship next season, but Spagnuolo, and some wise personnel moves, can get them winning games again.
- Finding his co-workers, specifically the coordinators. These are the guys that translate the vision into the right Xs and Os on the field.I suspect this is something Spags already discussed with Devaney in his interview, and he has a pretty good idea of who he needs. Having shown the commitment to right the ship, I expect the Rams should offer him whatever leverage he needs to get the right people in place (that sounds so obvious, but it didn't used to be that way at Rams Park).
- Personnel decisions. Lots of goodbyes for players currently on the roster and hellos to those who'll replace them. Spagnuolo will work with Devaney to get the kind of players his grand design requires and round out the talent already in place.
Building a tough defense around first round picks DE Chris Long and DT Adam Carriker. This kind of goes along with the point above, but these two are the foundation for the identity up front in this defense for years to come, and the front defines Spags' defense. It's no leap to assume that he'll keep the 4-3, but watching it evolve promises to be fun. In the backfield, he may have more work to do, with so many players' contracts coming up. Can he take O.J. Atogwe, who'll get the franchise tag for sure, from a really good ball hawk to an elite safety? Can he lure SS James Bulter to join him in St. Louis as a replacement to Corey Chavous?
- Fixing the offensive line and the offense. The Giants, despite someone named Manning at QB, feature a power running game, the same kind the Rams want/need to install. Nothing can happen until they fix the front. Devaney will be bringing in some new personnel for this, but what about the guys who stick around? 3k made a great point the other day about Incognito, "a more professional, focused franchise would have probably nipped the entire Incognito saga in the bud after the Redskins game." That applies to some other players elsewhere on the team too and is exactly the kind of thing that's been a huge part of the problems on the field. See above, "imparting a winning mentality." Can he help RB Steven Jackson reach cross the threshold to a truly elite player? Can he steady the offense enough to steady Bulger's hand?
Looking at his background and his aggressive playing philosophy, things are really looking up on both side of the ball. There's a lot more to talk about, such as what players Spagnuolo might be able to lure to St. Louis. Now it's time to start thinking about the turnaround. There a few things left to do, but with the leadership in place the Rams can start thinking about repeating the turnarounds we saw this season in Miami and Atlanta and kicking off a new era of Rams football.
Giants fans over at Big Blue View are already commiserating the loss of their defensive coordinator. That's a good sign.