Admit it, as you watched the playoffs yesterday something was distracting you. "How long until that's the Rams there," you kept asking yourself. Rams fans are hungry for a turnaround, and watching two playoff teams with second year head coaches and one with a rookie head coach put playoff visions in our heads. With Steve Spagnuolo hired to coach the Rams, how long now?
Being a sports fan is at its best when you're not expecting miracles but holding out some faith that they can happen. That said, the Rams have a long way to go from a team that won 5 games in two seasons to a Super Bowl contender. New head coach Steve Spagnuolo fulfilled lots of wishes, but as far as I know he doesn't have some kind of football midas touch, the kind that can turn Alex Barron into a brick wall with a steady three-point stance or make Tye Hill a human force field in which no balls can pass through.
But he can put Will Witherspoon on the outside where his athleticism belongs and he can put a little polish on the line protecting Marc Bulger. Yesterday, we all saw the results of inspired leadership, and the Rams, of all teams, now have that in spades. Check out Spagnuolo's comments to the Post-Dispatch about a big factor his decision to take this job:
I was very blessed and humbled that I was able to talk to various teams throughout this process. What I was looking for in terms of a final decision was people. How it would be working with the people? It was a gut (feeling). I knew inside this was the right thing to do.
Nobody would have said that back in the Jay Zygmunt days, which you only have to go back a few months to remember. This morning I was reading this editorial from the NYT about the newish head coaches and how they turned around teams written off for dead. In each case, those coaches were able to rebuild the team's identity. To put an unquestioning commitment to winning at the heart of that reconstructed identity, Spagnuolo has to convince the players that his way works.
Now that the Rams front office has broken with a recent past marred by infighting and power grabs, it should be evident to the players that winning is again the primary focus of the organization. That makes Spagnuolo's job that much easier, giving him the chance to bring in his coaching staff, help guide the personnel decisions that fit his vision, and give him a leg up in the locker room.
The players on this roster, or whichever ones will be left after the purges ahead, have to be hungry for a different approach to the game. Going to work everyday, especially a job where you put your health and thus your livelihood on the line each week, and experiencing nothing but futility leaves a competitor somewhere short of fulfilled. Haslett came in and gave the team a taste of winning and instilled a sense of pride in the building that had been so lacking. Why do you think the players passed around a petition supporting Haslett? He was a breath of fresh air from the desperate Linehan and a front office chasing its tail for the last five years. The team is braced for a turnaround. If Haslett was a breath of fresh air, Spagnuolo is sweeping sea breeze.