If you've ever gone job hunting your know what a catch-22 "experience" can be. For even the most entry level jobs, you've got to have experience, but because you're just starting out looking for a job, you don't have any experience. What's this have to do with the Rams? Well, if experience is high on your list of priorities, then you may be feeling some concern about the Rams' recent hires to their coaching ranks. Steven Spagnuolo is a first-time head coach and his new offensive and defensive coordinators, Ken Flajole and Pat Shurmur, are rookies to the coordinator role. Does this matter?
ESPN's Mike Sando raised the point about experience today in his NFC West blog. Here's Sando:
Spagnuolo has a defensive background. Offensive coordinator is the most important hire for a defensive-minded head coach. That's why Spagnuolo needs to be right in hiring Shurmur, a first-time coordinator, from the Eagles.
True enough. But what about when experience doesn't matter? After a disastrous 3-win season in 2007, the Rams brought in Al Saunders, a premier name among offensive coordinators. Saunders, after making the Chiefs offense so productive, was coming off a rough stint with Washington when the Rams hired him. As you know, they won two games with him calling the plays...plays that at times left fans dumbfounded. Passes to Anthony Becht, Dan Krieder, etc.?
None of that means that I think Al Saunders is a bad offensive coordinator, but experience doesn't squat when you don't have much to work with. And that was certainly a key problem the Rams faced. The problem with Saunders style - something I think hinders lots of successful veterans - is that he's so married to it, it left him somewhat flummoxed in trying to figure out answers in how to move the ball down the field utilizing the (few) strengths of the players on the field.
Upgrading the roster in key spots will do wonders for the Rams...and their new coordinators. And, let's not forget the strengths each new guy brings to the mix. You can bet that Pat Shurmur's experience and reputation as a QB coach and the Rams saddled with a pricey former Pro Bowl QB who lost his touch figured into that decision.
That's not to discount experience entirely. If Shurmur and Flajole has no NFL experience at all, I'd be worried. But as it is, they've logged a lot of time working with NFL players and getting to know how the league works. Stepping up to coordinator is just part of the natural progression. And with a front office situation finally stabilized and a good head coach in place, they'll get plenty of support.