The St. Louis Rams have six games to salvage something of their 2011 season. Spoiler alert: it isn't going to happen, not with all the injuries and a final five game schedule tougher than their first-half slate of games. Despite a confluence of factors, some of which are beyond control, the results do not bode well for Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo and General Manager Billy Devaney.
A report earlier this week from the San Diego Union Tribune noted that Stan Kroenke was indeed planning to can the current bunch, having already started exploring potential general manager candidates. Kroenke has some responsibility for this mess too, as Bernie Miklasz pointed out in a Thanksgiving Day column in the Post-Dispatch. (If you haven't read Bernie's column yet, go do so right now). Kroenke owes long-suffering Rams fans results, a winning team, if the franchise is to expect ticket sales or public support, fiscal and/or moral, for a new stadium.
Spagnuolo has the ultimate responsibility for what happens on the field. So whether the Rams offense effectively uses an empty backfield, players get flagged umpteen times for penalties or the punter puts the ball right into the hands of some of the league's most dangerous return men, Spagnuolo bears the responsibility. As the lead personnel man, the buck ultimately stops with Devaney for the draft picks, free agent decisions, etc. Miklasz echoes a familiar refrain, an accurate one, muttered by fans and experts alike:
Deep into this third season, Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo is 10-32. The Rams are 12-46 since GM Billy Devaney was signed on in 2008 to improve the team's personnel. The Rams have selected 34 players since the 2008 draft, and 17 are gone already.
Only a precious few of the draft picks rate as franchise pieces. Only nine Rams on the current roster (including injured players) were here before Devaney arrived in '08. Only six were here before Spagnuolo became coach in '09.
Over all of that is Kroenke, accountable ultimately for the overall health of the franchise. Miklasz makes another point that jives with the recent news about Kroenke's plans to clean house at Rams Park: Kroenke is an "absentee owner." Unlike other NFL owners, he does not involve himself directly in the day-to-day business of the franchise. That is not a recipe for failure in and of itself; however, it does require some skilled executives running the team, who are in frequent contact and frequently accountable to the owner.
In the wake of the news that Kroenke was looking to replace Devaney and Spagnuolo, it was also reported that he was considering hiring a team president, an executive to oversee all of the operations for the Rams. It's a logical move for Kroenke to make with the Rams, since obviously something is not working correctly between the player development and the play acquisition roles on the team, especially with glaring shortcomings in both departments.
Kroenke openly praised Arsene Wegner on several occasions recently as his ideal manager. Wegner handles both the talent acquisition and on-field roles that are divided in the current structure at Rams Park. More importantly, Wegner has gotten results during his tenure with the Arsenal, though a championship still eludes them.
Over the next six games, little will change with the Rams. Hopefully, Spagnuolo and his players can at least compete and prevent any further injuries, a small victory at this point. The more important struggles for the Rams will play out behind the scenes and in January if, and hopefully when, the Rams start making the proper arrangements for their future.