The St. Louis Rams are a mess this season. They are easily the worst team, in the worst division, in the NFL. Whatever could go wrong with the Rams has gone wrong this season. Whether that's losing their best players to injury, coaching mistakes, or just bad play, Rams fans have seen all that and more this season.
Coming off a promising 7-9 season last year, what's happening in 2011 has everyone calling for the front office's collective heads. That's understandable; everyone has been questioning coach Steve Spagnuolo since last season.
What surprised me is when everyone started talking about firing Billy Devaney. I thought it would blow over after a while, but it's gotten worse with each passing week. Was he really worse than who has been in charge of acquiring talent in the past? I don't think so.
So following the jump, let's talk some Billy Devaney.
What Devaney was given when he became the Rams GM:
Billy Devaney was promoted to GM of the Rams following their 2008 season. He was originally hired in February 2008 to help the Rams draft players that season.
Most of the time when a GM inherits a team, there is a good chance that they have some good players or at least some good depth on the roster. Unfortunately, while the Rams did have a handful of solid players, a majority of the players were either old or didn't perform up to their contracts: See - Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael.
Nine of the players on the current St. Louis Rams roster have been here since Devaney was first hired. Believe me, he didn't cut those players because he wanted them to stay; he had to have something on which to build a team. Did anyone think that it would be easy or quick?
It's unfair to count the 2009 season. In 2009, it was more about breaking down the roster for Devaney and releasing players that struggled or under performed. (Go have a look at how many of the current 53-man roster were on the team in 2008)
The staff that Billy helped put together:
Billy's first hire as Rams GM was Steve Spagnuolo. Say what you want about Steve, but he and his defensive coordinator Ken Flajole have made the Rams average defenders look pretty good - but that's a story for another day. Pat Shurmur was also brought in, and did well enough to become a NFL head coach for the Browns two years later.
He also tried to solve the Rams injury problem by allowing Steve Spagnuolo to fire key members of the training staff as well as getting the team to stop changing the turf every season.
Devaney helped the Rams become more structured. He hired more scouts than the team had previously. He also hired Mike Williams as the vice president of player personnel, a position the Rams haven't had since the year 2000.
He hired Kevin Demoff to help with contracts and salary cap planning.
He hired a solid group of professionals who will help the Rams make it to the next level. This is the type of structure that the Rams needed and something they hadn't had in years.
|2011 - St. Louis Rams|
|1||14||Robert Quinn||DE||North Carolina|
|3||78||Austin Pettis||WR||Boise State|
|4||112||Greg Salas IR||WR||Hawaii|
|5||158||Jermale Hines cut||DB||Ohio State|
|7||216||Mikail Baker cut||DB||Baylor|
|7||228||Jabara Williams cut||LB||Stephen F. Austin St.|
|7||229||Jonathan Nelson cut||DB||Oklahoma|
|2010 - St. Louis Rams|
|2||33||Rodger Saffold IR||T||Indiana|
|3||65||Jerome Murphy IR||DB||South Florida|
|4||99||Mardy Gilyard cut||WR||Cincinnati|
|5||132||Michael Hoomanawanui IR||TE||Illinois|
|5||149||Hall Davis cut||DE||Louisiana-Lafayette|
|6||170||Fendi Onobun cut||TE||Houston|
|6||189||Eugene Sims||DE||West Texas A&M|
|7||211||Marquis Johnson IR||DB||Alabama|
|7||226||George Selvie cut||DE||South Florida|
|7||254||Josh Hull||LB||Penn State|
|2009 - St. Louis Rams|
|2||35||James Laurinaitis||LB||Ohio State|
|3||66||Bradley Fletcher IR||DB||Iowa|
|5||160||Brooks Foster cut||WR||North Carolina|
|6||196||Keith Null cut||QB||West Texas A&M|
|7||211||Chris Ogbonnaya cut||RB||Texas|
|2008 - St. Louis Rams|
|2||33||Donnie Avery cut||WR||Houston|
|3||65||John Greco cut||T||Toledo|
|4||101||Justin King||CB||Penn State|
|4||128||Keenan Burton cut||WR||Kentucky|
|5||157||Roy Schuening cut||G||Oregon State|
|7||252||David Vobora cut||LB||Idaho|
|2011 - New England Patriots|
|5||138||Marcus Cannon||T||Texas Christian|
|5||159||Lee Smith cut||TE||Marshall|
|6||194||Markell Carter cut?||LB||Central Arkansas|
|7||219||Malcolm Williams cut?||DB||Texas Christian|
|2010 - New England Patriots|
|3||90||Taylor Price||WR||Ohio U.|
|6||205||Ted Larsen cut||G||North Carolina State|
|7||208||Thomas Welch cut||OT||Vanderbilt|
|7||248||Kade Weston cut||DT||Georgia|
|7||250||Zac Robinson cut||QB||Oklahoma State|
|2009 - New England Patriots|
|2||40||Ron Brace||DT||Boston College|
|2||41||Darius Butler cut||DB||Connecticut|
|3||83||Brandon Tate cut||WR||North Carolina|
|3||97||Tyrone McKenzie cut||OLB||South Florida|
|4||123||Rich Ohrnberger cut?||G||Penn State|
|5||170||George Bussey cut||T||Louisville|
|6||198||Jake Ingram cut||C||Hawaii|
|6||199||Stryker Sulak cut||DE||Missouri|
|6||207||Myron Pryor cut?||DT||Kentucky|
|7||232||Julian Edelman||WR||Kent State|
|7||234||Darryl Richard cut||DT||Georgia Tech|
|2008 - New England Patriots|
|2||62||Terrence Wheatley cut||CB||Colorado|
|3||78||Shawn Crable cut||OLB||Michigan|
|3||94||Kevin O'Connell||QB||San Diego State|
|4||129||Jonathan Wilhite cut||CB||Auburn|
|6||197||Bo Ruud cut||LB||Nebraska|
|2011 - Pittsburgh Steelers|
|1||31||Cameron Heyward||DE||Ohio State|
|4||128||Cortez Allen||DB||The Citadel|
|5||162||Chris Carter||LB||Fresno State|
|6||196||Keith Williams cut||G||Nebraska|
|7||232||Baron Batch cut||RB||Texas Tech|
|2010 - Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2||52||Jason Worilds||LB||Virginia Tech|
|3||82||Emmanuel Sanders||WR||Southern Methodist|
|4||116||Thaddeus Gibson cut||LB||Ohio State|
|5||151||Chris Scott cut||T||Tennessee|
|5||164||Crezdon Butler cut||DB||Clemson|
|6||188||Jonathan Dwyer||RB||Georgia Tech|
|6||195||Antonio Brown||WR||Central Michigan|
|7||242||Doug Worthington cut||DE||Ohio State|
|2009 - Pittsburgh Steelers|
|3||79||Kraig Urbik cut||T||Wisconsin|
|3||96||Keenan Lewis||DB||Oregon State|
|5||168||Joe Burnett cut||DB||Central Florida|
|5||169||Frank Summers cut||RB||Nevada-Las Vegas|
|6||205||Ra'Shon Harris cut||DT||Oregon|
|7||226||A.Q. Shipley cut||C||Penn State|
|7||241||David Johnson||TE||Arkansas State|
|2008 - Pittsburgh Steelers|
|2||53||Limas Sweed cut||WR||Texas|
|3||88||Bruce Davis cut||LB||UCLA|
|4||130||Tony Hills cut||T||Texas|
|6||188||Mike Humpal cut||OLB||Iowa|
|6||194||Ryan Mundy||FS||West Virginia|
|2011 - Detroit Lions|
|2||44||Titus Young||WR||Boise State|
|7||209||Johnny Culbreath||T||South Carolina State|
|2010 - Detroit Lions|
|4||128||Jason Fox||T||Miami (Fla.)|
|7||213||Willie Young||DE||North Carolina State|
|7||255||Tim Toone cut||WR||Weber State|
|2009 - Detroit Lions|
|1||20||Brandon Pettigrew||TE||Oklahoma State|
|2||33||Louis Delmas||DB||Western Michigan|
|3||82||Derrick Williams cut||WR||Penn State|
|4||115||Sammie Lee Hill||DT||Stillman|
|6||192||Aaron Brown cut||RB||Texas Christian|
|7||228||Lydon Murtha cut||T||Nebraska|
|7||235||Zack Follett cut||LB||California|
|7||255||Dan Gronkowski cut||TE||Maryland|
|2008 - Detroit Lions|
|1||17||Gosder Cherilus||T||Boston College|
|2||45||Jordon Dizon cut||OLB||Colorado|
|3||64||Kevin Smith||RB||Central Florida|
|3||87||Andre Fluellen||DT||Florida State|
|5||136||Kenny Moore cut||WR||Wake Forest|
|5||146||Jerome Felton cut||FB||Furman|
|7||216||Landon Cohen cut||DE||Ohio U.|
|7||218||Caleb Campbell cut||DB||Army|
What you should take from the draft tables:
These draft charts weren't made to talk about players who start, but to talk about the players who are still on their drafted team. As you can see it's hard to consistently hit on players drafted on the third day of the draft.
It's evident the Rams need to start drafting players who have a chance to provide depth, also letting some of the players develop for longer than a year would help too.
Also, it would be easy to say the Rams should have drafted one player over another, or that they had easy choices to make because they picked high in the draft the last few years. I disagree. How many players in 2009 could the Rams have picked over Jason Smith that are doing well in the league now? Consider too, that the Rams could have missed on James Laurinaitis and picked Ray Maualuga. How many of you wanted Aaron Curry? So while the Rams might miss on "Day Three" guys, they hit on some good players too. The role of the coaching staff is critical with the late-round players, and Spagnuolo has control over who stays on the roster.
Players brought in by Billy Devaney:
He also brought in Danario Alexander, Josh Gordy, Brit Miller and Darian Stewart. These four players could have a future with the team despite being undrafted.
Questions people ask regarding Billy:
Where are the playmakers?
The ugly truth is that the Rams haven't had a chance to get those players, for various reasons. Teams just don't give playmakers away. This isn't Madden, it's the NFL. Then there is the possibility that the St. Louis Rams aren't an attractive destination for free agents. The only hope the Rams really have is overpaying, or just signing mid-level talent.
That's not to say that Billy hasn't tried. Last season, the Rams tried to trade for Vincent Jackson, but it was said that the Chargers wanted a better offer than the Rams could muster.
The 4 Pillars are a joke, what's the point of following them?
It's a reason why the Rams avoided players like Brandon Marshall and Desean Jackson. They may be great players, but they can also cause great headaches and help divide the locker room.
The Rams should be able to add a couple of players who don't follow all of the 4 pillars next season, but adding those in the past would have harmed a rebuilding team. Really though: What's so bad about wanting players who have faith, character, core values, and put the team first?
How come the Rams don't have a young back up running back?
What has Billy done this season?
Well even though this season has went down hill, he gave the Rams what should have been solid players. Mike Sims-Walker, Ben Leber, Zac Diles, and others haven't panned out. Maybe if the Rams had a whole offseason the free agents would have had more time to get used to their new system and the team around them.
Billy also put together a solid draft. The players selected in the first 4 rounds should be Rams for a while, and they all have shown flashes of at least becoming solid players.
It should also be mentioned that when Josh McDaniel's became offensive coordinator, Billy drafted players that Josh wanted in his offense. He also ended up trading for Brandon Lloyd, who Josh most likely vouched for and I'm sure Sam Bradford isn't complaining about the aquisition.
He did all that, but the Rams have regressed this season:
Honestly, it's easy to say that the Rams regressed this year, but it's not like the Rams were a great team last season. They went 7-9 against a weaker schedule than the one they are playing this season. The Rams didn't have the talent to beat good teams last year, so it's not a huge surprise that they didn't do it this season.
With all that said, Devaney gave the team a good enough roster to compete, before they were hit with a lot of injuries. The Rams lost 10 corner backs and all three of their runningbacks have been injured. Their franchise QB missed a couple of games. The Rams lost two good slot wide receivers. Both of their young struggling offensive tackles are out for the season. You have to admit that's a lot to overcome, especially for a team lacking a lot of depth.
Evaluating Billy Devaney:
Honestly - you have to be fair about this situation. When Devaney became the GM, all he had was "a dollar and a dream." I didn't write this to say that he has been perfect. I'm sure there are a couple of players in free agency and the draft that he could have chosen.
My point is to say, that no matter who "coulda - shoulda" been the GM instead of Billy Devaney - it would be hard to say that they would have done much better. You don't have to agree that he's been a good GM, but he at least deserves one more season to finish what he and Steve Spagnuolo started. If he and the other staff members haven't improved the team next year over this disgraceful season, then call for his head.
So let's be frustrated as fans; we have every right to given the state of this team and they don't deserve sympathy. We also should remind ourselves that it's not easy to build a team up from nothing. Bringing back Devaney and his crew next season, might feel like getting your teeth pulled, but the end result could be better than a fat kid eating cake.