This time next week, the St. Louis Rams will likely be down the path of a new head coach and general manager search. Kevin Acee of the San Diego Union-Tribune and others have been reporting for some time now that Rams owner Stan Kroenke plans to fire Steve Spagnuolo, the head coach, and Billy Devaney, the general manager, at the end of the season. If a pair of reports surfacing in the last 12 hours are any indication, Kroenke could be looking at a couple of heavy hitters, Jeff Fisher and Jon Gruden, to be his next head coach.
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Acee's most recent report, out Monday night, continues to cite sources who say the incumbent Changers GM A.J. Smith is high atop Kroenke's list of potential replacements for Billy Devaney. Actually, Acee's reporting makes it sound as though Smith is Kroenke's first choice, provided the Chargers can Smith, a decision team president Dean Spanos is said to be weighing.
Smith could bring along Jon Gruden as the Rams next head coach, according to the report which also includes a pretty big scoop in that Acee says Gruden plans to return to coaching in 2012. For months, the conventional wisdom has been that Gruden would stay at ESPN, where his new four-year contract kicks in 2012. Gruden and A.J. Smith have a long-time relationship that goes back to Gruden's days coaching in Oakland. Of course, if Smith stays in San Diego, Gruden could be a candidate to replace Norv Turner, who will most certainly be fired.
Jeff Fisher has already been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Rams head coaching job. In fact, Acee himself was one of the first to report that Fisher could be in play for the Rams as a two-for-one deal with A.J. Smith. Fisher's agent is Marvin Demoff, the father of Rams COO and VP for Football Operations Kevin Demoff. Now Jason LaCanfora of the NFL Network is reporting that Fisher could be in play for the Rams.
Fisher? Gruden? What's going here? There's probably a few factors at play here. First, as Peter King noted yesterday, the Rams job is an attractive one for big names. The team has a franchise quarterback and is one year away from having around $40 million in cap space, i.e. the situation is ripe for a quick turnaround. Finally, don't forget that coaches too have a vested interest in a little public speculation, negotiation to drive up their prices. Free agent players, their agent and other teams play this game all the time.
One thing we can assume is that the Rams will most likely have a new head coach and probably a general manager for 2012. The second major leadership change in three years. As I've said before, let's hope it works this time.