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St. Louis Rams: The Dread Pirate Fisher

At the start of this season, I predicted the St. Louis Rams would win six games. When I looked at the roster - its position depth consisting mainly of rookies - the thought they could win more seemed absurd "inconceivable"...


Like everyone else, I looked at the game schedule and whipped out my crystal ball to guess at what contests were winnable or not. As I panned down the list of teams, the San Francisco 49ers games made me cringe. In my heart of hearts, the two times the Rams play the 49ers each year is a season unto itself. All the other names on the schedule blur. These two games every year hold special meaning for we long time Rams fans...

Have you ever seen the movie "Princess Bride"? The Rams are like the "Dread Pirate Roberts" in a way. OK, not really, but their coach is... For the last decade we've had few teams anyone would dread facing on Sundays, so we were very Wesley (Watch the movie). There wasn't any reason for another team to think the Rams could win a game, much less challenge the status quo of the NFL's best. We've had quite a few Wesleys along the way, but their names were Linehan, Spagnuolo, and Vitt. They pretended to wave their teams around like swords, only to flee at the first clash of steel. There wasn't a Princess Buttercup either. The ladies just weren't digging feigned bravado, so our Wesleys were stuck with the 2am-last call-un-babes at the end of the bar.

An ownership shift changed things for the Rams. Stan Kroenke stepped in and made tough choices. Billionaires are like that; they don't like losing... So Stan searched far and wide for a Wesley who'd do more than shake an angry fist or clap at other teams. He found Jeff Fisher, threw a small mountain of money at his feet and dared him to become...Well, he wanted someone to be dreaded, and a few million bucks can help anyone garner a given mantle. Fisher accepted the challenge. He took up a suspect sword in the form of the Rams and sharpened its edge. While it takes time to learn how to lunge and parry, he's taking the battle to become relevant slowly. Accepting the fact there will be weeks that will make him groan and cheer, he's moved the Rams forward. It's all about patience like Miracle Max said, "You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles..."

Jeff Fisher has chosen his battles well so far. He aimed at the NFC West when building the current Rams team. Other coaches for the storied franchise have taken a "we need this to beat the other 31 NFL teams" approach, but not Fisher. He set his sights on the only logical course and set sail. He's smart enough to know when almost half your games each year are against three teams, the path to the post season goes through them and not the assorted teams you'd play from outside the division in the regular season. He took the path to "8-8" as his first goal to meter the team's abilities. Count me as stunned when I look at the Rams current NFC West record of 4-0-1. What makes it more amazing is he's done it in a year when every team in the division is not only on the rise, but sporting top ten defenses too.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, those two games that mean more to me than others... Jeff Fisher didn't just take aim at the NFC West. He threw his gauntlet squarely at the 49ers and Jim Harbaugh's feet. In the first meeting this season at Candlestick Park, Fisher slapped the 49ers' egos hard. Three weeks later in the Edward Jones Dome, he slashed at a team destined for the post season with a team carrying many of its rookie flaws as a badge of honor, daring the 49ers to beat him. Some have called the game ugly, but they couldn't be more wrong. The 49ers weren't perfect, but neither were the Rams. Somehow a young, inexperienced team held its ground as both teams flailed away. You don't beat great NFL teams unless you play close to perfect. Perfect was a long way away from the Edward Jones Dome on Sunday. The Rams won because the the first game that ended in a tie made Harbaugh and the 49ers see "The Dread Pirate Fisher", which is way better than any Wesley that's ever been. Harbaugh played Vizzini, grabbing the wrong goblet after second and third guessing himself. The 49ers were the six fingered Count Rugen, to the Rams defensive line's Inigo Montoya: "You killed past Rams. Prepare to die." In a prolonged duel, they vanquished the best offensive line and running attack in the NFL.

In the end, Fisher has been left standing with a winning record in the NFC West, and an oh-so slight chance at the post season. He even got the girl, or in this case draft picks that could launch this team forward for a decade to come. What movie comes next? I don't really know, but I'm positive it'll be an action adventure that'll keep us on the edge of our seats. Very cool times to be a Rams fan...