Outside of my now infamous Mock Drafts, this is the first article I've written where I feel like ducking? The St. Louis Rams have had a terrible week, losing twice in convincing fashion. Dallas and San Francisco are tough teams, and I think we all took them lightly, just as we overestimated the ability of the Rams to gel as a cohesive unit. Young and old, rookie or veteran, the Rams have a blend of players that have seemed disconnected, or at the very least lacking any kind of NFL team aspects.
This kind of thing invariably falls on the head coach and his staff. Rightly so, in my opinion, since it's their job to prepare these players - whatever their experience level. I get it! Fans are pissed off, and lynch mobs are easily formed in the NFL world. Cries of "Off with his head" are being thrown about, while some imagine Jeff Fisher sitting back laughing, saying: "let them eat cake.."
This is where I'd insert the first image of me ducking, as DC throws 20 year old Twinkies at my head. Luckily, he throws like a little girl. If he'd let his wife throw, I'd be on the concussion lists...
Bernie Miklasz may have hit on a point, in that he feels Jeff Fisher and Co. have made him and others in the media look like idiots? But is it really Fisher's fault that media hype, along with fans' wish and dreams, spun out of control? I know I bought in big time, and so did everyone here at Turf Show Times. Maybe the Rams' marketing department didn't do enough to manage fans' expectations, but is this really their job?
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The most troubling aspect of this line of thought, is how tired I got of hearing how young the Rams are as a team. Many thought the constant mentions of these pubescent charges were merely the pre-positioning of an excuse barrier, should the team fail to live up to the hype thrown their way? It could very well be the case, or it could have been a subtle, genuine warning by Jeff Fisher to fans. Either way, it fell on deaf ears. We all gave these warnings the proverbial "La-La-La!, while we covered our ears.
We all flipped a coin, and took the hedonistic view of what the Rams would be in 2013. Why not? Can anyone really blame win-starved Rams fans for hoping against hope for a stellar team this season? It's all been made worse by the meteoric rise of the NFC West to prominence, with media mavens drooling over the division's defensive power. Few remember, that at no time during the off season did anyone tout NFC West offenses as potential juggernauts.
I think someone just tried to throw Brian Schottenheimer at me? The whole guy, not just a picture!
I've been reading some of the comments by New York Jets fans. I have to admit, they mentioned their misgivings about the Jet's former offensive coordinator shortly after Jeff Fisher hired him. I wrote these off as twaddle at the time, bending toward the fault being more Rex Ryan's than "Schotty's". What's more, I saw good things in the Rams offense in 2012, with Bradford having his best year as a pro - 3,702 yards on 551 attempts. When I look at Bradford's stats so far this season, I get a rumbling in my stomach. With 182 pass attempts so far this season, Bradford is on pace to throw the ball 728 times by year's end. The All-Time NFL record for pass attempts in a single season? Have a look:
Most Passes Attempted, Season
727 - Matthew Stafford, Detroit, 2012
691 - Drew Bledsoe, New England, 1994
679 - Peyton Manning, Indianapolis, 2010
670 - Drew Brees, New Orleans, 2012
663 - Matthew Stafford, Detroit, 2011
You may recall the 2012 Detroit Lions didn't have a rushing game to speak of, but they did have Calvin Johnson. No where on the Rams roster, is there a receiver who's anything close to "Megatron". But they do have the most talented wide receiver group the franchise has had in the last 5 years, or at least it looks that way on paper? It may be just me, but I never bought into the hype of Tavon Austin to the extent he'd be a 1,000 yard receiver in his first year. Yet, it does appear the former West Virginia star is being used in an odd fashion. It's almost as if he's this new toy, with loads of features buttons on it, and his coaches have foregone the user manual to just randomly punch buttons to see what happens? The lack of imagination in Brian Schottenheimer's playbook may be something fans are imagining. But the plays that are actually called aren't, and I tend to think it has as much to do with players being asked to accomplish the tasks at hand. I see a disconnect reminiscent of Josh McDaniel's time with the Rams. Has Schotty devolved into an "X-s and O-s" coach this season? I think there's a strong argument to made here. What's more, I've lost all confidence in receivers coach Ray Sherman. This isn't the first time I've noticed he appears to have guys he's willing to play, and those he just won't. There's no conceivable reason for Stedman Bailey to not be playing more than on special teams. Yes, Bailey has had a couple penalties covering kicks, but I can see no other receiver playing with his enthusiasm and physicality. Austin Pettis gets the calls, and he's scored a couple times. But I submit any receiver in the same pattern would do as well. Pettis isn't going to get the Rams much in the way of "yards after catch", so why not try to improve on his position?
No one should be surprised Jared Cook has fallen off after his great week #1 showing. Opposing teams simply took out their Vernon Davis game plans from last season, and found a way to deal with him in short order. Davis had one of the worst years of his career in 2012, simply because he began to be checked hard at the line before being handed off to defensive back coverage. What bothers me, is the Rams coaching staff appears not to take this into account as they move forward?
OK! Now quit it! Put the Yugo down!
The Rams offensive line puzzles me? Paul Boudreau's miracle ways of 2012 seems to have disappeared. When I looked at this offensive line of Saffold, Dahl, Wells, Williams and Jake Long, I have to admit I was impressed when compared to the grab-bag version of 2012. I honestly don't know what's going on with this unit, which should've been a load-stone for the Rams this season. Run blocking is non-existent, and pass protection is starting to break, with Bradford being sacked 11 times in the last two games. If this continues, he's on pace to eat the turf a David Carr-esk 70+ times by the end of the regular season. No wonder he wants to extend his contract now, eh? He'll be in traction before Christmas at this pace.
Why is there a crowd of people outside my house? It's daytime, so why are they carrying torches?
Handling disappointment is tough. The Rams have made an art of letting their fans down, but I can't help but think some of this is on us. It's a natural human response to live in the past when times get tough. "I remember when-s" ring in our ears, and make us look wistfully off in the distance as we recall better days. We live to see great moments re-occur; for lightning to strike twice. You can't force it. It happens when footballs bounce the right way, and players seem to just know where to be on the field at any given moment. The awesome thing about the NFL, is each team can rise from the ashes at any given moment, and take our collective breathes away...