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Is it Time for the Rams to Clean House?

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The TST staff gives their takes on whether the Rams need (another) regime change. The results may surprise you...

Jeffrey G. Pittenger-USA TODAY Sports

There was much optimism amongst fans as the season was nearing. Jake Long and Sam Bradford were progressing well through their rehab, the team had added a lot of talent via the 2014 draft, and were expecting breakthrough seasons from third year players such as Brian Quick, Janoris Jenkins and Trumaine Johnson.

Then, in week three of the preseason, injuries would damper expectations. Sam Bradford, the centerpiece of the entire Rams rebuild, crumpled as his ACL gave way again. This was a huge blow to the Rams, and the huge flaw in the 3 year plan had been once again exposed.

With the Rams season perched upon a now cracked foundation, the team turned to Austin Davis to lead the team. It worked reasonably well at first, with the Rams staying mostly competitive and culminated with Davis proving efficient enough to lead the Rams to a win over the division rival Seahawks.

Entering last week's game, there was hope that not all was not yet lost. If they could knock off the cross-state rival Chiefs, they would sit at 3-4 and have a reasonable shot at staying in contention. But it was anything but that as the Rams were annihilated and lost numerous starters to injury - 2 for the season.

With Rams fans everywhere caught in another seemingly lost season. As always, the conversation has turned to next year. In what was supposed to be a breakthrough season for the team, here we are entering week 9 looking for answers.

So, I posed a simple question to my colleagues on the TST staff: Do you think that the Rams should bring in a new regime?

CharlesMartel [@CharlesMartel19]

Jeff Fisher should go.

No one, around the entire league would doubt that the Rams have much more talent on their roster than they did in 2012, the first year of the Fisher era. With a lot of drafting and some free agency pick ups, on paper, the roster has gotten better each year. Then why are the Rams regressing?

2012 7-8-1, 4-1-1 in the division
2013 7-9, 1-5 in the division
2014 2-5, 1-1 in division (on pace for 5-11, 3-3 in division(?))

Notice that Fisher's best year with the Rams was his first one?

Yes, there have been key injuries. Yes they have a tough schedule. Yes, they play in the NFC West. Yes, they are the youngest team in the league...again. The bottom line is more talent-less wins. That has to be blamed on coaching.

In my opinion, Les Snead is a fantastic general manager...the rest should start updating their resumes.

Verdict: Fisher goes, Snead stays

Mike D [@dvond]

There is no way Fisher and Snead should be brought back, they have had 3 years, more draft picks than anyone in the league and have a roster of under performing players and coaches.  They could not have missed on every pick you would think?  Almost all the players drafted in the last 3 years would not return the same pick from where they were drafted.  It is a disaster through and through and this franchise needs a complete cultural change.

Verdict: Everyone goes

sergey606 [@thatSergey]

I've said this before and I doubt it's a possible outcome, but I'd like Fisher to step into a FO role and the Rams should hire another coach. I think our current FO is fine, they drafted enough talent and made reasonable moves - but those players are just not showing their talent on the field on a consistent basis. This won't happen for 2 reasons: Fisher is too proud to do that, Fisher will pull a Jerry Jones every week and end up on the field calling plays for the new head coach.

I would be fine if Snead stays as GM, but all the coaches get the ax. It's well known that Fisher is a .500 coach, which to Rams fans suffering through a terrible stretch since mid-2000s, that's tolerable. It's also been said that this is the most talent Fisher had on his roster between Houston, Tennessee, and St. Louis - nothing to show for it. With the roster so "loaded" a Harbaugh-type hire might be needed, when he took over Singletary's team and turned them into a perennial NFC contender. So obviously one of the college coaches would be my choice for Fisher's replacement.

That being said, none of this will happen and Fisher will be a coach next year. The large amount of injuries will give him another excuse to underperform and stay on board. On to year 4 of the Fisher experiment.

Verdict: Stay the Course

EddieP [@iAmEddieP_]

Fisher & Co. need to go. They've shows an inability to adapt. If you do not evolve, you stay behind. It's been proven.I wouldn't get rid of Snead. I like Les.

Verdict: Fisher goes, Snead Stays

northwestRAMSfan [@troilus22]

I do not believe a total front office makeover is necessary.  It seems to me the FO has done a pretty decent job of turning over this roster, and making one that is/should be competitive.  I also don't think Fisher will go, and honestly I don't think he should go.  I do believe Schotty should go, I just can't understand what goes through his head on a week to week basis.  Greg Williams is 7 games into his tenure as the Rams DC, and I will withold judgement on him until the end of the year.  I will say this, in Williams' defense, being without your top Cornerback and 2nd best defender (C Long) for the first half of the season had to have altered his plans somewhat.  Of course he was also part of the brain trust that kept Donald(2nd best defender?) in a limited role until the Seattle game.  To me the area Williams' D has underperformed is the LB corps.  Yes the D-line didn't dominate early like we all hoped, but the secondary has out performed my expectations!  Especially considering the injuries they have dealt with.

>Perhaps I am too forgiving/optimistic of a fan to truly hold this FO/Coaching Staff accountable, but when you look at the ridiculous chain of events since the Cleveland Preseason game, can you honestly say this team SHOULD have a better record?  Yes the team blew big leads against SF and DAL, but even before the CLE game would you have said the Rams SHOULD win both of those games?  One thing the Rams need, and haven't had in a long time, is some stability and a little bit of luck.  If they could figure out how to turn around their injury luck, they have assembled a very solid young core.  Bottom line: Keep Snead and Demoff as I still rate them very highly.  Lose Schotty and find an OC who can use the pieces in place (Especially Tavon and our RBs).  Next season would be the make or break for Fisher and his staff IMO.

Verdict: Stay the Course, but Schotty goes

Douglas M [@thenovelroad]

As the 2014 NFL season began, I thought of one thing when it comes to Jeff Fisher: Can a players' coach win in the NFL? In his first two seasons as coach, he showed promise compared to control freaks like Spagnuolo, and represented a shift from past love affairs with coordinators getting their first head coaching gig at the Rams expense. His players love him, and he's shown more than enough sidelines expertise to make me believe he's a capable coach. So what gives? Why aren't the Rams better than they're showing their fans right now?

My feeling is this: Fisher can coach, but his choices for coordinators has been rocky at best. Schottenheimer was a safe, conservative choice. Gregg Williams is a solid DC, but let's not forget his recent past with "Bounty Gate", and how he's had to shift his ways to get back in the good graces of the NFL. Say what you want, but I have no doubt in my mind that its affected Williams to varying degrees.

Into this, add the constant stream of unknown quantities in the hoards of young, inexperienced players Fisher has had to steward. If what I believe is true - and I think it is - Fisher is trapped in a youth inspired "Ground Hog Day" effect. This team won't begin to flourish until they've had time to coalesce; when learn curves begin to meet, and the inexperienced players become veterans to a degree. Yes, Rams fans have become tired of the "youth excuse", but it's reality until there's a paradigm shift by the big man himself: Jeff Fisher.

Fisher has to know this whole thing has been a learning experience for him too. He has to grow his leadership role; just as players have to evolve, so does he. Next, he has to look at his coordinators, and choose those who will help the Rams actually take a step forward. He has to veer away from free agent fill-ins, and stop mortgaging the future with high priced names who have marginal resumes, or who are past their prime. Jake Long is a great left tackle, but there's a reason why Miami didn't covet him enough to pay him. Jared Cook has all the tools you could want - on paper. But is he worth the money he's being paid, and why didn't Fisher heed warnings about check-y performance? Cook is a prime example of buying in so big to a free agent, that Fisher set the Rams' future based on how Cook would perform in a perfect world. Cast-off former Pro Bowl guards, defensive linemen who "used to be" good... Fisher needs to take a real direction, and not hem and haw by hedging his bets with a smattering of experienced players who really can't do much more than act as lost-leaders to bridge fan hopes.

After the Kansas City game, I watched Jeff Fisher's press conference. If you didn't, give it a look. Specifically, I want you to watch Fisher's eyes. If you're like me, you'll see an uncertainty that's never been there before. Yes, he just lost six players to a variety of injuries, but as he spoke, you could actually tell he wasn't buying what he was saying. The following day, he'd gathered himself a bit more, and began to speak in more commonly heard phrases and platitudes. If he continues along this vain, he's in trouble and so are the Rams. He needs to bat-crap-crazy, and show fans and players he's not going to simply slide into "who do we play next" mode. Cutting players isn't the answer, nor is benching this guy or that... He needs to show NFL fans he isn't a career .500 coach who's past his prime or a "one Super Bowl wonder". Fisher needs to look squarely at his position coaches, and dive into being part of every facet of his team's preparation. He needs to scream at Paul Boudreau during practice, or call out Ray Sherman in front of his players. He needs to actually steer the boat, and not just point to an imagined destiny and hope others will get him there...

I have every confidence in Jeff Fisher as a coach. Yet, I'm not sure he has the same confidence in himself to step forward the way Rams players and fans need him to now, and I mean RIGHT NOW! This whole season, other teams seem to know the cards Fisher is holding before each game. They bide their time, and wait for the Rams to fold. Jeff Fisher, if you happen to read this, here's a bit of advice: It's time to kick over the table...

Verdict: Stay the Course

Brandon Bate [@NoPlanB_]

I’m probably in the minority, but I’m not ready to jump ship on the Jeff Fisher/Les Snead regime just yet.  Mainly, I’ll point to continuity…specifically at Head Coach and Quarterback.  The Rams haven’t had either [6 head coaches in the last 14 years].  Fisher stated one of the main reasons he came to St. Louis was because of Sam Bradford.  And he’s had him healthy what…less than a season and a half.  One of the main "excuses" made for Bradford was lack of continuity with an offensive coordinator, and there’s some truth to that [though I believe the truly elite QB’s could’ve probably excelled].  Regardless, the Rams finish their first season under Jeff Fisher, with a new offense lead by Brian Schottenheimer, with a  7-8-1 record.  A far cry from the 2-14 season prior, but still another losing season in St. Louis.

We expected, minimally, improvement in 2013.  Fair enough.  But the Rams finished 7-9 after Sam Bradford – who looked excellent to start the season in his 2nd year in Schotty’s offense (that you, continuity?) – was lost for the year in the Panthers game.  All things considered, and I’m as tired of losing season as the rest, a 7-9 finish in the toughest division in football, with a backup QB at the helm, wasn’t all that hard to swallow.  I certainly wasn’t expecting to dice through NFC teams in the playoffs with Kellen Clemens under center.  "Next man up" doesn’t always work that way.

So here we are in 2014…a year in which the team will be lead by its 3rd string QB for the entirety of the season.  A new defensive coordinator is calling the shots, and the team is still – as always – the youngest in the NFL.  Sure, some of the players are drawing criticism for their on-field play.  That’s understandable.  But I revert to continuity.  Why is one player granted the "3rd year breakout" clause, but another [and you know it’s more than one] deemed a bust with only 23 games under his belt?  Adjusting to life in the NFL, for some, isn’t all that easy. Ask Isaiah Pead.  The team just lost its leading WR, and it’s starting left tackle.  It’s been without one of its best defensive players from the onset.  Those things matter.

I believe a good coach can take a team to the playoffs.  I believe a QB can do the same.  Combining the two presents a team with an opportunity for a Lombardi trophy.  Sam Bradford may be back next year, but he certainly won’t be the starting QB.  I still think there’s hope for a lot of the Rams’ draft picks from the "Snisher" regime.  I say give them another chance, with a QB [of their choosing] who can stay on the field, and see what they’re capable of…again, providing their entire team isn’t carted off at some point or another.

A rookie QB, with a new, potentially [NFL] inexperienced Head Coach just sounds far less enticing to me than allowing this regime – and these players – another opportunity to gel.  Let the hate rain!

Verdict: Stay the Course

3k [@3k_]

So...

Here's my approach. The three-year plan is failing. The Rams' primary plan, largely built on the backs of Sam Bradford and the belief that they could stash draft picks like Isaiah Pead, Brian Quick, Greg Robinson and Tre Mason for development, fell apart. If they had a backup plan, it's not working. If they didn't, well that's food for legitimate condemnation in and of itself.

So as we play out this season, the issue that comes to the fore is player development. Quick, Mason and Bradford are all off the table thanks to fate. Robinson, Mason, LaMarcus Joyner, E.J. Gaines, Alec Ogletree, T.J. McDonald, Michael Brockers, Janoris Jenkins, Trumaine Johnson and Chris Givens along with all the other young players on the team become the season's purpose. Their development and improvement becomes the central point of success that determines the long-term health of the roster.

So to me, the question isn't "calling for Snisher's head". It's a two-fold issue that determines every fan's response to that.

1.) Most fundamentally, is that core of young players I spelled out sufficient to build a winning roster? The current regime hand-picked (and given the nature of handing draft cards over, yes, that means literally) those individuals among the hundreds of alternate options. They identified the skills, personalities and behaviors as being the best fit for what they wanted to accomplish schematically and systematically. If it's not adequate, then there's no reason to keep them around. This was their shot and if their shot is not sufficient, that's life. If it is a group that can support the veterans on the team...

2.) ...then it suggests that no other head coach/general manager combo would be specifically better suited to those players than Fisher and Snead. A different combo would have picked different players. This crop, this era was built by the current administration for a reason. It may not be delivering results, but a different group with different players might not be either. The real issue here is vision and implementation. If we say that the three-year vision has failed to this point but the personnel in place can turn the corner, then the only other question is who is best suited to implement the next three-year plan?

If we think that this roster can win and that this head coach and manager can build the current group and continue to augment it even without the buffer of an RGIII-level trade, that the next three years can bring the winning records and postseason berths we've been without for a decade, then I have no problem sticking with Fisher and Snead. The problem is that so many of us have concerns that that's not the case.

Personally, I'd say this about those two factors.

1.) I think the roster's not the issue. I believe the personnel is enough to win. I think we've seen that to the degree that, along with the upcoming draft opportunities, personnel is not the factor.

2.) But something else is. The development, the execution, the preparation and the focus has been woefully absent when it mattered most this season. This season. The keypoint in the three-year timeline. And I'm without an answer for why that shouldn't rest on Jeff Fisher's desk. I can't come up with any reason to suggest that the regime that has failed to develop the in-house talents sufficiently and to implement a successful three-year plan would do the exact opposite of that over the next three years.

My optimism isn't rational. My fandom isn't based on any fact or reason. I'm a Rams fan. It's hard for me to abandon the executives on the coaching staff and management team despite the failures through two and a half years. But something has to change. Whether it's the offensive coordinator or a new franchise QB or something else that completely changes the trajectory systematically ahead of changing the end product, we need a change of course.

Am I calling for the heads of Fisher and Snead? No, but I'd let them know some are. That should lead to serious change that doesn't just rely on time to correct the ills of the past few seasons. Because if it doesn't, the change that time will correct will be the removal of Fisher and Snead.

Verdict: Change is needed, but Stay the Course

Joe Mazzi [@Joe_Mazzi]

Admit it - you never honestly expected the Rams to contend for a Super Bowl in year three of the Jeff Fisher/Les Snead regime. Neither did I. Yes, we all did expect to see a much better product by now, but let's also admit that, at times, Snisher has fielded and won with a legitimate football team.

We didn't accept injuries as an excuse when Steve Spagnuolo steered the Rams into a brick wall in 2011, but that team was a deteriorating Steven Jackson and a botched field goal (See: game @ Cleveland) away from forever engraving "0-16" into your recurring nightmares. St. Louis doesn't yet boast the most talented of rosters in football - they're still probably the bottom of the barrel in the NFC West - but we knew long before the season started that the team has put some key building blocks in place.

And that was long before we realized Aaron Donald was actually John Randle cloned and reborn. Faster. Stronger. Shorter.

It's easy to forget that the Rams are less than three years removed from one of the greatest team purges in modern NFL history. We chose to forget and burned the horrid history so our children's children will never know. But the frustration, particularly now, as the injuries and question marks continue to pile over the sinking Dome roof, is obviously warranted.

Still, I, for some reason, believe there is a plan in place that is being followed. Like several of my cohorts, I think continuity is integral for the St. Louis Rams; however, some things are bound to change in Earth City when the season ends. Personally, I hope the Raiders and Mark Davis are enthralled by Brian Scottenheimer. Take him. The offense has had no continuity other than him anyway, and the Rams could have a brand new quarterback next season, too. Why not? Package deal with Saffold?

Fisher, Snead and (I'd like to think/hope) Greg Williams may still have a long future in St. Louis, but they're running out of time. I can't possibly envision a scenario in which Stan Kroenke will stand before the media this spring to announce Fisher's firing. This regime will be back in 2015, but even the quietest of mute Wal-Mart-mogul beneficiaries likely won't stand for fourth year of chaos and broken dreams. Let's just pour another round and see how it goes.

At least Mark Barron should help take our minds off of the draft for a week or two?

Verdict: Stay the Course

Joe Stanfill [@papapegasus]

Jeff Fisher is under fire for a team that hasn't won squat during his tenure.  In less than 2 1/2 seasons people want to hang him in the coat closet like last year's style and go to Macy's to buy the latest fashion.  Hell, even politicians get longer than that to screw up the country.  Fisher and Les Snead have made the right moves for this team. Unfortunately, luck has, which has been known as preparation meeting opportunity, has crapped on this team like an ebola patient on a western bound flight to Chicago.  Sam Bradford is a used Mustang from 2008, whose previous owner decided to put  a supercharger on by himself in the garage. Jake Long has shaken the Rams with two seasons of torn knee ligaments, enough for any fan to scream for the head of Les Snead.  With a 2-5 record heading into San Francisco, the Rams have to worry about owner Stan Kroenke breaking up with St. Louis and packing the bags for L.A.  Let's not even get into the offensive coordinator who sketches out plays with a LIte Brite.

This team is marinating like a steak from Ruth's Chris.  Give it some time. Patience is hard to come by these days.  Jeff Fisher and Les Snead will guide the ship out to international waters where the Rams will kill the NFL like so many Navy SEALS taking on Somalian pirates.

Patience padawans, patience.

Verdict: Stay the Course

Papa Lurch [@Papa_Lurch]

I came into this season with high hopes for the 2014 season. Like most Rams fans, I believed that additions via the draft, another year of seasoning for our young players, and most importantly improved health would mean an upward trajectory. The Rams have seen improvements in the first two areas, but those improvements have been submarined by a firestorm of injuries to key players.

At the conclusion of last week's embarrassment, the Rams were without 8 (EIGHT!) players that were projected to start Week One.

Sam Bradford ACL (IR)
Jake Long ACL (IR)
Brian Quick Shoulder (IR)
Chris Long Ankle (IR-DTR)
Janoris Jenkins Knee
Trumaine Johnson MCL
Scott Wells Elbow
Rodger Saffold Shoulder

That's a TON of key players to lose! Argue all you want about 'next man up' philosophy, but the Rams just don't have enough depth at this point to effectively employ that strategy to stay competitive. Instead, they had to resort to shuffling players to different spots.

Any time this topic is brought up...youth and continuity inevitably become part of the conversation. Defenders of the Les Snead, Jeff Fisher, Kevin Demoff triumvirate are often told that they are making excuses for people who should be held accountable for their failures. To be blunt, these aren't excuses folks, they are the reasons that this team has failed. I'd like to challenge any of you to find a team who has faced as much adversity as this team has that has been wildly successful. It just doesn't happen.

Challenges aside, no one can doubt that some changes have to be made at Rams Park. As much as I love Sam Bradford's skill set, he just can't stay on the field. By all means, bring him back - as your backup - but he can no longer be looked at as the franchise QB that is going to lead this team out of NFL purgatory. Keep him around on a team friendly salary to be a mentor to their shiny new rookie QB.

I say all of this knowing full well that a new 'franchise' QB would likely give Snead and Fisher at least 2 years of leniency from Stan Kroenke. Jeff Fisher is a respected coach in the league and Les Snead has made some amazing moves in the draft while proving to be a dud in free agency. However, with the core of players that the Rams currently have, we won't be needing many UFA pickups in the future.

Personally, I don't think it is wise to clean house. I honestly think that the quickest road to relevancy is with 'Snisher" at the helm of the franchise.

Verdict: Stay the Course

Final Tally

Well there you have it folks. 11 members of the TST staff weighing in on the future of the Front Office at Rams Park. By my count, we have 8 staffers who think staying the course is the best course of action. Two others think that Fisher needs to be canned  and one lonely staffer who wants a entire new regime.

What do you think? Should the Rams clean house or stay the course?