In our first story reacting to St. Louis Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher's lack of answers last evening, TSTer robbytfd had a great comment regarding the value of St. Louis Post-Dispatch Rams Beat Reporter Jim Thomas and ESPN's Nick Wagoner and what he perceives their role to be in covering the Rams:
I can't speak for anyone else. And I might be completely alone on this.
But I’m pretty tired of the onslaught directed towards guys in the media. Specifically, Thomas and Wagoner. I understand your frustration in hearing them ask near pointless questions. But have you ever considered they ask these questions because Fisher is incapable of giving meaningful answers? Why waste your time and piss off your only source of information? And it’s not like they have full license to twist off and say whatever the hell they want. Nor should they. And, no offense meant here, I think you guys do a great job: But they aren’t writing for a fan blog. They have editors who I’m sure dictate a good bit of what they want in each piece. Which is why every post game piece reads exactly the same. But they also have to maintain a professional relationship with Fisher, because who knows how long he’ll be the coach. I don’t know. I guess I just think it’s easy for us to sit back and admonish these guys for their saccharine questions without thinking about it from their perspective. They NEED answers to "fill out" their pieces. That’s what someone is paying them to do. And they know better than us. Last week is evidence. One tough question in four years and Fisher says "kiss my ass" and walks out. Then they had nothing. I just think they understand their position. True, it’s a no win position. They aren’t challenging Fisher. But that’s because Fisher doesn’t have to let them.
There's a lot in there worth considering today after the Rams have fallen to 4-8 in Fisher's fourth year as head coach and we begin the approach into the 2016 offseason which might well see the Rams head a new direction at the top.
Obviously, the question of assignment is important. It's why after Case Keenum was clearly concussed in the game against the Baltimore Ravens, neither Thomas nor Wagoner even raised the question of responsibility for taking him out in their post-game questions. It wasn't central to their assignments.
I think the question for me then is what is the value of that assignment?
How much does anybody really care about Fisher's answers if he's "incapable of giving meaningful" ones (even though we know damn well he's capable of it though perhaps not willing) especially if they have nothing to do with what was obviously the most important storyline coming out of that game? If anything, robby's comment is more a condemnation on their editors and the diminishing value of print media which impacts online presence (which obviously is more important in Thomas' case than Wagoner's. That they "NEED answers to 'fill out' their pieces" indicated how little value those pieces really are if they're nothing more than an opportunity for Fisher, or whomever, to pass along any information without any validation or analysis of its veracity. If what Thomas and Wagoner NEED is for Jeff Fisher to say "we'll fix it", than what service are they even providing with their access?
Robby's absolutely correct that last weekend served as perhaps the one overly critical moment in their credentialed coverage of Jeff Fisher (and to be more specific, it was Wagoner who breached that perhaps hypothetical agreement). But what was more valuable to us as fans: Fisher's obvious frustration and a request to kiss his ass in a lack of willingness to give the media his usual coachspeak or more usual coachspeak? I don't consider the former "nothing." If anything, Wagoner's pressing of Fisher was perhaps the most professional use of his access to Fisher to date.
And let's not ignore that both have other opportunities to be less ignorant of both Fisher's mistakes and the Rams' as a whole. Radio appearances and other coverage opportunities have seen both much more fairly critical. But access to the Rams' head coach matters, especially when they're granted it with near exclusivity.
Finally, I'd push back at the notion that there's been an "onslaught" of criticism at TST regarding both. If anything, the dearth of criticism anywhere else is more of the problem.
Remember, it was Thomas' own snarky criticism of Fisher's dishonesty in March that showed he was capable of calling the Rams' Head Coach out:
Pretty lame explanations by Snead and Fisher for why Bradford was traded.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 13, 2015
Fisher said Bradford probably wouldn't have been back even if he had agreed to paycut.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 13, 2015
If that's the case, why tell everyone how much Bradford means to the franchise for two months?— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 13, 2015
Not like there was some huge trade market for Foles and Rams had to disguise their intentions.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 13, 2015
Wonder how that plays in locker room in terms of credibility issue? Heard some Rams players not happy with how whole Bradford thing handled.— Jim Thomas (@jthom1) March 13, 2015
Clearly, Thomas was unhappy at being fed a load of misleading information from Fisher and felt his criticism was valid to at least question the intention of his public statements.
It's not unfair for Rams fans to feel the same and wish for more valid questioning in lieu of their editorial needs.