Early last season, things were looking bleak for the Rams. They were 2-5 and coming off of an embarrassing 34-7 loss in Kansas City. Sam Bradford, Jake Long, and Brian Quick were all lost for the season and several other key players were either out or playing at a limited capacity. Greg Robinson had been unable to crack the starting lineup in camp and was now being trusted to anchor the LT position. We did not yet know the brilliance of Aaron Donald because he too had been eased into the lineup.
It was at that point that I asked the TST staff to weigh in on whether they thought a regime change was needed. The results were nearly unanimous in support of Snead, but there some questioned Fisher's ability to build an effective offense.
Then, on Black Monday our own Brandon Bate compiled the season's approval ratings. True to form, when the team was losing, fans were calling for heads and when the team won big, approval ratings skyrocketed. When you include the ratings from last October, it looks something like this.
Previous staff results (if available) from the week 6 poll are in block quotes.
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
I'm sticking to what I wrote previously: Fisher should create a new position in the FO for himself, still deal with players, but more on the GM level than he does now.
In my opinion, Rams have been "winning the offseason" since Snisher got here, but the result is same below-.500 team. Sure, Snisher can bring in the players that they want, they trade well, the draft decently, but then can't put it all together except for maybe 3 games a season (other wins come versus terrible teams). It's basically impossible for that to happen, so instead of blowing everything up, stay the course and hope something finally clicks.
Fisher has proven one thing since he came to St Louis. He loves him some D. It seems he has a passion for making an elite defense, and a good sense for picking players to fit roles on that side of the ball as well. Offense? That's another story. I don't believe Fisher has it in him to make offensive decisions. I can't imagine where this team could be if an offensive mastermind joined the coaching staff and was allowed to make all personnel decisions on that side of the ball. This is definitely a make or break year for Fisher. He must prove he can build an ENTIRE team, not just one side. The draft will tell us the rest of the tale.
Snead is another story. He has pulled two of the most positive astronomical trades this team has ever seen.. both against NFC East teams. However, I am not going to judge fully until we see how Foles plays out. If the Rams hit a home run with Foles, then A+ for Snead.
The bottom line here, is with all of the draft picks given to this franchise the last few seasons, if something doesn't start to improve, something has got to change.
Eric Nagel [@Eric_nagel]
Jeff Fisher doubled down over the offseason, promoting Frank Cignetti Jr. as an in-house replacement for the departure of he-who-must-not-be-named. The team also made the bold move of dumping Sam Bradford for Nick Foles.
Fisher’s had free reign on the team and not many holdouts remain from the dark ages before he joined the franchise. If he can’t take another step this year, then he has to go. Four years has seen the Seahawks move to an elite team, the 49ers implode and the Cardinals improve to a playoff contender. For the Rams? Nothing. 28 draft picks later and the only elite player to come out of the bunch is Aaron Donald. Time to put up or shut up.
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
It really is time for Fisher & Snead to produce. They have drafted talented players, but have failed to squeeze everything bit of talent out of them. Fisher has shown the ability to build a strong Defense, but that does not mean jack if the offense cannot get points up on the boards. That's stems from Fisher's offensive ignorance. I don't know if Snead and Fisher are mutually exclusive or not, but their time should be running up.
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
For me it is pretty simple, this is their roster built by Snisher. In the now 4th year of a rebuild there needs to be real tangible progress not on paper but in the win column. Other successful teams have had similar roster turnover in the same time period. The excuses needs to stop and wins need to come. Anything less than 9 or more wins will make the 2015 season an utter failure
Troy Vandenbark (@troilus22)
Once again Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have made some moves in the offseason that inspire hope. The addition of Ayers and Fairley to an already formidable front 7 definitely turns heads. Of course the almost complete refusal to address the offensive line, the teams most glaring weakness, still leaves me wondering. Yes the team will surely add a piece (or 2) in the draft, but they need 3 more quality starters for this offense to finally be productive.
The one move which provides the biggest confidence boost in the regime was the Bradford trade. I am a huge believer in Bradford's ability, but the combination of injury risk and salary cap hit was too much for this building team. The fact the front office was willing to make that move shows they may be more flexible than I originally thought.
With all the warm and fuzzy feelings that come for Rams fans this time of year, if this team doesn't see tangible results on the field in 2015 it should be curtains for Snisher. I don't mean 8-8 or 9-7, I mean a legitimate playoff push and challenge the Seahawks for the division title. This team has plenty of potential, time to see it turned into production!
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
It's odd to think Jeff Fisher and Les Snead haven't gotten farther than they have with the St. Louis Rams... Draft work has been there, but putting the pieces in the right places has been elusive for Fisher and his coaching staff. In what seems like a prolonged football camp, players have come in to learn the game of football at the NFL level, but the lack of winning records doesn't seem to tally with what should be a very good team....
Let's take the shuffle at running back as an example. In 2013, Zac Stacy was lauded as being a solution, and now a Fisher inspired offense could run the ball. Then Stacy disappeared in favor of Tre Mason, who holds the same hopes as Stacy... I'm not buying it. Based on what I've seen, Fisher hasn't found what he's looking for, and now has Stacy in this kind of limbo. Benny Cunningham gets a mention or two from Fisher every now and then, but the situation at running back isn't at all clear. Then there's Tavon Austin - who the Rams traded up to snag in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. The young former UWV star has shown flashes, but the murmurs regarding the difficulty of finding ways to use Austin still exist. If it were me, I would've considered just where Austin would fit before drafting him? Now, rumors float around at times that the Rams should TRADE Austin... Really... REALLY?
Fisher chose to coach St. Louis based on Sam Bradford being there. Well, Sammy's gone, and he has Nick Foles, who Fisher says is a great fit for his team... Eeek! Is it just me who thinks Fisher is bending toward a credibility issue? Les Snead isn't far behind his head coach in this area. They seem to work well together, and have amassed a talent roster - ON PAPER.
I'm a Jeff Fisher fan, and I still believe he can bring this current team together and win. But the problems this team has had over the last 8 or 9 years haven't really gone away. Some will point to defensive improvements, and rightly so. But let's not forget this defense failed to record even a single quarterback sack well into the 2014 season. They got their act together after week 8 in 2014, but the season was toast by then. In fact, slow starts in the last couple years have been rather glaring. Fisher's reputation as a "players coach" may be the source, in that he may bring his charges to camp and lean so hard on making sure they LIKE him, he fails to instill the gravity of the situation as the regular season approaches? It's almost as if the pre-season sort of stumbles its way into the games that count? He fails to hit the gas, and rev this team up when needed.
Offensive line woes are glaring, and its become borderline absurd the re-signing of a middling talent at right tackle like Joe Barksdale is approaching critical need status. Worse still, it appears the Rams will be risking everything on an offensive line that will no doubt be bulging with rookies and second year players in 2015. Fans wanting Fisher and Snead to draft offensive linemen may not be realizing they're taking a longer view. Some will point to Dallas' Zac Martin, and hope the Rams can pick his 2015 re-make. Yet, take the time to look back through NFL Drafts over the last 10 years. You won't find more than a hand full of "Martins" who made more than a marginal difference for their teams in their rookie years. Brandon Schreff? La'el Collins? Both WILL be great NFL players one day, but not in 2015. So the Rams are in the position of having to select a young lineman, and throw him to the proverbial wolves Day 1 of the regular season. No matter how you slice and dice this, or wash your rose colored glasses just so, it's not going to make this season any easier than in 2014.
Jeff Fisher's ensemble of coaches are a close bunch. They work well together... I think? I recall an interview with new coordinator Frank Cignetti Jr. He mentioned that during the interview process, it allowed he and Fisher to: GET TO KNOW EACH OTHER? Really? It conjures visions of Fisher bumping into a guy in 2013 as he walked down a hall way in Rams' Park. "Who's that guy?", he whispers to Les Snead. Snead shrugs... But this is the guy who'll lose his NFL coordinator cherry for the Rams in 2015... (This is where I reach for a large bottle of Tums...)
As a person, I seriously doubt there's anyone who'd not enjoy meeting Jeff Fisher. He's smart, sly, funny, and incredibly like-able. He's on my personal "bucket list" of people I want to meet one day. I mean, the man does Rock videos! He climbs mountains, helps the troops, and shapes the game I love at the NFL level...
But make no mistake: This season is a "Hot Seat" year for Fisher, and I hate that it is at this point. So if I were in Fisher's shoes, I'd use my first round pick to select the ONE. You know what I mean here, right? The guy who has a combined physical and mental skill set to be the missing link for the Rams. Is their a player who fits this bill in the 2015 NFL Draft class? I really don't know... Maybe it's a guy like Shaq Thompson, who seems to do it all? Is it mortgaging future drafts to select a quarterback like Winston or Mariota? What about taking a pass rushing outside linebacker to adds the finishing touch to a great defense, or maybe all it will take is adding a great offensive lineman?
The bottom line: Jeff Fisher and Les Snead have to find THE answer before the 2015 season begins...
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
The Rams have long been a test of patience. The major off season moves (Bradford/Foles trade, Fairley and Ayers signed), so far this year have been exemplary. Credit to Les Snead on that. Gregg Williams showed us what he could do last year and with another year under his guidance and the aforementioned additions, the defensive unit should emerge as truly elite.
The offense is beyond a question mark however. The gaps in the O-line are horrendous...not unfixable by any means and I am certain they will be addressed. Still, a lot of major problems there for a brand new offensive coordinator. Perhaps too many?
Then there is Jeff Fisher. Everyone agrees that this roster keeps getting more talented, but the wins keep regressing? Hope for the best, I guess.
At this point, I also fall in the "now or never" boat. It can't keep being next year, next year, next year because next year seems like it'll never come. To me, Jeff Fisher and Les Snead are mediocre and that's just what it is. There always seems to be a roster flaw.
Last season, the offense was poor and, in my opinion, still would have been poor even with Bradford. If the offense is supposedly predicated on the run, why is it that the line finished 28th in the run game (per pro football focus) last season and isn't greatly improved for next season? Greg Robinson will certainly develop, but outside of his improvement nothing has really been gained there.
The RGIII deal was a great haul and Sneed has made some other solid moves such as the Fairley deal, etc, but he's yet to field a complete team. That means a talented QB, a talented offense, and a talented defense. I can't honestly say they've ever had it all under Sneed.
On the other hand, Fisher is just as much to blame. His last winning season came in 2008 with the Titans. If he doesn't have a winning year this year, how could a consistent losing coach keep a job? Marvin Lewis is potentially on the hot seat and he has been winning; Fisher hasn't. Rex Ryan reached a conference championship and the Jets still cut him lose after a few losing seasons. Though I'm fine with Fisher still being the coach for this upcoming season, he can't remain if the team doesn't make the playoffs. And that's where the line is: the playoffs.
Yes, the team is still flawed -- they could use better receivers, a better line, better outside linebackers, but this is his team that he's assembled. The draft shouldn't be about building for the future -- as much as I'd love a lineman, that's too long-term -- it has to be about grabbing a receiver, a pass rusher, whatever will bring this team to 10 wins and a playoff berth. If that means trading down or trading up to find better value, so be it. All that I know is it's been far too long and with the 49ers crashing and burning this offseason, the Rams have enough of a chance to compete this season. Playoffs or bust.
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
I'll keep it shorter this time.
Brian Schottenheimer's departure, and the promotion of Frank Cignetti leading to Chris Weinke's hiring, certainly qualifies as change...on the surface. I wonder though how much of that is just cosmetic.
With the OL rebuild remaining, I'm not all that confident that an offense with a new coordinator, a new starting QB and at least a few new components will get things turned around, at least immediately. But it is change. And that's a start and the only shot these Rams have at getting over the losing hump.
My personal take is perhaps more generous. I think Fisher is an excellent team-builder and leader of men, and Les Snead has done an admirable job of talent accumulation. The problem is that Fisher's idea of what makes an offense work hadn't changed since he was carrying Buddy Ryan's clipboard on the sideline of the '85 Bears. And he doesn't have a Walter Payton on the sidelines here that can transcend a terrible scheme to deliver brilliance.
What compounds the issue is that there is no one in the building who can apply any influence on Fisher to change. The GM in St Louis is the coach's employee, which flips the usual NFL power dynamic on its head.
Ultimately, I don't pin the franchise's lack of progress on the coach. I put it on the lack of urgency or accountability from the top of the organization. Stan Kroenke wants consistency and credibility in his teams, but championships take a back seat to real estate speculation and architectural renderings in his offseason plans.
I do believe Fisher is building a better team than the one he inherited. He's just doing it at his own pace, which is VERY leisurely compared to the examples of teams like the Seahawks and Eagles. And with this ownership, he can literally take all the time he wants.
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
My stance hasn't really changed since late October, and I'm still maintaining optimism for the upcoming year. One of the things I referenced, when originally asked, was how the team could benefit from continuity [something they hadn't had] on both sides of the ball. While I do think Gregg Williams will improve upon the successes he and the defense had in the latter stages of 2014, continuity on offense won't be possible due to numerous changes of both players and coaches. Brian Schottenheimer, Sam Bradford, Jake Long, Scott Wells...all gone.
And that, to me, is a good thing. Fisher and Co. made the right decision[s] moving on from all of the aforementioned, Those moves made the most financial - and football - sense. Going into their fourth year as head coach/GM in St. Louis, they can't afford to allow injuries, to oft-injured players, to cut hopes of a successful season short.
Sure there are still some things to shore up between now and September, but it's not as if they're not aware of the team's needs. They've made some wise decisions this offseason, and need another strong draft in order to strengthen key areas on their roster. If they can do that, I'm confident they can field a respectable product in 2015. If not, I don't anticipate them being around next season, no matter where the Rams may be playing.
Lack of continuity won't be an excuse Mr. Kroenke's going to accept at the end of a fourth losing season. It's time to start turning potential into production.
I do believe that two of the on-field phases this regime has built are in 'win now' condition, and I see those being sustainable: a defense that punishes/creates/pressures, and a ST unit that is pretty consistent and flips the field.
Similar to other's concerns, the offense is not in 'bad' shape per se, but just doesn't scream 'we will beat you any number of ways.' I do not yet have the answer as to why (easy answer: not enough points), but I believe the offense has such seasonal turnover at key positions that it is hard to build on success.
For the draft, I am still in favor of BPA, especially at skill positions and the lines. If something is a strength, KEEP it a strength.
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 (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
The 2015 off-season has come about as close to my 'ideal' offseason as can be expected. Schotty is gone, replaced by Frank Cignetti to pair with the stellar pair (in my opinion) of Greg Williams and John Fassel. When news broke that former QB Sam Bradford had a hand in the promotion of Cignetti, it seemed that Snisher was going all-in on $am - again.
Then Les pulled another amazing trade: Dumping Sam and his contract for a younger, healthier Nick Foles AND DRAFT PICKS. He then parlayed that cap savings into Nick Fairley and Akeem Ayers, eliminating any doubt that the Rams front 7 will be among the best in the NFL.
The only thing missing from the off-season is fixing the OL. As I type this, the Rams OL is currently: (L to R) Greg Robinson, Rodger Saffold, Tim Barnes, Barrett Jones, Brandon Washington. While short on experience, I honestly think that Fisher is OK with that lineup with the exception of Brandon Washington. Which is why Joe Barksdale holds the keys to the remainder of the Rams offseason.
Even if Barksdale returns to the Rams, the OL still needs to be addressed in the draft. While I'm not convinced that the team needs to go OL at #10, they should add at least 2 players to the group to solidify depth. If they don't, they will be left dangerously thin if injuries occur.
Similar to last season, the moves made my Snisher have kept Rams faithful optimistic that 2015 brings new hope. If the Rams can solidify the OL and avoid the injury bug, I fully expect them to contend for a playoff spot next year. If they don't, Jeff Fisher's tenure with the Rams may be over.