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St. Louis Rams: Stop Trying To Herd These Cats...

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Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

I've remained silent all week as Rams fans swing to-n'-fro. Two games into the 2015 NFL season, the St. Louis Rams have risen high in week #1, then fell hard in week #2. Roller coaster ride? If so, I've come to the conclusion Jeff Fisher is missing something, and it's a golden opportunity to get a peek at the soul of this team...

How young this team is isn't a mystery to anyone. Like the title of this article hints, there are times - for Jeff Fisher - it may seem like trying to herd cats in a straight line. I get the scheme/game plan ideas Fisher has - run, run, run the ball -, and with a more veteran group of players it would be more viable. It isn't going to work, or at least not right now. Why?

I'd be willing to bet if Fisher and Les Snead had a couple of NFL Drafts to do over again, they wouldn't have waited this long to add talent to their offensive line. That said, relying on inexperienced linemen to excel out the gate in 2015 was a gamble. Yet, I can see why Fisher/Snead grabbed Todd Gurley now more than before. I think they saw a formula where Gurley could help a young offensive line by making opposing defenses check their pass rush by having to account for the former University of Georgia star running back. Comparisons to Adrian Peterson made it seem like even marginal run blocking would enable Gurley to get "plus" yards on his abilities alone... I mean, it's why the picked him so high in the draft, and something they just didn't see happening with Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham, or even Zac Stacy.

It all hinges on Fisher's mindset - and belief - that players can do what he wants them to, but there's a key point that may have been missed: The NFL Learning Curve. Asking anyone who's young to do ANYTHING within a confined paradigm doesn't make it easier, it makes it harder. I've met some young people with attention spans of Goldfish, and others who grasp what's being talked about immediately. If applied to football players, both groups have one asset though, and it was conceived and built during their college careers that aren't far from their recent memories: "Go out there on game day, and play bat-crap-crazy-nuts!"

You say: "But this is the NFL! You can't just play... You need clever plays, with code names so long it took a guy like Tavon Austin a year to decipher, let alone understand. Then you have to be able to change what's called at the line of scrimmage, and get everyone to understand what it is as crowds scream, and opposing players taunt you..." Yeah, like that's a prescription that's not semi-doomed at the outset, eh?

If there's anything I've learned in life, it's that at some point you have to take the training wheels off, and stop trying to force one person's ideal on anyone who's young. There comes a time when best laid plans have to be thrown out the window, and you have to start guiding the young along a line they feel capable of grasping, let alone applying. Scribbles in three inch thick playbooks are one thing, but the real world of game day is another thing entirely. To that end, I have the following recommendations for Jeff Fisher:

...Get Frank Cignetti Jr. off the sidelines, and up in the booth where he can see the entire field. I've been saying this for what seems like years now with every offensive coordinator the Rams have had, and they've never seen the value. Relying on camera views on "Thinkpad-thingys" is after the fact, and doesn't give a coordinator the broadest view of what's truly happening. Remember when New Orleans head coach Shaun Peyton broke his leg? Instead of sitting on the sidelines, he perched himself up high in the booth. He called the best plays of his career for the Saints, and his team won. It helped him when he came back to the side lines too. A broad view teaches; narrow views confine what can be learned...

...Take Nick Foles aside, and tell him to call the game. Let Cignetti be his wing-man, and not the other way around. I've always had a problem with the idea of a coordinator calling plays into a quarterback's head set. For one thing, you force a play on a quarterback as his baseline, then complicate things when he moves to the line of scrimmage and he sees something that's changed. If Nick Foles is ever going to be a franchise quarterback, he needs to take the seat behind the wheel and steer his offense completely. Let him listen to his guys in the huddle, and select his own plays. Let him talk to Cignetti, and tell him what he sees as the offenses lines up, then change if needed. Again, Cignetti being up in the booth would be a good idea...

...Challenge your players at every turn. If I hear "...setting them up to succeed" one more time, I think I'll scream. To succeed or fail is for each player to achieve. It's time to let these players out of their protective yards, and realize this game in ON! Let them play; put some faith in who they can be, and the training you've given them.

No one gives the Rams much of a chance against Pittsburgh on Sunday. I was late adding my final score prediction for this game, and now I'm glad. I had a 35-13 win predicted for the Steelers. Now, I'm not so sure. Jeff Fisher has the tools on this roster to beat ANY of the 32 teams in the NFL. Yes, I said "32", because the Rams have shown the ability to beat themselves too. It's time to kick over the table, and play the game of football the way this team can when given a seeming herculean challenge by their head coach....