(Editor’s note: I’m taking a temporary break from Positive Week for this piece since it legitimately deserves sincerity versus the facetiousness of trying to feign positivism for a franchise headed for their 13th season in a row without a winning record.)
The 2016 Los Angeles Rams are 4-8.
That in and of itself isn’t relatively remarkable. What’s remarkable is that they’ve underachieved yet again as a franchise that has gone more than a decade without a single winning season. What’s remarkable is that the Rams are yet again playing out a December schedule not for the purpose of trying to make the playoffs or cementing their seed therein but instead to begin aligning things for the upcoming season. What’s remarkable is that the offered consistency that supposedly grows out of having the same head coach for five years in Jeff Fisher and the same partnership over that period with General Manager Les Snead hasn’t manifested itself in any meaningful way in the wins and losses column. What’s remarkable is that that hasn’t happened despite taking over a functional core on the roster to build around buttressed by one of the largest bounties of traded draft capital in the modern NFL era.
What’s remarkable is that the Rams despite every opportunity to have gotten better haven’t. And now, the fissures are beginning to widen.
In a report from Albert Breer at Sports Illustrated’s MMQB, the Rams are now being nicknamed “Junior High” for the dysfunction and petty divisiveness being perceived between Fisher and Snead, a divisiveness that was made public in a post-practice press conference on Tuesday (FWIW, the transcript of that press conference wasn’t provided to TST unlike most other press conferences).
At that media opportunity, Fisher was asked about his relationship with Snead. His answer was...interesting (and made more interesting by the fact the team selectively edited out these remarks from the post-practice press conference video posted to the official team site):
I’m so busy here, I was honestly unaware he was extended. I’m being honest with you, we’re just working here. I look at this as being my responsibility, the win-loss record. We need to do a better job from a personnel standpoint. We’ve had some unfortunate things take place with some high picks in Stedman Bailey and Tre Mason and those kinds of things you don’t anticipate.
But we’re moving forward.
We now learn that per Breer’s story, those comments were not well-received within the organization:
The comments went over like neutron bomb elsewhere in the ranks of the Rams. And it revealed a problem that’s existed since well before the team arrived on the West Coast.
If things don’t get better over the next month, there’s no assurance the club will go forward with any of the current power brokers on the football side.
And when I say “get better,” that means more than just beating the Niners or Falcons. It also means seeing the middle-school lunchroom sniping—the kind that earned the building the “Junior High” nickname—fixed to a reasonable degree.
“It pissed me off because I knew it was meant as a shot,” said one Rams source. “You see it under that umbrella—‘We need to do a better job in personnel.’ OK, but you want everyone to think that you have full control. You can’t have it both ways, and it can’t always be the talent. Look at the roster, 2012 to now. In ’12, Jeff did a masterful job with what he was given. But we’ve gotten more talent, and we’ve gotten worse.”
I could blockquote more of the piece, but it’s just well worth your time to go read it.
What’s always been an issue is that Snead’s role has never been well communicated publicly to the fans. There’s always been a general understanding that Fisher was offered more control in regards to personnel than most other coaching positions across the league. The problem is that whatever the dynamic was intended to be, it’s now apparently being described as “toxic” per the Breer piece.
There’s just no way that’s healthy for the organization, regardless of what Snead’s job responsibilities actually are.
The bottom line? Winning football games matters. Losing does to. And that the Rams are 34-44-1 in the nearly five seasons under Fisher without a single winning campaign to show for all their efforts, on and off the field. Whatever dysfunction exists between the head coach and general manager, between the coaching staff and the scouting team, between any two persons on the payroll, that dysfunction is only going to be exacerbated by losing. Year after year after year of losing.
It’s being exacerbated. And there’s no sense in ignoring it. For Rams fans, for the media or for the actual staff members involved.