What are the challenges of getting things done while the franchise is moving?
We’ve tried -- I don’t know if we’ve successfully done it, but we’ve tried, because of the normal calendar, whether it’s re-signing your own in free agency, the draft, OTAs, those things are set in stone -- we’ve tried to make it where that nothing really impacts that. The logistics of moving a franchise from one city to another is a lot, but there’s a team in place, a very competent team, that is handling a lot of that, so it has allowed us, in personnel and the coaches, to continue doing the same things you normally do. So that’s where we’re at. Obviously any time you do this, there will be a few glitches, but it’s been smooth to date.
How aggressively does this team need to go after a quarterback in the offseason?
We’re in the NFL, so it seems like whenever you talk about QBs, that’s the piece. If I get a little bit of a long answer, I can tell you this. We’ve done a lot of studies, as many as any team, about QBs and what makes a QB successful and all that, over the past couple years. The goal of this whole thing is to win games, so let’s just look at QBs this way. We’ve done a lot of studies since 2012 -- and that’s when Jeff and I got to the Rams -- about how teams win. There’s been 21 QBs since 2012 that have started 45 or more games. So if their team gives up 25 or more points, there’s only one of those QBs who has actually got a winning record, and it’s just over .500. I’ll let you guys do the research to figure that out. If your team gives up 17 or less than 17 points, all 21 of those guys have winning records. Now you get into a couple categories, 21 to 24 points, that you give up, 11 of those quarterbacks have winning records and 10 have losing records. If you give up 17 to 20 points, all but three of the QBs have winning records. So to win in this league, it’s a direct correlation to how many points you’re giving up. So what we’re doing in our search for consistency at QB is also doing the things we do well, and that’s defense. So in that 2012-15 period, we’ve given up, on average, about 20 points per game, which is about 12th out of all NFL teams. I think, to try to put this to a close, since 2012, we have had five starting QBs, and in each of those seasons -- four seasons -- we’ve had two guys actually start, sometimes three. So I think getting consistency at that position is one thing. Finding good players is another. To sum it all up, when Case Keenum came in he went 3-1 down the stretch. So he stabilized us. We had gone on a five-game losing streak and he goes 3-1 down the stretch. That’s a start there. We do like what Case brought to the table. That’s why we traded for him last year, to bring him back, and he helped stabilize the position. So my answer, it’s not just one variable to win in this league. There’s a lot. The QB is important, but there is a lot of other things that are important, too.
Is there a balance between finding a long-term solution and a short-term solution at QB? In an ideal world, you’d get both in one package, but is that realistic to find this offseason?
I think that’s an ideal world. The NFL is probably less ideal and more realistic. There are some good QBs in this draft, and more than one or two are probably going to be successful. And a lot of them are going to find roles in this league, whether they’re starting or backups, and backups that go in to win some games. Let’s take the draft guys, and college football players. You’re going to see a lot of movement because of the offenses they’re playing and the style of play they play. There’s going to probably have to be a level of patience. You go to the realistic scenario and you find a guy who can bridge you and win games while maybe a young player is developing. That’s a realistic scenario, but yes, it’s nice to live in the ideal world sometimes. But it doesn’t happen.
What’s the outlook on Brian Quick?
We have high hopes. We spent a lot of time developing, but obviously he’s a free agent so he will gets to control a little bit of the decision. Yes, we would like to have Brian back, so we can complete the development. In Brian’s sake, and the guys who were watching him play last year, he was coming on. Again, it was a small set of games and he got a very devastating injury. Even the docs who did his surgery, they thought there was no way Brian would get back and even play this year. I think because of Brian’s toughness and his work, to rehab and get back, he got back on the field probably sooner than most people. But I still think he was far away, and this year was almost a wash for him, unfortunately. It will set him up for a chance to be good in the future.
You’ll be logging a lot of miles, with the move and the trip to London. How tough is that?
Any time you face difficulty or adversity, or if you think there’s going to be a little taller hill to climb, you try your best to come up with a plan to attack that on a case-by-case study, to limit that from affecting you. Nowadays with sports, and all the things going on with sleep studies, it’s unbelievable the research that is coming your way on how to travel from one time zone to another, how to get rest, how to stay on the same schedule. You try to do that to the best of your ability. The nice thing is, that you forget, a lot of us that are out covering it or sitting at this podium, we’re a little older than the players we have. You find with young players is, they can recover faster than most of us, so it doesn’t bother them as much. But we’re going to come up with a plan to try to attack that.’’
At QB, could the solution already be on the roster with a Nick Foles or a Sean Mannion coming back?
The answer is yes. It's interesting. We'll just use Sean Mannion. I usually call rookies freshman, so if you're a sophomore, last year was your rookie year now you're a sophomore and you didn't play as much in your freshman year, especially with QB's, you're kind of a forgotten entity. All the new guys that we're covering at the combine are the sexy new objects and they get talked about. But I guy like Sean Mannion is right now somewhere on this planet trying to get better. And he’s got a goal in mind to start in this league, and that's what he's doing while these guys are just getting started. You go back to what New England did with Tom Brady. There was a guy they drafted in the sixth round, and that's an awesome pick obviously, but if you look at the history of what they did with him and the courage it took to play him when they played him, especially in the first Super Bowl they won. I think the No. 1 thing is you kind of have to look and say, we like this human being and we're going to have the courage to stick him in there and see what occurs after that.
On drafting a "risk" player like Todd Gurley last year, or Jaylon Smith this year, and the mindset
It’s a good questions. As we're at the combine, there's a lot of segments of the combine that all these players are going to go through, and for somebody like Jaylon, when he goes and visits with the medical staff and team doctors, that's going to be his most important visit. What you find, with him, is where his knee is and what the long-term prognosis is will (determine) where he gets drafted, and if you want to call it, is the risk worth the reward. And you may figure out with him he may not play any his rookie year, but if you think he's a top-five talent and he's going to get to that level, year two, year three year four, yes it takes courage but it could turn out to be a wise decision. Like I’d tell Jaylon, whether you got hurt or not, it really doesn't matter where you get drafted. It matters, whether we're talking about Jaylon or any other player who has been injured in four to five to six to seven to eight to 10 years.
How critical is it to get back the free agents in your secondary?
If I were to prioritize what's going on in our building, and there's a lot of things going on, that is priority A right now, even at this combine. We'll meet with their reps, maybe more than one time at the combine, and I'm not going to say anything gets done, but we’ve got a lot going on here and that’s priority A.
In your fifth year, do you enter this draft with a sense of urgency, to draft impact players to put you over the top?
I think you take the draft on a case-by-case basis, and if tipping to being a consistent winner is your goal, the first pick you take in the draft may not be the reason you tip. But he maybe the reason that, in the future, you continue winning. Whatever your strategy is, you try to find the best human being at that slot where you’re drafting. Not necessarily the position, because you sometimes may need a certain position, but the best human being may play another position and at the end of the day, when we're talking about the success of the 2016 draft or the 2011 draft, it's not necessarily positions we're talking about, we're going to be talking about people and that person. That’s what you’re trying to do in the draft.
How important was the experience the offensive line got last year, and how do you look at that group going forward?
Excited about it. A lot of them got experience, so that's a little bit of the thorn of some of those guys getting injured last year. No. 1, they got injured, so anytime that group of people now can't play together and you’ve got to go play a game the next week, there's going to be inconsistency and we had to live through that. But the rose of that is, we have now a lot of young guys who have started games, and that's going to be organic, built-in competition, because they've now all tasted playing in that starting unit and they want to play there. The other thing is, the guys who don't make it to the starting five, you can go to bed at night knowing that if there is another injury, and there always is in our league, we have a viable candidate that can come right in and play. Yes, we did Gurley last year, but we also did a lot of OL for one reason. We felt like that group needed to grow together and play together over a long period of time and it started in the 2015 season.
Why didn’t the Rams carry over all of their available salary-cap room?
There's a lot of reasons, but we did know this year – and after a couple of the moves we made within the last couple weeks – we would have a good bit of cap room to set us up to do what we wanted to do. So it’s a big-picture view of what is going on, and it was just a couple things falling in place.
In the recruiting phase of free agency, do you think L.A. will be something you use as a selling point?
I think young kids, a lot of them spend time in the offseason out there. If you're from L.A., you know the weather is really good and it's a good place to be if you're young. But that depends on the human being. Some may want to live in certain parts of the country, but at the end of the day with free agents, because our world is – a lot of them are going to be transient guys and so they're going to play in a city and go somewhere (else) in the offseason. No. 1, it will come down to money. Are you in the ballpark. No. 2 is going to come down to your head coach and your coaching staff, and they're going to vet who they're going to be working with every day. And after that, I think the city comes into it. But yes, I think L.A. is a positive thing for young professional athletes.
Did the uncertainty of where you would be playing hurt your chances of re-signing your free agents?
There could have been a little bit of that, but I do think the reason we haven’t gotten them done to date yet is, we tried all year and we just couldn't ever get anything done. I think now that the guys have gotten to free agency, they would like to continue testing the waters and try to get the best deal they can for themselves. I think that’s the main reason. Once a guy gets out of his UFA season, now he's that much closer to, as we get into our 48-hour window to be able to negotiate with other teams to truly figure out his market. Because right now it's all speculation.
Would you like to upgrade at receiver at the draft?
The answer is, here’s what I would say about an upgrade. I do think that last year, we dropped too many balls at times. I think whether it’s those guys that we have in-house -- because they can do it -- continue to get more consistent, or in this draft… In all draft, there are good football players, and I think you’re always going to look to, if you can add, especially a good offensive skill player, you’re going to do it. Because scoring points does help you win. So in this draft, I don’t want to give too many cards away, but we do like some wide receivers in this draft.