You can't spell "Rams" without "this travesty of an offense must be addressed." We all know this. The Rams even know this. A short while back CBS' Will Brinson highlighted how the team might accidently and brilliantly find a decent quarterback in this draft. This was very interesting to me but not because of all the quarterback talk.
Rams GM Les Snead emphasized how a Quarterback's level of success correlates with how many points his team's defense gives up. Seems fairly obvious that makes sense. Don't give up a lot of points, score more than that. Got it. In the words of Snead:
"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," Snead said. "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."
In other words, the Rams may be focusing on making their defense better instead of fixing the offense. It could be argued, amongst themselves, that the Rams and Jeff Fisher already have their offense figured out and that philosophy is the reliance on Todd Gurley's year two improvement. Gurley is already proving to be a great running back but would it be too shocking to watch this offense ask the rest of the supporting cast to do "just enough" to get by, for another season and load up on defense?
Many of you are probably screaming "But the defense is just fine!!!" by now. But that's kind of the issue. The Rams have had aspirations to be an elite defense since Fisher took over. But the reality is they've been "just fine" with a few glimpses of greatness along the way. They've yet to reach elite status.
In terms of points and yards allowed, the defense has been middle of the pack while the offense has been at the bottom, if not the very worst, in some seasons. We all could agree that if the offense improves, while the defense plays to a the level we've seen over the last four years, the team will have much better chances of improving the win total. When you have an elite defense, you could ignore the offensive ineptitude for four seasons. But when you don't have an elite defense and the offense is so bad that it puts undue stress on a solid defense, you seem to be stuck on 7 wins.
If we go back to Snead's comments about QB records, we don't have a Rams QB that has started at least 45 games under this regime. But what if we apply it to the whole team? With 64 total games played since the start of 2012 here is a breakdown, using Snead's point categories, with points for and against.
Snead's comments are in line with his own team, spanning multiple QBs. The Rams have had great success when allowing less than 17 points but have been abysmal when allowing 25+ as this has never been a team built to come from behind. Worth reminding(by Snead's parameters) that only Tom Brady has a winning record when his team gives up 25+ points. On the other end, when their team allows 25+ points, QBs Russell Wilson, Alex Smith, Colin Kaepernick, Jay Cutler, and Ryan Fitzpatrick(yet to win) all have a worse win percentage than the Rams QBs have over this time period. It's important to note sample size though, as Cutler and Fitzpatrick are the only QBs from that list with more than 12 such games. But it's easy to get lost in how QBs fare when their defense is allowing X amount of points. How do the Rams fare when we factor in how many points they score?
So as we can see the Rams have a great win percentage when then they score 25 points or more as a team. Even if we categorize it to games having scored 21 or more, that's still good for a win percentage of .700%. On the other end of the spectrum, we have the horrid truth that is the Rams record when they score 16 points or less. That's no small sample size either, that is good for 44% of games played under Fisher. The problem with this table is that it accounts for total points scored, not offensive points scored.
If we remove D/ST TDs from the equation then the Rams offense would have 4 more games with less than 17 points scored. In those 4 games(coincidentally vs SEA & DET in 2012 and 2015) the Rams were 3-1. All 3 of those victories were decided by 7 points or less. So if we were to make the above table account for offensive points scored then the Rams offense has scored 16 or less points in HALF of the games played over the last four seasons. I don't need to explain why that is very, very bad.
To draw any definitive conclusions based off these two tables would be to ignore context of games but there are some things we can take away.
- Holding opponents to less than 17 points has brought the Rams success but scoring more than 16 points has proved much more troublesome and happens at a much higher rate.
- When the Rams are scoring 25+ they are hardly allowing 25+ in the same game. Supporting the notion that this defense is built to play with a lead.
- The offense not scoring and sustaining drives leads to a tired, overworked defense late in games. Not a new phenomenon in the NFL.
- Rams have a higher win percentage(.714) when allowing 20 or less points than when they score 21 or more(.700). But both are very good.
This brings on the great debate. Do Rams continue to add pieces to a defense that hasn't reached elite status or do they continue the trend set forth in 2015 by adding premium picks to the offensive side of the ball? Will a better offense take stress off a defense that has been taxed over the years? Again, I think most would say yes. Would adding more talent to a defense be enough to overcome a league where offenses are constantly evolving, except their own? These are the burning questions the Rams brass must answer before the draft.
In the past, being "just fine" on defense has hardly stopped the Rams from adding to it. Adding Aaron Donald, Nick Fairley, Akeem Ayers, Lamarcus Joyner, Mark Barron, Coty Sensabaugh, and Quinton Coples are recent examples of moves that at the time were more about re-enforcing than they were about filling a need. Meanwhile, the team has been more than patient with their offensive counterparts, with the exception of RB. Something must give.
The Rams are a team that has been skeptical of analytics yet used them to prop up QB Case Keenum. They're a team that prefers stingy defense and a "wear you down" offense. But over the last few years their stingy defense has been worn down by opposing offenses and their own offense that has not broken the 17 point barrier in 50% of games played. The only wearing down the Rams offense has done has primarily been to themselves. The offense is so near rock bottom, nearly anybody would help.
Until the offensive philosophy changes, or the defense finally becomes elite, there is only one course of action this team can make to get set on the fast track to that elusive 8th, 9th, or 10th win. That course of action is to add as much premium offensive talent as possible. They have their man at RB in Todd Gurley. It's time to give him some more friends.