As the 2016 NFL season rapidly approaches, more and more publications are putting out their preview pieces for each team in the league. Yahoo!’s Shutdown Corner recently previewed the Los Angeles Rams and their predictions for the Rams look bleaker than 3k_’s timeline after a close loss by the Rams in November. In fact, the very title of the article, “Get ready for some bad Rams offense, LA” is pretty much as bleak as it gets in the lede department.
As folks tend to do when they’re bearish on the Rams’ chances, Shutdown Corner had the audacity to use historically empirical evidence to support their claim that the team’s offense would likely be s*** in 2016. For this particular piece, author Frank Schwab pulled the Rams’ annual total offensive rankings since 2007, discovering the fact that the Rams had finished no higher than 23rd during that time and finished 27th or worse a total of seven times.
The problem with the Rams on the field is offense. Here are their annual rankings in total offense, starting in 2007: 24, 27, 29, 26, 31, 23, 30, 28, 32. So over the past nine seasons the Rams haven’t climbed any higher than 23rd in the NFL and they’ve finished 27th or worse seven times. That’s ridiculous. The Rams have a couple of reasons to believe it could turn around soon.
It’s really not just Turf Show Times that have a negative outlook on the Rams under Fisher and General Manager Les Snead, it’s a heap of experts and this piece highlights many of the same things we’ve said on here and I’ve written for LA Rams Report on multiple different occasions — Los Angeles isn’t going to be as forgiving of 7-9 as St. Louis had been.
Los Angeles isn’t going to tolerate a 7-9 team very long, no matter how much patience ownership has shown with the coach who hasn’t gotten this team past that. There’s too much else to do there. Boring doesn’t play very well in L.A.
Boring doesn’t really play well anywhere except for Portugal and Manchester United, but that’s neither here nor there. The point Schwab is making is that the Rams are going to have to turn the corner at some point. Ask around the league and you’ll generally hear people agree that this Rams roster is built for the playoffs, it just has been missing a competent quarterback. Nobody is suggesting the Rams are or were ready to take home the Lombardi trophy, but landing a wild-card spot or even a division crown wasn’t unrealistic.
Oddly enough, the best-case scenario for the Rams isn’t too terribly far removed from their nightmare scenario. Under the best-case, Yahoo! suggests the Rams could finish third in the division, have a winning season, and potentially land a wild-card spot. Which, if we are being realistic, is what Rams fans have been thinking will happen every year in the Fisher era.
Unless there are a lot of key injuries in Arizona or Seattle, it’s hard to figure out how the Rams could crack the top two of the NFC West. But they can still have a successful season. The Rams haven’t finished above .500 since 2003. A winning season and a run at a wild-card spot would be a step in the right direction, especially with a rookie quarterback.
Now the nightmare scenario is written really dramatically, but the filtered result is basically a redux of everything that’s been happening to the Rams since the Fisher era began — the Rams will flounder around with an impotent offense, Goff may lose too much ground to make up, and then a new head coach and general manager are brought in to sort out the mess moving forward. The options are basically “hope for progress or continue on their current path of mediocrity and sub-.500 seasons.”
If Goff looks overmatched, then what? The Rams tied their future to him when they traded all those picks to the Tennessee Titans. If Goff doesn’t at least show some positive signs, it means the endless cycle of terrible Rams offenses will likely continue with no end in sight. I would say that if Goff fails and the Rams regress then the team will start over with a new coach and general manager, but I’m not sure ownership is paying attention to the on-field product at this point.
The way the Rams have drafted and rely on a veteran coach to develop young talent with minor veteran additions is something owner Stan Kroenke has done with Arsenal, so the suggestion that ownership isn’t paying attention to the on-the-field issues doesn’t jibe with me. Kroenke is paying attention, he just has a different set of criteria by which he judges his upper management.
Kroenke saw unprecedented league support for the move, is funding his cathedral with his own money, has an excellent relationship with commissioner Roger Goodell, and has the Rams on HBO as well as E!. To suggest that he’s not paying attention to the Rams is a bit obtuse. As frustrated as Kroenke may be at times, he’s had a plan to get things done for the Rams for quite some time and slowly but surely, each of those items are getting done.
The Rams may not be the most exciting team, but they have some tremendously exciting players and one player in Aaron Donald who could become one of the most dominant players the league has seen. They’ve put the pieces in place, it will be up to them, coaching, and the Rams’ development to make them work and figure out a way to bring them along in a timely manner.
Much like many outlets, Shutdown Corner isn’t predicting a winning season for the Rams. They feel like it will ultimately be another losing season with Goff taking a beating. They aren’t sure how it will impact the front office decision, but many Rams insiders feel like Fisher will stay beyond 2016, regardless of what happens. This year will be seen as a transition year for the team for many reasons.
The Rams are in a strange situation because they seem locked into third place in the NFC West. Not last, and not second or first. The Rams finishing third seems like the easiest bet of the season. Not every third-place finish is the same, however. For this third-place team though, I see another losing season with a rookie quarterback taking his lumps in a bad offense. What that would mean for the coach and front office, nobody knows.
Barring utter disaster and something like a locker room revolt, it’s likely that Fisher and Snead will remain at the helm. Snead’s ability to draw up a contract might be in question, but they’ve shown some prowess when it comes to picking studs in each Draft. It may be another mediocre season for the Rams, but it’s likely that this year will be judged by how far along Goff has come by the end of the season than by the overall wins and losses total.
— Josh Webb is a sports journalist living in the Southern California area. In addition to his duties at TurfShowTimes, Josh also opines on the Rams over on LA Rams Report, where he has a podcast called Flipping Tables with former NFL veteran Cam Worrell. He also covers the University of Southern California Trojans for Athlon Sports. You can follow him on Twitter: @FightOnTwist