America loves to give second chances, and the National Football League is home to a good number of those second-chance opportunities.
In addition to not having a winning season as a franchise since 2003, Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher hasn’t had a winning season since 2008, yet he and the Rams will be given a second chance at the start of the 2016. Whether or not it’s deserved is immaterial to the fact that it’s happening.
Then there are subsets of fans who have yet to decide where the current organization sits inside their soul.
Moving an NFL franchise is so much more than boxes and moving trucks. Entire moments have been packed up and shipped off to a new city, never to be seen again. These moments are unavoidably attached to a city and region currently trying to decide where the Rams will fit in their everyday lives. The Greatest Show on Turf has been replaced by Gurley Fries and Carl’s Jr. The legacy of Mike Jones tackle will forever be tied to a city that can’t decide if the Rams betrayed them or gave them the greatest years of their lives.
The give and take has only just begun and the Rams have yet to play a single game on their ridiculously vaunted schedule. To be sure, there will be those who take great pride in watching the Rams struggle in their first year back in Los Angeles. But this is less about the valid ill-will St. Louis fans may hold in their hearts and more about what the Rams plan to do with the second chance they’ve been given. A new stadium, uniforms, and look will only mask the failure underneath for so long. If the Rams are truly to earn their second chance, it must be done on the field.
Pure and simple, sentimentality and luxurious amenities are only going to satisfy the crowds during 7-9 seasons for so long.
One of the more unsettling aspects of a sports team moving cities is the vitriol that inevitably follows. Both sides seem to lose any sense of logic and turn it into a back-and-forth verbal war about which city had been given the largest shaft. The logical thing to do would be to accept and appreciate the fact that St. Louis nurtured and raised the Rams into fine, young men, and even captured a crown for the organization. Some see it this way, many see it as the team returning to their “rightful owner,” whatever that’s supposed to mean. In truth, how the Rams are playing is more important than where the Rams are playing.
You could put the current roster on the Moon and people won’t care if they keep going 7-9 season after season. It would shock very few people if lack of winning was the thing that brings St. Louis fans and Los Angeles fans together on the playground.
The Rams’ time spent in St. Louis was significant and is worthy of being treated with respect. Much like a teenager leaving home for college, the St. Louis experience is a part of their history and cannot be overlooked when determining the value of the team in the current era. The Rams are much more valuable with a Super Bowl title than without one. One cannot simply wave their magic wand, erase the time spent in St. Louis and expect to produce the same level of historical quality.
So here the Rams sit, on the precipice of a second start, and with the amenities usually reserved for those who win. The Rams will have the finest tools of their trade made available to them once owner Stan Kroenke erects his modern day football shrine. Without having done much of anything, Fisher will likely receive a new contract.
In many ways, the Rams are the hallmark of a franchise spoiled beyond measure with items they don’t deserve.
But all of that talk goes away if the Rams are able to put the pieces together and create a winner on the field. The Rams are already one of the leaders of the pack in the NFL when it comes to community outreach and philanthropic activities. They believe they finally have the franchise quarterback they have been lacking to push them over the mediocre mark, now it’s just a matter of putting everything together and getting it in place.
There will be those who believe the Rams have earned a reprieve from the media because they moved.
Nothing could or should be further from the truth.
Jeff Fisher has had an appropriate number of years to show what he can do with an NFL team. A move shouldn’t buy him more time behind the wheel, but a move and a rookie quarterback are going to be enough for Fisher to acquire a get-out-of-jail-free card when common sense would dictate otherwise.
That’s sort of the thing with these Rams; they keep getting chance after chance after chance because they’re always this close to being decent at the end of the year.
The table is set for the Rams to achieve close to what they have in the recent past, but the appetite in Los Angeles will be much greater than it was in St. Louis. Everything costs just a little bit more in L.A. and fans don’t have the patience to wait out a losing franchise, they’ll go and do something else.
Winning is the only cure to what ails the Rams.
It seems like a straight-forward proposition, but it’s been anything but for the last couple of years. 2019 is far enough away that General Manager Les Snead and Jeff Fisher can put it on the backburner for now, but it’s close enough that their new football cathedral could be a hard sell by the time they get around to completing and opening it.
That’s because the trouble with winning is that you have to do it now, or people will find something else to do later.