You all may have noticed I haven’t been lurking the hallowed halls of Turf Show Times of late? In truth, the debacle of this season - for the team I’ve loved for oh-so-very long - became a near staggering effort for me to abide. It’s been a slow motion train wreck, and while I tried to look away, I just couldn’t...
I thought I’d bend away from my seeming unending grumble on what’s been, and take a little shopping trip to buy the Rams a few things I think they can use in 2017. Yet to do this right, I’ll have to find a wing-man, who knows his way around Interweb Malls, drinks a lot, and has a keen sense for the absurd. Hmm? Without batting an eye, I hit the ‘ol speed dial and called - Wait for it... - Brandon Bate, who I happen to know has a bunch of time on his hands now that he’s been miserably drubbed out of our Fantasy Football League Championship round...
...Asleep in his official L.A. Rams Lazyboy recliner, he awoke with a start. Dazed, Brandon heard a sound that made him gulp - and pee a little - as he turned his head toward the phone on the coffee table. The phone’s ring tone - set to the 1958 Sheb Wooley tune - made him groan. He felt panic rising within as he tried - in vain - to get his recliner to to “un-recline”...
Feeling trapped, he began to furiously rock back and forth in an effort to escape the clutches of his evil chair. He happened to glance up in time to see his wife come running into the room, terror filled eyes alternately staring at the phone, then her husband, who looked like a turtle on his back as he tried to wriggle his way out of his hideous easy chair.
“For the love of God, don’t answer it!” She said in a tension filled whisper. “Maybe he’ll just go away?”
Brandon began to nod, then stopped. “Remember the cruise ship?” He shook his head slowly, “He appeared out of nowhere... In the middle of the ocean, he just showed up at our table...” Brandon began to drool at little at the memory of the seafood bar.
“Stop thinking about Crab legs!” She’d seen her husband’s eyes start to glaze over. She grabbed his food stained shirt front, and yanked him out of his chair. Combined with Brandon’s effort to extricate himself from the recliner, the chair somehow sensed it was the moment to unleash its built up spring tension. Acting more like a trébuchet or catapult than a recliner, it launched Brandon forward. He and his wife flew onto the coffee table, which gave way with a crash. The phone went high in the air, and as he rolled off his wife to her side, they both watched the phone kind of hang in the air, then land on Brandon’s chest with a thud. Lying there motionless, they both looked up at the ceiling as the 1958 ditty continued to trill its menacing tone from the phone...
Brandon blew out a long breath, and sat up. He looked lovingly at his wife, who - eyes closed - shook her head as he answered the phone... “Hello?”
“Happy New Year!” I half yelled into the phone. “Did you get my gifts?” I was pretty sure he would have loved the “Thoughts, by Jeff Fisher” tome I’d sent him, if the Rams hadn’t fired Fisher. His - “Latitudes... Longitudes... Marks of where and when. Platitudes on a life map are a plotted circle; in an ocean of what should have been-s... Or Not...” - makes me wonder...
“Your wife is going to love what I sent her...” I’d put a great deal of thought into her gift. She’s a Pilates professional, but I knew her whole exercise thing was a fad. So I’d found her an online course - “Marzipan Cafes- Be Your Own Boss, And Make $$$!”
Brandon nodded as he looked at the box, that still sat just inside the front door. “Happy New Year to you, too... Look, were kind of busy, so...” He felt sweat starting to bead up on his forehead.
“ Not a problem, my friend! I just need you for a little shopping spree online. We’re going to shop for a few things the Rams need for next season...”
Brandon’s lower lip went down a bit as he tilted his head to the side. His wife muffled a scream with her hand as she heard her husband say: “OK...” Brandon stood up, and walked toward his home office, leaving his wife in lying on the living room floor amidst the coffee table wreckage.
Sitting down at his desk, he opened his laptop and put his phone on speaker. “Where to first?”
“Let’s go to “GMs-Free Agents-and-Beyond.com. They probably have a few things the Rams need.”
Brandon typed the web address in his browser, and a company in China popped up. His eyebrows rose to new heights. “How’d you find this site?”
“Cortana... Now hit the free agent tab, and let’s see what’s there...”
“...But it’s all in Chinese? What’s a “Yuan Renminbi?”
I wasn’t sure? “I think it’s the Chinese knock-off of the venerable Yugo?”
“Reeeally? Well, Dont’a Hightower has 52,125,000 of them. Just how big is his garage?” Brandon thought about his little two car garage, and sighed...
“Wait a second... A Yuan Renminbi is their money, so let me throw this in a currency converter... Hmm? He gets paid $7.751 million per year, but his New England contract is up. He’s an unrestricted free agent in 2017...” I’m still not sold on the Rams’ Alec Ogletree at inside linebacker. Getting him back outside, and adding a pass rushing linebacker to the Rams defensive mix, was still high on my wishlist. I added Hightower to my Dà chē (cart), and went back to shopping.
Brandon clicked on the wide receiver tab. “Look at the receiver talent that’s up for grabs in 2017! Alshon Jeffrey is going to cost someone serious Yuan!”
I hit the link, and Brandon was right. While there weren’t a bunch of #1 wide receivers, there were plenty who had upside, or were secondary to top receivers on their respective teams. My eyes wandered down the list to former USC star Robert Woods, who had been a under-performer in Buffalo. As long as the guaranteed money wasn’t too steep, a 3 year deal in the $6 to $8 million per year range wouldn’t be a bad deal? I hit the Dà chē button, then added Jeffrey - who would command in the $12 to $14 million range (5 years) at the very least. I guy can dream, right?
I added Minnesota’s Matt Kalil to his possible purchases. The Greg Robinson at left tackle days were coming to an end. As a guard, Robinson could still be salvaged.
“Let’s move to on to coaches...”
“Wait a second!” Brandon pointed out: “Who are you going to cut to make room for the players you want?”
I knew Brandon had already made his picks for players he wanted to cut in Sean W’s recent article.
“Well...” I’ve always been on the fringe on a few things. While some of my past Mock Draft-s have been maligned, looking back I’ve hit on quite a few as far as player successes once they landed in the NFL. “Any new Rams’ head coach has to realize that, to change direction, he needs to cut ties with the least effective philosophic building blocks Jeff Fisher left behind. To that end, players on offense should be less game plan-centric. I’d find a way to trade Tavon Austin...” I held my phone away from my ear as Brandon began to scream...
“WHAAAAAT!?! Are you insane... Wait a second... Of course you’re insane. What was I thinking?” Brandon’s wife watched as her husband tried to strangle his phone.
Knowing I had to move on while Brandon worked through whatever anger addled Fugue state I’d momentarily caused, I continued: “...I’d also find a way to get some draft capital out of Robert Quinn, who just doesn’t seem a good bet to rely on going forward...” I could have sworn I heard - what sounded like - someone spitting into a phone?
Brandon stared at his dry phone. He made a final attempt to spit at it, then cursed all the Sahara-dry Kale and Almond flour biscuits his wife had made him for breakfast. He held his phone out at arm’s length and pointed at it with his free hand, “Vladimir Putin put you up to this, didn’t he? You’re trying to hack my brain!” He looked warily around the room, then felt his forehead. Turning to his wife, he asked, “Do I look “hacked” to you?” She nodded...
“Next, I’d do another short term deal with Brian Quick, and I wouldn’t be sold on Kenny Britt being able to perform for anyone other than Jeff Fisher...” Britt was an absolute wildcard going forward. “With the San Diego Chargers likely headed to L.A., the Rams need to make a splash, not hold out hope for players teetering on the edge of “what could be...?”
Brandon didn’t hear a word after: “...another short term deal with Brian Quick.” His right eye began to twitch a little. He’d been joined by the family pet; a hairless cat he’d named “Fluffy.” They looked at one another...
Fluffy’s right eye began to titch too. Brandon slowly nodded, then said into his phone:
“I would've liked to have seen some more quality names for a Left Tackle, but I don't see anyone worth shelling out big money for at the moment? I’d Move Greg Robinson inside, and draft another one if need be. Otherwise, I'm OK with solidifying the defense, and trying to address O-line with a cheaper free agents adds, or with draft picks...
“And when Luke Joeckel and Chance Warmack are the best options at guard, I'm ok with leaning towards defensive players in free agency...” Fluffy nodded his head in agreement, farted, and jumped off his desk...
As I considered what Brandon had said, a glaring truth popped into my mind. I decided to shift to the question of coaching.
“Everything depended on who the next Rams head coach would be. My personal choice is Jacksonville interim head coach Doug Marrone, with former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley as defensive coordinator joining him in L.A. I’d add Norv Turner as offensive coordinator. Marrone has some offensive line/scheme credentials, and could could be in a position - with the right mix of staff help - to turn into a bargain. My only misgiving with Marrone is what’s happened in Jacksonville in 2016. Blake Bortles simply imploded. While Marrone had little to do with their quarterback’s staggering poor season, the line he was responsible for didn’t help Bortle’s cause in any way.” All I could hear on the phone was heavy breathing?
Brandon struggled for a response. His head began to ache as he said, “You just like him because his name is almost the same as yours...” His feeble response earned an eye roll from his wife; who leaned against the office doorway as she listened.
I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair... Was I that transparent?
“I bet you didn't know that Vince Lombardi's real first name was Doug? Same with Abe Lincoln, and Sister Teresa... In fact, if you translate Gandhi's name into English, it comes out: "Doug, The Skinny."
Brandon’s wife burst out laughing. He wasn’t sure why? “I’d like to see Kyle Shanahan get the job...” He knew Shanahan had done a decent job in Atlanta as offensive coordinator, though having a receiver like Julio Jones would add an invisible asterisk to quarterback Matt Ryan’s 2016 campaign. The Rams had no one in the same talent area code as Jones. How Shanahan would handle Jared Goff’s development would be a coin flip with wide receiver help.
I looked at my watch. “Well, my friend... I think we’ve hit the key shopping points for the Rams. Needs on offense, defense and coaching are glaring, with an interesting off season steaming toward us like an out of control train...”
Brandon nodded as he studied his wife, still rolling on the ground laughing as she said “Doug, The Skinny...” over and over again.
“I have to run. I’ve got loads to do, what with my visit to your happy home coming up next week...” I smiled, then waited as the laughter in the background suddenly died away.
“Your what?” Brandon’s lower lip began to quiver as he began to shake his head side to side.
“We’ll talk later. Gotta run!” I ended the call, still smiling...
Brandon stared at the now silent phone in his hand. Suddenly feeling like he was holding some kind of cursed object, he dropped on his desk top. The back of the phone popped off. He didn’t know why thoughts of the Los Angeles Rams’ current player roster flashed in his mind as he read the small words inside the phone: “Made in China...”