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The Los Angeles Rams saved 2017 by improving coaching, personnel and themselves

There is no one reason the 2017 Los Angeles Rams are so much better than their predecessors. There are just three reasons.

Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff
Los Angeles Rams HC Sean McVay and QB Jared Goff
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

I’ve done a couple dozen radio hits since the 2017 Los Angeles Rams proved themselves to be a much better a team, a team that is contending for stuff we haven’t talked about on this site for seven years. In nearly each, I get asked why the Rams are so much better. Often, the host leads the question with their suggestion of why.

There is no one reason the Rams are so much better this year than in years past.

There are three.

The coaching is better

Yes, Head Coach Sean McVay is doing a phenomenal job. From simplifying the offensive system to fit QB Jared Goff rather than handjam him into a preconceived system to changing the culture within the walls at HQ to his brutal honesty in public settings, McVay is acing his first tests as head coach. And yes, he deserves the kudos for as much.

But it’s a team game. Coaching, I mean. Not football. But yeah, that too.

The Rams list 24 coaches officially. And even though it’s fairly impossible for outsiders to gauge the quality of performance of nearly all of those coaches, it’s hard not to buy into the claim that they, at least collectively, are doing a better job than their predecessors. Across the board.

Outside of McVay and his two primary coordinators in Matt LaFleur on offense and the seasoned veteran Wade Phillips on defense, there’s no real data on the quality of performance of this coaching staff. Or any, really. Statistics are a misleading, indirect metric for coaching performance. But the performance of the team, overall, is a fair metric.

And this is a team that is, put simply, performing much better than any in the five years under former Head Coach Jeff Fisher and any of his coaching staffs.

The new personnel is better

There’s not much to really argue with, here. The additions to the 2017 Rams have been, well, phenomenal.

LT Andrew Whitworth. WR Sammy Watkins. WR Robert Woods. C John Sullivan. CB Kayvon Webster. OLB Connor Barwin. WR Cooper Kupp. S John Johnson III.

The 2017 offseason was nearly flawless. Save for a very forgivable move for RB Lance Dunbar, and you can understand why General Manager Les Snead is now the subject of puff pieces over at Sports Illustrated instead of the unseen specter he played in Hard Knocks last year.

Whether it’s free agency or the 2017 NFL Draft or the trade for Watkins (though judging by his comments on the most recent episode of Turf Show Radio, Misone would likely disagree), the Rams aced this offseason.

Consider this simple bit of evidence:

That’s simply a factor of better talent in the passing game. Snead deserves credit for assembling it. And it’s independent of the quality of the coaching and why coaching alone can’t be credited solely for the improvement of the Rams.

The old personnel is better

I don’t know if you know this, but 2017 Jared Goff is the same human as 2016 Jared Goff. He has the same intellectual capacity. The same arm strength. The same vision. The same “tiny Burger King” hands.

And yet, he’s playing much, much, much better.

Consider this piece from ESPN’s Alden Gonzalez today. It presents a clear case for whatever you want to call it.

Growth. Development. Maturity. Whatever. It’s happening.

Or RB Todd Gurley. He of a single game of a 100 rushing yards or more in his final 24 games playing under Fisher, he of four such games in seven under McVay in 2017. He of zero receiving touchdowns in his career before this year, he of three such touchdowns now to date. He, reborn.

Growth. Development. Maturity. Whatever. It’s happening.

Remember those preseason concerns about RG Jamon Brown and RT Rob Havenstein? Or that poorly tested BS line about the front office not knowing how CB Trumaine Johnson would fit into Phillips’ defense? Or the defensive line depth with Ethan Westbrooks and Matt Longacre and Morgan Fox? Guys, Cody Davis started two games. And wasn’t bad. At all.

The kind of improvement that fans like to assume always happens to every player because guys under 25 in Madden always gain a couple OVR points every season has happened to numerous Rams who were on the roster last year and look much better in and of themselves in 2017.

There isn’t one reason the 2017 Rams are so much better. There are three: coaching, personnel additions and improved holdovers. Which one is having more of an impact? That’s a debate worth having, one I expect we’ll continue to have all year. And one we’ll have to really dive into in four months when we start constructing the 2018 Rams.

But as it stands today, the confluence of all three factors are making a much, much better product. And when we come out of the bye, we’ll have to see just how good this product is.

And how far these three factors, together, can go.