Robert Mays, formerly of Grantland and currently of its spiritual successor the Ringer, joined his colleague and former NFL executive Michael Lombardi on the Ringer NFL Show podcast yesterday which included some important passages on the Los Angeles Rams, their decision to tag CB Trumaine Johnson for a second year and making Sean McVay the youngest head coach in NFL history.
61-word lede, batches.
“Does it seem like they just don’t know what they’re doing?”
Mays and Lombardi turn the podcast to the Rams and Tru at around the 4:10 mark, and it’s not friendly. Lombardi’s confusion is over the fact that nobody would sign Trumaine Johnson the $16,742,400 he’s making this year on the tag. So why wouldn’t the Rams engineer a legitimate effort to either sign him long-term or let him walk?
They did exactly that with Janoris Jenkins, which Lombardi notes. Lombardi encapsulates the need to confront the decision by saying, “Don’t be afraid of free agency. Embrace free agency.” Whether it’s a hesitancy to engage free agency or it’s sheer incompetence, I’m not sure. Either way, it just doesn’t make sense.
“Just because you don’t have a better option doesn’t mean you should allocate your resources that way”
Part of the problem with tagging Tru is that it iterates how desperate the Rams are at the position and in general. Vinny Bonsignore had a great recap on the tag suggesting that the Rams had to do it because the alternative was worse. The problem ultimately was one of the Rams’ own doing. Either A they keep him or B they lose him to the market.
But as Lombardi notes, it’s not necessarily an A vs. B decision: “It’s A, B, C, D and E. And the people that can think of C, D and E are the ones making the better decisions. I think the Rams made a horrible choice.”
“They’re gonna have a hard time getting free agents to come if they don’t turn this thing around.”
Lombardi threw this out in the midst of his Tru rebuttal, but it’s a legitimate point to consider as we look toward free agency kicking open in a week. Too often, I see fans falling into the foolishness of thinking that the allure of LA as a city impacts where free agents sign. It’s maybe #8 in the power rankings of reasons players sign where they do.
The three things that always matter most? The offers themselves, the role the player is expected to have and the potential to win. As I covered yesterday, tagging Tru doesn’t leave the Rams with a ton of cap room to play with this offseason. They’ve got about $20m as it stands with free agency and the draft left to use it on, though any cap casualties might affect how much is available.
But as we head into free agency and begin thinking about how this next two months will set up the Sean McVay era, it’s worth considering that winning is going to speak louder than almost anything.
“You just know [Sean McVay] is not getting help from his front office.”
Remember that just three months ago, we had reports that the relationship between the Rams’ coaching staff and front office was “toxic.” That coaching staff? Nearly entirely shipped out. That front office? Still around in its entirety.
If the waning months of the season was a battle between the coaching staff and front office, the front office won. Lombardi suggested, “Everybody just assumed the mess was Jeff Fisher. So Jeff Fisher gets the mess put underneath him, and it’s not realistic.” As a Rams fan, I wish they would have stayed on that topic for a while, but I can understand why they moved on. Still, you have to wonder if the schism that existed between Fisher’s staff and Snead’s FO is going to create some similar friction even if it’s to a lesser extent with the current coaching staff. That will be largely up to McVay and Snead to dissolve, but if the FO feels backed into a corner from the last five years...I doubt they’re suddenly going to start pointing the finger at themselves if the 2017 Rams don’t start turning things around.
It’s a worthwhile listen that identifies some of the underpinnings of the Rams’ struggles of late as well as the challenge ahead of McVay. It also shows that firing Jeff Fisher didn’t absolve the franchise of criticism, and rightly not so. As Mays says, “They are more of a mess than people are giving them credit for.”
Whether he’s right or not, we’ll find out in the coming seasons. What’s clear is that the Rams have earned that perception. The 2017 offseason isn’t off to a start to convince outsiders otherwise.