With the exit of Jeff Fisher and the hiring of new Head Coach Sean McVay and new Defensive Coordinator, Los Angeles Rams fans are hopeful that a 13-season span without a winning record could come to an end in 2017.
But new odds from ESPN’s Football Power Index not only suggest they’re not bullish on the idea of a winning Rams season. They’re putting decent odds that the Rams will end up with the worst record in the NFL and earn the first overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft:
Best chance to get No. 1 pick next year (FPI).— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 18, 2017
1. Jets (24%)
2. 49ers (19%)
3. Browns (17%)
4. Bears (10%)
5. Rams (8%)
Hardly inspiring company.
Of course, ESPN’s FPI metric hasn’t been favorable for the Rams since they released their 2017 projections in early June. They have the Rams as a bottom four team and a 6-10 win-loss projection:
ESPN explains their metric:
In short, a team's FPI rating combines its efficiency ratings on offense, defense and special teams -- based on each unit's expected points added per play -- with the sum of all three squad ratings yielding the overall FPI rating. (For more on how FPI is calculated, click here and here.)
We then use these ratings to simulate the NFL season 10,000 times in order to derive a team's chances to win its division, make the playoffs, win the Super Bowl, etc.
There’s no reason to take this to heart, necessarily. Moreover, there are multiple 6-10 outcomes that I think would offer some substantial improvements over 2016 that would put the Rams on a trajectory to turn the franchise around under McVay, an outcome he was directly hired to make real.
The bigger question is what a 6-10 season would entail. What kinds of decisions it would require. And how fans would respond into the end of the calendar year with a second team in LA drawing unaffiliated casual attention.
Much of what’s been set as a bar this preseason for McVay and the Rams was not only wildly specious but irresponsible. To expect any head coach, let alone a first-time head coach who happens to be the youngest head coach in NFL history, to immediately take over a 4-12 team with a historically woeful offense and reverse fortunes in a single offseason to such a degree that it produces an output in line with the rest of the league is silly. And while there’s nothing wrong hoping for silly, expecting it works against the team.
But as Jeff Fisher’s exit provided an easy scapegoat for everything wrong with the Rams in 2016, it was as intellectually devoid in January as it is now. There’s time for McVay to fix things. A 6-10 record and a top 5 draft pick next year wouldn’t be a failure on McVay’s part. It would be a starting point.
And I’d be willing to bet that it likely heads upward from that point on.