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The 2018 NFL Playoffs prove Jeff Fisher was fighting a losing battle

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Jeff Fisher fought to establish his brand of football for five years with the Rams. In his wake, this year’s playoffs are now billing teams that are doing it better than he ever did with his own quarterbacks.

Former Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher during a Week 14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in 2016
Former Los Angeles Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher during a Week 14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in 2016
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports

“The St. Louis Rams just need a QB to become a successful team.”

It’s one of those phrases that’s bounced around the media and fans all season.

...

It’s also not true.

I said that in December of 2015, the fourth consecutive losing season under then Head Coach Jeff Fisher coming on the back of a year spent between QBs Nick Foles and Case Keenum.

Fast forward two years and Foles and Keenum are set to quarterback their two respective teams, the Philadelphia Eagles and Minnesota Vikings, in the NFC Championship this weekend.

On the back of the NFL’s best defense in Minnesota, Keenum has flourished in 2017. Foles took over in Week 14 against the Rams of all teams when starting QB Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury, but stingy defense and one of the best running games in Philly saw them through a 2-1 finish and a huge divisional round win over the Atlanta Falcons. It’s a testament to the strength of the roster around the two quarterbacks and the quality of the coaching staff overseeing both QBs. And a testament to the degree of failure by Fisher and his staff with the Rams.

It’s worth remembering that Fisher wasn’t forced into a corner to play Nick Foles or Case Keenum. And ironically enough, they weren’t even the only options to quarterback the 2015 Rams as we selected QB Sean Mannion in the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft with the 89th overall pick. For reference, the Rams took S John Johnson with the 91st pick of the 2017 NFL Draft. That Mannion only took seven snaps in the 2015 season in which the Rams started 4-8 should tell you quite a bit about all of this: the QB position, Fisher’s management decisions and the overall environment in which all of them were operating.

That we’re seeing a season in which the playoffs are invalidating Fisher’s capabilities entirely isn’t surprising. Both the Vikings and Jacksonville Jaguars are built to play the very brand of football Fisher hoped to oversee: physical defense with a punishing ground attack punctuated by quarterback play that doesn’t capsize the overall effort. Both the Vikings and Jaguars are doing so better than Fisher’s Rams teams ever did despite being handed a defensive roster that already had a quite capable core buttressed by the two trades in the 2012 NFL Draft and a supplemental handful of running backs drafted in the first four years.

For years, Fisher continued to make excuses as to why his Rams teams couldn’t get over the mark. Media complied with his excuses by and large. And far too many fans rallied behind their hopes instead of demanding better results.

No season serves as better evidence to as much as the 2015 season in retrospect largely because of what we’re seeing play out in this year’s playoffs.

The Rams didn’t need a QB in 2015. They needed the things around their quarterback that Fisher was supposed to provide, that other teams are providing around those very same quarterbacks this year and getting the results that Fisher never once got with the Rams.

In that same piece in 2015, I said:

The Rams aren’t a QB away from being able to make the playoffs. That’s just an of excuse that absolves Jeff Fisher from bearing the responsibility of having four years to build a successful team and yet again failing to get past .500 by season’s end.

This year proves that it was as true then as it is now.