Teams want to play the games and cover the games; they want to do both. All these team websites are just a pox on our business. All the coverage is slanted. It’s all pro-team and the people who cover, who work for a network one way or another that is paying the league billions of dollars to broadcast games and be partners, everything they say I take with a grain of salt. It’s left all to beat writers and magazine guys apart from these teams, and networks who have independence, to dissect the game and look at things with an unbiased eye. We’re journalists. These people on these networks aren’t journalists, to a large degree. That means a lot. We know how to be fair, we know how to source and we know how to ask questions. We know how to tell stories.
That was long time Green Bay Packers beat writer Bob McGinn talking to former MMQB editor Peter King in 2017 in one of the most important interviews of the last decade on the state of football coverage.
McGinn left after decades of covering the Packers at the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel amid rumors that McGinn’s coverage rankled top Packers brass. When McGinn left to found his own website, the Packers denied him credentials after 39 years on the Packers beat.
Myles Simmons announced today that he is leaving the Los Angeles Rams after four seasons as their team insider to join the Las Vegas Review-Journal as their backup beat writer covering the Oakland Raiders. Simmons was both a writer and on-camera talent for the Rams as well as their podcast co-host along with former Rams great D’Marco Farr.
Simmons was the second to hold the position following Nick Wagoner who held the position with the Rams for nine years before becoming ESPN’s Rams blogger for three years and then their San Francisco 49ers blogger, a position he’s held since 2016.
Like Wagoner, Simmons did a fine job and has earned his spot on the Raiders beat. I’ve got no doubt he’ll provide great content for Raiders fans and our friends over at Silver and Black Pride, the SB Nation community for fans of the Raiders.
But his departure gives the Rams an opportunity to do something that would benefit Rams fans.
Don’t hire anyone to fill Myles’ seat.
For me, there was one quote that always summed up Jeff Fisher’s relationship with the St. Louis media in his four years in charge there.
It was in the preseason in 2015. The Rams had moved on from Sam Bradford after successive ACL injuries trading him for Nick Foles in March. In the second preseason game, Foles played horribly. Foles had four series to start the game on offense. He threw a pick-six on the first, and the Rams punted on the other three gaining a total of 29 yards.
After the game, Fisher was asked if he was concerned about the state of his offense, and his answer had two portions that would ultimately reflect his entire tenure both as a coach and in terms of his relationship with the media:
If you go back a year from now, or two years from now, or three years from now, you guys all asked me the same questions, ‘What’s up with your offense?’ We keep it basic. Our philosophy is to just play and work on fundamentals during the preseason. (QB) Nick (Foles) wants that ball back. He’d love to have that ball back. That wasn’t a good decision by Nick and that’s not the first interception he’s thrown and not the last one he’s going to throw. He’s had a great camp and no concerns whatsoever. Our offense is coming. It’s coming.
The first part was telling. Fisher was pointing to the Rams’ offenses in 2012, 2013 and 2014 as a justification to believe that the 2015 offense would be acceptable. All of those offenses were objectively bad. The 2012 offense finished 25th in points scored despite having QB Sam Bradford healthy all season. The 2013 offense was 30th in yards gained. The 2014 offense was perhaps the best of the bunch; it finished 28th in scoring.
But in using those offenses to suggest the 2015 offense would be fine, no media member followed up on that. Fisher was not pressed to explain whether he in fact thought those offenses were sufficient or whether he was simply glossing over their ineptitude.
Of course the end of that quote perhaps had more heft in the end. Fisher used his past failures to produce an offense as a central reason why the 2015 offense was “coming.”
The 2015 St. Louis Rams finished dead last in the league in yards gained.
He was never asked what he expected was “coming” that didn’t materialize. His justification of feeding promise into the 2015 offense was never followed up on.
It was Fisher’s fourth year in charge. It was his fourth consecutive losing season, the Rams’ 12th consecutive season without a winning record.
Nine days after the Rams’ final game of the 2015 season, they were approved to relocate to LA.
Eleven months later to the day, he was fired.
On February 1, 2019, two days before Super Bowl LIII, Rams Head Coach Sean McVay said of his star running back Todd Gurley, ““He’s feeling good. A hundred percent.”
He was, in fact, not.
Modern media is, uh, messy. It’s also constantly in motion.
Between traditional formats and new media and social media and whatever the hell TikTok is, the way we engineer information and digest it is more widespread and more transient than ever. There is little to be able to know about what lies ahead.
But I do know that journalism matters. Asking tough questions of people in power especially amid malfeasance, intentional or not, remains important. Perhaps now more than ever.
The Rams only credential so much media. There’s only so much time they have publicly to ask questions of Head Coach Sean McVay, General Manager Les Snead and occasionally Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Kevin Demoff.
There’s not much value in having a team employee take up that time to fill in questions on the team’s behalf.
There is much value in allowing the media to, in the words of McGinn, “dissect the game and look at things with an unbiased eye.”
Fans want media’s stories. We deserve their questions.
We’d be better off if Simmons was the last team insider in franchise history.