The Rams suffered a deflating loss to the 49ers this last Thursday. Fans were crushed to see their team perform so poorly. The outcome of this loss has been a barrage of emotion and finger pointing. People are suddenly pointing at Sam Bradford as a key factor. This is kind of silly since we have seen Bradford play for 3 years and we know exactly what he brings to the table. I know this can be clouded by the stupid amount of money he was paid to join the team, but that’s hardly Bradford’s fault. After an exciting college career Bradford has settled into the NFL as an average and even fairly competent QB. When the o-line plays well and Bradford’s offensive weapons are doing their jobs, he elevates his game. Generally, he is not inspiring and is not the kind of QB to put a team on his back and carry them to the promised land. That is simply not who he is in the NFL. If you think differently, then you are not thinking clearly. However, he can be competent.
I’m going to give more examples, but I believe the problem lies squarely on the backs of Jeff Fisher and Rams upper management who don’t seem to understand their player’s talent. To keep my sentences a little shorter, whenever I refer to Jeff Fisher, I am also referring to Rams upper management. Here’s another example, Daryl Richardson is taking a lot of heat for ‘not running well’. To me, Fisher and everyone else on the planet have the wrong expectation for Richardson. Richardson is not an every down running back. Last year I was super excited when he was signed because the Rams had a huge need for an explosive complementary running back to Steven Jackson. I figured these 2 guys had a couple more years of working together and if wide receiving talent was added, we had a serious shot at getting back to the show. Now the general public might not have understood the importance of this tandem, but ‘Fisher’ did. There are a few reasons why the Rams would let SJ get away: 1 there was some kind of personal issue involved (someone’s pride), 2 incompetence, or 3 some other ‘business’ factor other than a design to win was given priority. Don’t dismiss the latter as simply a provocative statement. In the years just previous to Kroenke purchasing the Rams, draft and free agency picks were clearly not based on the desire to win. These picks kind of remind of the Rams 2013 pickups in the defensive secondary.
Another example is our receiving core. 90% of college players need some development time (1 to 2 years) to get to the level of play they become famous for later in their career. Rams young WRers are flailing and what do we do? We say that first year receiver Tavon Austin is a bust (and this just 4 weeks into the season and his professional career). Again, this is completely a ‘Fisher’ issue. If the Rams were really looking to win, they would have brought in a couple of proven high-dollar veteran receivers via free agency. ‘Fisher’ knows that in order to succeed over the long haul you have to bring in and nurture rookie talent. ‘Fisher’ also knows that rookie talent does not bring in short-term wins. The equation for near-term success is a combination of confident veterans and superstar young talent. It’s not rocket science. So give Austin a break (and some time). He’s having a rough start because he has not been set up to succeed.
Unfortunately, we also have player performance issues. A problem is only a player performance issue when you have the right player in the right position. You have the player with the correct skill set, the correct (winning) experience, and the correct compensation and then subpar performance is still exhibited. I believe this is the case with the Rams offensive line. In the offseason the Rams moved Roger Saffold to right tackle and upgraded the left tackle position with Jake Long. Next we upgraded the TE position by bringing in stud Jared Cook. The Rams have the players on the o-line they want and these guys are not playing up to snuff. Coaches are but mere mortals so no one can foresee injury issues (even though Saffold seems to be in a constant state of injury), but all in all we have the right staff. And I’ve got to tell you that most of the o-line issues can be blamed on coaching too. It’s the coach’s job to get these guys physically and mentally prepared to play. (With the way the Rams are playing we almost need to replace coaches with psychiatric staff.)
So bottom line, and I say this with a lot of disappointment, I blame Rams management for how pathetic the Rams look this season. I know Jeff Fisher made questionable in-game calls on and off over the course of last season, but this year I believe he has made fundamental personnel mistakes and is poorly managing the team. Fisher’s poor coaching has become a ‘performance’ issue and needs to be addressed.