Rams ownership almost always portrays itself as an organization that wants to win. It says winning is important. It says all the right things. “We’re going to put a lot of money into the defensive line.” Or “We’re going to draft a top SEC running back” Or “We’re going to go out and get a franchise quarterback.” And they do. They’re really good at picking up pieces, but tying those pieces together and making fundamentally sound supporting moves is not in their wheel house.
Back in 2009 Rams Nation was excited about the arrival of new head coach Steve Spagnuolo. He came from the 2008 Super Bowl winning NY Giants with a long history of being a tough defensive coordinator. Rams ownership again decreed its commitment to winning and paired the new head coach with Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur. The Rams brought in some roster talent (OT Jason Smith, LB James Laurinaitis, and DT Dorell Scott) and the fan base sighed a deep sigh of relief. But over the next 3 years the Rams complete what would be the worst 5 year stretch in NFL history. What did we miss?
The problem was the pairing of a first year head coach (defensive background) with a first year offensive coordinator who had never called plays before. A recipe for disaster which I called out at the time. I genuinely believe the Rams made that move fully understanding the fundamental flaw. (A little conspiracy theory? Not really. Football is a business and not all decisions are grounded in the concept of winning. But that’s an entirely different article.)
For now let’s just say the Rams have learned their lesson. This year they’ve paired a young offensive juggernaut in head coach Sean McVay with a seasoned defensive stalwart like Wade Phillips. Unfortunately, I’m worried the Rams are about to make a different, but equally devastating fundamental flaw. Again, I’m not completely opposed to the pieces; just worried about their arrangement. The Rams have high expectations for 2nd year QB Jared Goff, but I hear nothing in free agency or draft news about comprehensive moves to make him successful. There are 3 elements required to have a successful passing game: 1 you must have a solid offensive line, 2 you must be able to spread the field, and 3 you must have a strong running game so your offense doesn’t become one dimensional. The Rams are constantly working on their O-line and they’re at least aware of the need for speedster wide receivers (the Rams just signed veteran WR Robert Woods).
Last year the Rams had a trio of high potential running backs: Tre Mason, Benny Cunningham and Todd Gurley. Two of the 3 are gone (Gurley remains) and there is absolutely no conversation regarding their replacements. My guess? We’ll settle for a couple last minute pick ups of career second stringers. That kind of move is right out of the Rams standard operating procedures (when they’re not picking up players from other team’s practice squad).
The Rams need to stop looking at pieces. I firmly believe if the Rams don’t pull off a couple miracle trades for productive running backs, then Jared Goff will not have a successful second-year season. Optimistically, we’d be looking at another 6-10 season or worse if this structural gap is not addressed. Good teams understand their strengths and weaknesses and how to live with them. The Rams annually add new pieces, but somehow are unable to understand how a successful NFL team functions as a whole.