The Rams Have a Chance to Show LA It Shouldn't Give Up on the NFL Just Yet

Mike FreemanNFL National Lead WriterSeptember 29, 2017

Los Angeles Rams running back Todd Gurley (30) is congratulated by quarterback Jared Goff (16) after scoring a touchdown against the San Francisco 49ers during the first half of an NFL football game in Santa Clara, Calif., Thursday, Sept. 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Ben Margot/Associated Press

Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson knows what football means in Los Angeles. He was drafted by the Rams in 1983 and spent four-and-a-half years with the team. Now a guest NFL analyst, Dickerson recently assessed the current state of football in the city in blunt, yet truthful, terms, and it's something that short-sighted, greedy owners should have seen coming a million miles away:

"First of all, the Chargers are no factor," Dickerson told TMZ this week. "I hate to say that, I mean ... the Chargers don't even have Chargers fans in San Diego. I don't see the Chargers having a lot of success here in L.A., just to be honest with you."

That's cold-blooded, but it's achingly true.

Yet Dickerson left something out.

It's not just Chargers fans in Los Angeles who might not care. Rams fans are losing interest too. By the tens of thousands.

That could change, but it shouldn't be a surprise. There is so much to do in, and around, L.A. that a losing football team can't hold attention for long. There are, you know, beaches and stuff.

The Rams are 2-1, but so far, when it comes to attendance, the Rams' move to Los Angeles has been one of the worst-received in the NFL, and maybe professional sports.

It didn't start out that way. There was excitement last year when the Rams first played in Los Angeles. The site FiveThirtyEight broke down the numbers, and the Rams had the highest single-game attendance (91,046), largest average (84,457) and highest total attendance (591,197) among the nine teams in their first year in a new city since 1993.

That's pretty good, right? But since then, disaster. Through two home games, the Rams have experienced a drop of 26,087 in average attendance from last year. That would be the largest single-season drop at an NFL stadium since 1993.

So what's happened? Maybe nothing more than Rams fans proving to be the same old apathetic Los Angelenos, dude.

Which brings us to one of the most important moments in the history of these Rams. It's also one of the more vital points in the recent movement of teams leaving their cities for perches in Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Alex Gallardo/Associated Press

After physically dominating the 49ers in Week 3, the Rams travel this Sunday to Texas, where they'll play the Cowboys. And while it's only been three games, second-year quarterback Jared Goff has looked, well, pretty amazing. Goff ranks seventh in the NFL in passing yards (817), fourth in completion percentage (70.4), second in yards per attempt (10.1) and fourth in quarterback rating (118.2).

"Like I said before, I don't really care what people think," Goff said, according to a transcript of his recent press conference. "… I think (head coach) Sean [McVay] has done a great job calling these games so far, and guys have made plays after the catch. Like I said a million times, [I] just try to get them the ball and let him make a play. I think something that's really stood out is (running back) Todd [Gurley]'s ability out of the backfield to make some down-the-field plays and he extends plays after he catches it. So, [I'll] continue to try to do that and try to win games."

As good as Goff and the Rams have looked, it's also true that their two wins have been against the Colts and 49ers. Not exactly the Patriots and Packers.

A win against Dallas, though, could completely shift the fan dynamic in Los Angeles. It would show that the team is building something, that they can beat more than the dregs of the NFL. Even a close showing would provide hope.

Beating the Cowboys with all of their star power and Super Bowl aspirations could energize the city and phaser the apathy that is clearly building around the team.

The Rams need this. Football in L.A. needs this. People around the league have been saying that all of these stadium shuffles are turning fans off. I wasn't sure that was true, but now I'm thinking it might be.

Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

It's showing in the numbers. The Redskins-Rams game at the Coliseum in Week 2 drew 56,612. That's not great. The Dolphins-Chargers game at StubHub Center that same weekend drew 25,381. That's putrid. The USC-Texas game at the Coliseum had 84,714 people. That's more than the Rams and Chargers games combined.

The Chargers likely won't be in a position to change things with their play on the field anytime soon. But the Rams might be. They have a talented and aggressive defense, Gurley is dominating, and Goff is showing he may be the real deal.

This weekend offers them a chance to show they're no longer the Hams and that they can make a significant leap this season.

And maybe recapture a little of the reasons why the NFL wanted L.A. in the first place.

     

Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.