32 In 32—St Louis Rams
Over the next 32 days I will be posting an article a day breaking down every NFL team. Taking the team they currently have I will discuss where they are as a team, how they got there, what they need to do going forward and what the long term outlook is for them.
What better place to start than with the 1-15 St Louis Rams?
Where Are They?
At 1-15 the Rams have joined an elite group of mediocrity. They beat one team last year, a team that went winless the season before and had the second worst record in football this year, the Detroit Lions.
They have a roster that can only be described as appalling and lack serious play makers in almost every position. They have no bona-fide stars to market to the national media, and have a collection of Quarterbacks that would rival the line-up in a Texas High School team. But it’s not all bad.
Leading this group of misfits is a great coach and leader, Steve Spagnuolo. After helping the Giants win a Superbowl he looks to bring his fiery leadership and intensity to the city of St Louis.
Despite having possibly the worst roster in the league, it is not all doom and gloom. Aside from the veterans, James Laurinaitas and Donnie Avery are great young starters who have good careers ahead of them. But they are still 1-15, and with that they are automatically given the title of the worst team in the NFL.
How did they get here?
I am sure that this is the question every Rams fan has been muttering all season. They are less than a decade departed from “The Greatest Show on Turf”, had a Pro Bowl Quarterback in Marc Bulger and still have a human wrecking ball for a Running Back in Steven Jackson.
Jay Zygmunt happened.
Zygmunt was one of the most low profile general managers in the league up until his resignation in 2009, rarely offering interviews or an insight into the day to day developments of the club.
Zygmunt was hired in 1982 as an accountant, and rose through the ranks to become the Chief Negotiator for all contracts associated with the Rams organization. His accounting background helped him garner widespread praise as one of the best cap managers in the league.
Let's fast forward to the end of his meteoric rise in the Rams organization. After the Mike Martz breakup, in which he played a pivotal part, he was given the title President of Football Operations/General Manager. What followed was the prime example why your General Manager should not be an accountant.
Zygmunt frequently overruled his scouts and personnel guys, drafting players who he was warned against and passing up players that his scouts practically begged him to take.
In the upper management of the Rams, almost everybody was an associate or a “Yes Man” to the man in the big office. Instead of doing the job he was best suited for, which is manage the cap; he tried to do that job in a role that required more of an eye for talent and the ability to yield to other people’s opinions.
With his fiery personality he often clashed with people who pushed their own ideas instead of finding reasons to agree with his.
A narrow-minded accountant without scouting or pro personnel experience?
Just what makes a franchise great.
After passing on Matt Ryan and Mark Sanchez (Which occurred after Zygmunt resigned) the Rams are left destitute at the most important position of all. They have had very shallow draft classes in recent years, missing on too many mid round draft picks for a team to remain competitive. After a 1-15 season, the Rams have a lot of holes to fill.
Now They Are Here, Where Do They Go?
The only way is up.
You can only be worse than the 2009 St Louis Rams if you were the 2008 Detroit Lions. The Rams need to blow this thing up. I mean completely. First order of business has to be to cut Marc Bulger. After his contract extension several years ago, he has produced at a level not suited to a former Pro Bowler.
If he is your starting quarterback going into the 2010 season, then you have serious concerns, and if he is your backup, then you have a lot of dead money in a backup quarterback.
Secondly, they should be seeing what the market value is for their few talented players.
Steven Jackson has been a workhorse back for several years, and is the most talented player on that team by a country mile, but I think they should trade him. The Rams are going to be awful for a while longer.
Given the complete overhaul the team needs, they don’t figure to be competitive for 3-4 seasons. By that time, Jackson will be 30 entering his 10th-11th season. As Hall-of-Famer Ladainian Tomlinson showed last season, workhorse backs don’t have much life on the wrong side of 30.
If the Rams can get, for example, San Diego’s first and fifth round selections in this year’s draft it is something that the Rams would have to seriously consider. Getting more selections to rebuild the team will benefit St Louis in the long term, at the cost of a player who can only contribute his best years when the team isn’t competitive.
They need to be targeting a few positions in the draft, beginning with Quarterback. If they take care of that in round one, they can focus on improving the talent level on defense.
If they take a Cornerback in round two, there is plenty of talent there at the top of the round that could start in week one, and be an immediate upgrade.
In the later round their focus needs to switch to the trenches. In the deepest draft class in several years, they can improve both the Offensive and Defensive lines with high upside players that can be groomed into the type of player they want over the next couple of years.
Who Are They?
This is something that will have to play out over the course of the season.
Who are the Rams?
Are they a smash mouth football team who will beat you down?
Are they a finesse team that relies on speed and agility?
Are they a defensive powerhouse that utilizes front-4 pressure that Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo is famous for creating?
Clearly none of these descriptions will be applicable immediately, but they sure need to be heading in one of these directions by the end of the season. Every time I watched a Rams game last year I didn’t know what to expect apart from mediocrity.
“With The First Overall Pick In The 2010 NFL Draft The St Louis Rams Select....
Sam Bradford, quarterback, Oklahoma”. For those who have read my mock draft you know that I believe that Sam Bradford is the only option open to the Rams at this point. After passing on quarterbacks the past few years they need to take the Sooner and nail the position down for a decade.
Drafting defensive and offensive line is all very well and good, but those positions don’t change seasons like a Quarterback does.
Suh, the defensive Tackle from Nebraska has made a strong case over the past 12 months to be the top overall selection, and he is the most talented player. That being the case, he isn’t what the Rams need.
The Rams have Adam Carriker. The Rams have Chris Long. Spending another first round choice on a Defensive Lineman is not going to get them victories, no matter how great a talent Suh is.
Bradford can give this city hope. How hopeful can you be as a fan when your quarterback competition is currently between Marc Bulger, A.J. Feeley and Keith Null?
Talk about a Lose-Lose-Lose Harder situation.
They need to take Bradford, let one of the other guys get the snot knocked out of them this year and start Bradford from year two.
Putting a player, who played shotgun throughout his college career, behind an Offensive Line with that much trouble pass blocking would be harmful to his career on a level that can only be described as “David Carr”. Having Bradford waiting in the wings is a positive note in what will more than likely be another season of abysmal football.
So When Will It Get Better?
This all depends on whether they take Bradford. If they don’t take him expect another five years of picking high. Although he isn’t the second coming of Peyton Manning, there is no reason to believe he cannot perform to the level of Matt Ryan or Joe Flacco given the right system.
Passing on him could also result in the return of the Los Angeles Rams, or at least increase the talk about it. Giving your fans no hope for the next several years is a dangerous game to play.
Either way, they are going to be a bottom dweller for the 2010 season at least.
If they take Bradford, the Rams could be two or three years away from challenging for the division. With several free agent departures in Arizona and the Seahawks going through a rebuilding process like the Rams, the division has the opportunity to be the most balanced between the teams.
Astute draft choices and wise free agent acquisitions could bring the talent level to a competitive level sooner rather than later.
But they sure as hell do need a quarterback.