For those who like to write "doom and gloom" articles, the St. Louis Rams are an easy target. Their recent history is bleak, to say the least. So, even for those who call themselves "fans," the natural tendency is to raise warning flags and prepare for the worst.
If you look deeply enough, though, there is reason for hope. The first step is to ask yourself whether you believe in three things: Steve Spagnuolo's vision for the team, the ability to develop players from within, and Sam Bradford.
Last year when Spagnuolo was hired as the head coach, most Rams fans were thrilled. After all, Spagnuolo was the architect of the defense that stopped the undefeated New England Patriots juggernaut and took home the Lombardi Trophy.
How strange it is to hear so many of those fans expressing a lack of faith in Spagnuolo's approach just one season later. What did these fans expect? Did they expect Spagnuolo to turn the team around in one year, notwithstanding the need to purge the roster of aged and underperforming veterans (not to mention the slew of injuries in 2009)?
If they did, they were kidding themselves. It takes time to turn around a roster. I believe we will start seeing the plan coming together on the field this year.
The second thing Rams fans like to complain about is the lack of "big name" acquisitions. Never mind that the Dan Snyders of the world never seem to get the positive press in December that they received in March.
I, for one, am happy to see the Rams making a commitment to developing talent rather than overpaying for veterans who may have peaked already. The roster has many players who I think will come into their own this year, including Jason Smith, Laurent Robinson, Chris Ogbonnaya, Chris Long, Darrell Scott, and Brad Fletcher.
Some Rams fans are so down on the team that they simply assume that the players on the current roster won't improve significantly. I guess those fans can't remember that the Super Bowl teams relied heavily on developed talent, including Kurt Warner, Az Hakim, London Fletcher, and Todd Lyght, just to name a few.
The final "leap of faith" Rams fans must take to see the light at the end of the tunnel of recent failure involves Sam Bradford. He does not have to be the next Dan Marino as a rookie, but he does have to provide a spark. He has to have moments, even as a rookie, that will cause observers to say, "Wow, this kid has something special." Plays like that will inspire the team and make the opposition nervous.
Some fans prefer to worry about Bradford's prior injuries or the system he played in at Oklahoma. I'd prefer to watch his highlight films and bristle in anticipation of Sam threading the needle from 30 yards away—a unique skill he truly possesses.
The next ascent of the St. Louis Rams likely will not be comparable to the "worst to first" turnaround of 1999. Rather, it will be a more conventional and gradual climb.
If you look closely enough, and have a bit of faith, you might see what I see.
2010 will be remembered as the year that the rise began.
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