With Right Offseason Moves, St. Louis Rams Can Be Playoff Contenders in 2009

Jeff DickinsonCorrespondent IJanuary 2, 2009

In the late 1990s and into early 2000s, the St. Louis Rams were on top of the NFL world. The team that won the Super Bowl in 1999 and should have won it in 2000 was known around the league as the “Greatest Show on Turf,” with Kurt Warner, Marshal Faulk, and a talented group of wide receivers.


Unfortunately for the Rams, all good things must indeed come to an end. Since those glory days, which seem like eons ago for Rams fans, the "Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis has turned into “A Franchise Searching for its Worth.”


The Rams haven’t had a winning record since the 2003 season when they finished with a 12-4 record. Since then, the team hasn’t fared better than 8-8 and has been an abysmal 5-27 over the past two seasons.


Now the Rams are a franchise in transition that is looking for a head coach and is trying to prepare for the second pick in the 2009 NFL Draft in April. St. Louis technically still has a head coach in interim Jim Haslett, but it is highly unlikely that he will remain as the coach for next season.


Haslett has received the support of all the players who signed a petition to keep him. New General Manager Billy Devaney, however, is heading the coaching search and has identified a list of candidates to lead the Rams.


Here is what the Rams need to do to help them become the Miami Dolphins, Atlanta Falcons, and Baltimore Ravens of next season and make the playoffs one year after a dismal record.


  1. Don’t rush into a coaching decision – Devaney seems to be going about the coaching search in the right manner by forming a sounding board of respected former players and football administrators. He has also identified a list of candidates that includes up-and-coming coordinators, as well as established former coaches. After the Rams were burned by rookie head coach Scott Linehan over the past two years, it is hard to believe that the Rams will hire another unproven coach. The only problem for the Rams is that the established coaching candidates are either too expensive or are less than appealing. Former Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher is at the top of the wish list of most every team with a coaching vacancy, but the Rams can’t afford him. It also looks like Cowher is content to wait until his daughter graduates from high school in North Carolina next year before he gets back into coaching. Other than Cowher, the list of former head coaches is less than exciting. Names like Jim Fassel, Brian Billick, and Marty Schottenheimer have been bounced around with the Rams and several other teams. Whether it’s Winston Moss, Leslie Frazier or some other NFL assistant, the Rams need to make sure that they select a coach who will command respect and won’t be a pushover like Linehan.
  2. Trade the second pick in the NFL Draft to accumulate additional picks – Speculation by more than a few NFL Draft gurus points to the Rams choosing University of Alabama offensive lineman Andre Smith with the second pick. Smith is the Outland Trophy winner and is obviously a talented player, but the Rams need more help in order to turn things around next season. This NFL Draft is ripe with talented offensive linemen, and trading down to acquire additional picks will still give the Rams the chance to draft a solid player who will help protect the quarterback. St. Louis needs help on the offensive line, at linebacker, in the defensive secondary and at wide receiver. If the Rams trade their No. 2 pick for two first-rounders or a first-rounder and a second-rounder, it will allow them to improve much more significantly for 2009. The Philadelphia Eagles have the 19th and 30th picks in the first round. Trading the second pick to them for those two first-round spots makes sense
  3. Allow Devaney to run the team and make the GM decisions – Devaney comes from a solid football background and St. Louis needs to let him run the show without interference from the ownership group. Owners have pocketbooks, but they generally don’t know football. If the Rams are going to right this sunken football ship, they need to let Devaney utilize his player evaluation skills to make the right off-season moves. If the Rams need some guidance in this area, they need to look no further than the Dolphins, Falcons, and Ravens this season.