Let’s take a look at the good, the bad and the “you have to be kidding me” with these St. Louis Rams.
Let's start with the good. The Rams won seven games, making for 14 wins in the last two seasons. That’s far cry from the two previous regimes that made the Rams the laughingstock of the NFL.
To win seven games this season with a backup quarterback under center for nine of those games means that this team never quit. Quitting is what they do in Washington, Cleveland, Detroit and Houston. (When you are really short on talent, like Jacksonville, Cleveland and the New York Jets, you get a pass.)
Zac Stacey did a nice job running the ball, after the Rams realized they were short in the position. Remember, some ran out of Rams Park during training camp saying that the running game was going to be good with the new super-secret offense. The receivers were better than in years past, giving some hope that they may turn the corner soon. Both the punter and kicker were way above average with Johnny Hekker going to the Pro Bowl as a punter.
As for the defense, they showed up most days. There was this obsession to lead the league in sacks, and the Rams were good in that department. It also shows you that sacks can be overrated, as the Rams posted over 50 sacks this year, yet only have seven wins to show for it. In the linebacker corps, Alec Ogletree was the most pleasant surprise. He was largely good on and off the field.
Now for the bad.
While the Rams did not quit, they were one of the most undisciplined teams in the league, with one bad penalty after another.
Everyone was pulling for Stacey to rush for 1,000 yards. If my math serves correctly, that is about 62.5 yards a game. Unless you have a quarterback who is throwing for at least 4,000 yards to go along with that paltry 1,000 yards in running, you have an average offense.
Can anyone explain what the Rams were trying to do on offense? The Tavon Austin razzle-dazzle was nice, but you can’t trick teams every Sunday in the NFL and expect to win. This offense showed little imagination on most Sundays. Even when the Rams did show some imagination in the passing game by attempting to go long, the receivers dropped too many passes. I know they used a backup quarterback most of the season, but at some point he should know the playbook. Or maybe the playbook has little imagination.
Before you start in on Sam Bradford, he is still the best option this team has. Unless you want to start over again, and with who?
How about stopping the run? On some Sundays, it didn’t happen. The linebackers made plays six and seven yards downfield ... too late. Add the antics of Jo-Lonn Dunbar, who got suspended for testing positive at the start of the season.
The secondary led the league in big-time talking. They also led the league in not backing any of it up. Throw in a mess of pass interference penalties and there is work to do – plenty of it.
As for the “are you kidding me?” aspect, this coaching staff is better than what they have shown so far. I give them credit in coaching up guys who are just barely in the league, but on some Sundays the team did not look prepared. That can’t happen in the NFL.
This team was undisciplined on too many Sundays. Too many penalties, too many blown assignments and too much showboating when you have not done a thing. At some point coaching has to step in and right these wrongs. Tough love is almost a lost art, yet it is needed now.
The Rams are still short on talent in several areas. This is a team that has few stars, and nearly everyone could be replaced if someone better could be found. It is time for the front office to look harder to create more competition for jobs.
The off-season should be productive. The Rams have the second pick in the draft, and they should promptly trade it down to acquire more picks unless there is a Rookie of the Year candidate in the second slot. I shall remind you of Jason Smith, the last guy taken in the second spot. He is now on a milk carton, as his whereabouts are known by very few.
A record of 7-9 does not have a good ring to it, especially when you got waxed in the final game of the year. For those Rams who want to talk about how they will not forget what happened in Seattle, I will remind you that these are the same guys who have been getting it handed to them in the final game of the season for years. Less talk and more action next season would be a good way to start.