A season’s worth of notes from a frustrated Rams fan:
- The Rams have not been the same team since the Cardinal game. They lost half their defensive line after that game and started having problems closing out close games, losing five out of the next six games. Without massive pressure from the front four, the Rams are not a great defense. They got carved up by Brady, Brees and Ryan, because there are no great pass defenders on the team.
- Tavon Austin was perhaps the worse signing in Rams history. He is at best a number three or four option on a good offense. Britt is one of those guys you hope could be a good big receiver, but he drops far too many passes. The rest of the receivers must be converted defenders because of their consistent ability to initiate the tip drill for the other team.
- The play calling has been boring and predictable, but it’s the lack of attention to detail that makes the coaches look so incompetent. I remember a game earlier in the season when the Rams were over .500. On a critical third down, the defense was in a formation where a bubble screen would have netted an easy first down, if not a huge gain. The Rams ran the bubble screen, but set it up so the 5'9" Austin was the blocker. He was tossed aside like the hobbit that he is (in size only — actually, this is an insult to Hobbits, as they are a tough and hardy bunch) and the play was blown up for a loss.
- Great coaches are very rare, and their skill sets are very specific. Bill Belichick is regarded by many as the greatest coach of all time, but he wasn’t great when he was with the Browns. On the other hand, he took a Patriots team that made it to the Super Bowl in 1996 and won a Super Bowl five years later, winning the AFC East 12 out of 15 times. Conversely, Jeff Fisher was a good coach for bad teams, as evidenced by his ability to squeeze out upset wins over the Seahawks and 49ers when they were the best teams in the NFC. Fisher coached as if it were still the 1980’s (when he played for the Bears) — defense, field position, and chew up the clock. For bad teams, keeping the games close means that you’ll get a few upsets jut because of the law of averages. But there is a completely different skill set required to win lots of games with constantly changing personnel and rules, and then keep winning as the games get bigger. His six winning seasons out of twenty-three were the exception to the rule. Remember, his one Super Bowl appearance was only made possible because of the Music City Miracle; otherwise, he won only two playoff games in his entire career.
- Good management knows how to find players to fit your system, even if that system is archaic. If the Rams spent their money on Jenoris Jenkins, their best cover corner, instead of throwing it away on a bust like Austin, maybe they wouldn’t have to play their defensive backs FIVE YARDS BEHIND THE FIRST DOWN MARKER. (yes I’m yelling that as I remember watching the team give up eight consecutive first downs, two touchdowns, and 11 for 12 completions for 116 yards to a very average Ryan Tannehill (56 yards and one pick through three quarters) and blow a ten-point lead in the least six minutes. When you have a good pass rush, the whole idea is to make the quarterback hold the ball for an extra second as he waits for a receiver to come open, not present a smorgasboard of open options. Without Austin, the Rams still have a horrible offense. But with a good cover corner, the defense jumps up a level and starts making enough plays to win the games where they had a got chance to win (Bills, Lions, Giants, Panthers, Miami) and not get embarrassed by superior teams (Saints, Patriots, Falcons).
- You can tell how good an organization is by how players careers change before, during and after their stint with the team. The Patriots take castoffs who become solid players, even stars. The Rams seem to do the reverse. They lost Danny Amendola to the Patriots in 2013, while signing an over the hill Wes Welker in 2015.
- Good organizations can draft good players on either side of the ball. The Rams are good on defense, but horrible on offense. In 2012, the Rams traded the number one pick to Washington and received eight players. Their three picks of defensive players netted three starters, Jenkins, DT Michael Brockers, and LB Alec Olgetree. None of the offensive players have done much, unless you count all the holding penalties by OT Greg Robinson, or the sacks he has given up to Rams opponents.
My prediction is for the Seahawks to win a dull defensive game full of penalties and turnovers. After a 6–3 first half lead, Seattle will kick three more field goals to take a 15–3 lead into the fourth quarter. With five minutes left, a series of Seattle defensive penalties will propel the mighty Rams offense to a touchdown, making it a one possession game. The teams will then exchange three-and-outs over the next four minutes, until a desperate Rams comeback attempt is thwarted by a Seattle pick-six. Final score, Seattle 22, Rams 10.