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Ladies and Gentlemen: Your 2016 L.A. Rams!

January 1st, 2017 · No Comments · Los Angeles Rams, NFL

Well, that could hardly have gone worse.

First year back in Los Angeles, and the Rams stunk it up.

There’s losing and then there’s haplessly incompetent, no-hope, not-even-in-the-game losing of the sort the Rams had mastered by the end of a 4-12 season.

The worst kind of team to live with is the team that can’t score, and that was the Rams all over — they averaged 14 points a game, 32nd (worst) in the NFL. They also were last in yards gained, and 31st in rushing yards as well as passing yards. They were helpless. Utterly incompetent.

First, we will look at how the Rams did just about everything wrong, this season, and then we will take on what they ought to do going forward.

–It wasn’t like Rams fans, whoever they are, could have had high expectations for the team’s first season in SoCal since 1994, and their first in Los Angeles since 1979.

In St. Louis, the Rams had not managed a winning record since 2003 and had not been in the playoffs since 2004. It was a team pretty much habituated to losing at least eight games in a year. Moving back to Cali was very unlikely to change that.

But the team’s executives seemed to think the Los Angeles market demanded a competitive (or at least interesting) team immediately, and wanted the club to make a big, bold move. And they did, giving up six draft picks (including two firsts, a second and two thirds) to move up to No. 1 in the 2016 draft so they could take Cal quarterback Jared Goff.

Hurrah.

Their season may have peaked on draft night, when Goff held up a Rams jersey.

Uh, can he play?

–Their timing was horrible. The 28-0 opening-night flop at San Francisco, on Monday Night Football, was a hope-killer straight out of the gate. And then they put a big, black exclamation mark on the end of their unsightly season with the we-give-up, 44-6 loss at home to Arizona today.

Those two games told us, “Yes, we are awful” and “Nope, we have no hope for next season, either.”

–The scary thing about this team? Fans have no reason to expect improvement next season, and probably not in 2018, either. Actually, it could be longer. This is a team that will struggle to achieve mediocrity about as far out as we can see. Maybe right into the new stadium, in 2019.

–What the Rams really needed, ahead of the 2016 season, was help at  pretty much every position, but especially on offense. The offensive line was known to be a disaster area. The receivers were thought to be average, at best.

Their best chance to add quality was to keep the 1-2-3 picks they gave up in the 2016 draft to move up to No. 1 and take Goff. (A year of Case Keenum at QB, if the club had nabbed three solid players with their 1-2-3 picks, would have been worth it.)

And, too, it would have been handy to have the 1 and 3 for the 2017 draft, also handed over to the Titans for Goff. The Rams’ 4-12 finish translated to the No. 5 pick in the 2017 draft — which Tennessee will be using to get a really good player.

To recap, Rams officials thought they had to do something special to get them some headlines ahead of their season, and the something they settled on was pretty much a worst-case scenario — the loss of six high draft picks, which could cripple them for years, while taking on a rookie QB who may be a bust.

Yikes.

Where does the club go from here?

First, a coach.

The good news is that whomever they hire could hardly be worse than Jeff Fisher, a low-energy guy who never outlined a plan or a vision, who never fixed the offense and is now tied with Dan Reeves for most coaching defeats in NFL history, at 165.

The obvious choice would be Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints.

The Saints score a lot of points, which at least makes them interesting for those who don’t get excited by 9-3 victories. Of course, the Saints and their scoring might be as much about Drew Brees as it is Sean Payton. And there is that part about how the Saints have not reached the playoffs since 2013 … and how Payton was suspended for all of the 2012 season for the “bounty” scandal.

Also, Payton clearly has no idea how to build a defense (minus bounties) that can slow down (never mind stop) the other guys. The Saints have been bad-to-awful on defense for a long time.

Of course, Payton did win a Super Bowl, over Indianapolis at the end of the 2009 season, and he seems to be sending signals that he would not mind going to a new team despite having years left on his New Orleans contract — and the Saints may be a bit tired of him, too.

The other candidates likely will be the usual collection of promising assistant coaches, all of them focusing on the offensive side of the ball, like New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Denver OC Kyle Shanahan.

Whomever the Rams scrounge up, he has to be ready to take on the Jared Goff Project — personally, or with a fantastic QB coach.

Fans and the league are leaning toward “Goff is a bust”, but he will get another full season, certainly, to see if he comes around, and maybe more like another two seasons.

The Rams defense is acceptable, even if it eventually collapsed under the weight of being on the field far, far too long, and hemorrhaged points late in the season, eventually finishing 21st in points allowed, at 394 (24.6 ppg).

Best-case scenario?

The Rams hire a coach who figures out a way to get some first downs, probably because he discovers a way to make Goff useful, perhaps after he puts a competent O-line in front of him.

Given a chance to play fewer snaps, and presented with an offense that is more like league-average in points, the defense regains the form it had early in 2016, and keeps games close.

A season of 7-9 would be a huge success, and 6-10 would be OK, too.

But if the incoming coach sells everyone on a “this is a project, and it will take some time” (which Rams coaches have been saying for a decade, but we digress) maybe fans would grudgingly accept a scorched-earth policy, where everyone with any trade value is swapped for draft picks, and the Rams start over.

That may be the best idea, actually, accepting a 2-14 season in 2017, with a squad of guys under 25. But it is to be seen if management is bold enough to allow that to happen. What Rams leadership has sows Los Angeles so far is deeply discouraging.

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