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Rams and Sitting Key Players: Go for It

December 27th, 2017 · No Comments · NFL, Rams

Back before the Los Angeles Rams went on their two-decade sabbatical to St. Louis, in 1995, I would have been opposed to this:

Sitting many of their best players for the final regular-season game — to ensure they are as healthy as possible for the club’s first playoffs home game in Southern California since 1985.

Running back Todd Gurley, defensive lineman Aaron Donald, quarterback Jared Goff, left tackle Andrew Wentworth and center John Sullivan will not play in the home game against the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday.

Several more key starters may well sit, too, according to coach Jim McVay, and other first-teamers may make only brief appearances.

Why would I have had a problem with this, 25 years ago?

Because it seems like bad things happen to teams that choose to reduce their chances of winning — and sitting the guys the Rams already have said will not play could certainly tip the scales versus the surging 49ers and their shiny new toy, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Further, fans paid a lot of money for tickets to this game, only the seventh Rams home game of the season. (One of their normal complement of eight was played in London.)

Now, Rams fans — and their ranks are finally beginning to swell — will see their team approaching the Sunday’s game not as a key game against a traditional rival … but as if it were the last exhibition game in September.

But …

But … the NFL of 2017 seems far more violent and dangerous than it was back in 1994.

Great players are getting hurt every week, and it is not like the Rams are two-deep across the offense and defense and can absorb the loss of key players. Actually, pretty much everyone named by coach Jim McVay is significantly better than the guy who might replace them.

As noted not long ago, the Rams appear to be a bit thin, after the starting 22, and the club has been extremely lucky with injuries.

Why risk that?

Two more important factors:

–The outcome of the game will have minimal impact on the NFC playoffs picture. The Rams cannot improve their No. 3 position with a victory, and a defeat would, at worst, drop them to No. 4 — and still with a home game.

(Some even would say the Rams as a No. 4 is slightly better than a 3, because a victory would put them on the road to Philadelphia, which is using its backup quarterback, while advancing as the No. 3 would send them to Minnesota, which seems a tougher test, at this moment, than Philly.)

–One other argument against resting key players … it hurts their chances at major awards. Talking about Gurley in what has been a late push for the MVP award, and Donald, who might be in line for the defensive MVP. Both candidacies would be improved, most likely, with one more game to add to their counting stats.

However, in the team context, individual awards matter little, especially with a huge game a week later.

Individual awards are not to be pursued; they need to occur organically as part of the overall team effort.


At kickoff, in the wild-card round, the Rams are pretty sure to have their star running back, their quarterback, their star defender and two of their key offensive linemen ready and waiting to go. That idea trumps improved chances of winning a regular season game that means little.




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