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  1. #1
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    Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Loss is disturbing in many ways

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    11/30/2009

    From the moment Steve Spagnuolo was hired as the Rams' head coach to partner with new general manager Billy Devaney, I've preached patience. The new leaders were put in charge of cleaning up the NFL equivalent of a toxic spill. And it would take a lot of time, hard work and smart decisions to get it done.

    Those who thought the Rams had a chance to win between seven and nine games this season and contend for the playoffs were more delusional than optimistic.

    I didn't expect much, and I'm not asking for much.

    All I wanted to see, really, were signs of progress in 2009. And shouldn't this team be getting better, even if the gains are incremental and modest? Instead, the Rams are getting worse. Is there any justification for that?

    With Sunday's 27-17 loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks, the Rams became the first St. Louis NFL team to post a 1-10 record after 11 games in a season. That covers 43 seasons of St. Louis NFL football, 28 with the Cardinals and 15 with the Rams.

    This was a winnable game. It was sitting there at 7-7 in the second quarter, and the Rams were only down by seven late in the third quarter. The Seahawks came into The Ed with a 3-7 record and didn't appear to be highly motivated. But as most opponents do, the Seahawks pounced on the Rams' mistakes and sloppy play and bullied the Rams with a physical rushing attack. Taking over, Seattle opened a 17-point lead before the Rams scored a so-what TD with 44 seconds remaining.

    The Rams had shown improvement by losing in overtime at Jacksonville, winning at Detroit, and taking the undefeated New Orleans Saints down to the wire with a chance to win. But the Rams didn't build on that brief spell of not-so-hideous football.

    Instead, they're regressing.

    And I don't think that's acceptable.

    "This game was a big step backward," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I think we've got a long way to go, so we can't afford to take these steps backward."

    Agreed. After the game, I asked Spagnuolo if he thought his Rams were slipping and getting worse. After saying he wouldn't cite injuries as an excuse, Spagnuolo sort of did just that.

    "The one thing we've got to remember, and I'm not going to use this as an excuse, so bear with me here," Spagnuolo said. "But we have gelled. Since the first time we played Seattle (in the season opener) until now, I believe it's a different football team.

    "But we're fighting some injuries right now at some key positions. So the dynamics of working together and getting better and better at certain things, maybe it takes a step back. But this is professional football and guys got to go in there and play. So we'll expect the guys that have to go in there and play when guys get hurt to do the same thing as the guys who were in there."

    Look, I realize the Rams are in a tough spot. The bad-luck blitz of injuries continues. The Rams have lost more wide receivers than I can remember. Center Jason Brown left in Sunday's second quarter with a sprained knee. Right offensive tackle Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the draft, didn't play Sunday because of a concussion. There are too many injuries to list. It has affected continuity and cut into the already thin depth. Now the offensive line is getting chopped up.

    I do have some sympathy.

    But I also have a few questions:

    — Why do other bad teams manage to pull off unexpected wins? Kansas City beat Pittsburgh. Oakland took down Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Tampa Bay upset Green Bay. And bad teams have a knack of jumping on falling teams; Detroit and Kansas City took down the dysfunctional Washington Redskins — something the Rams could not do.

    — Didn't Spagnuolo earn his reputation on defense? Shouldn't a defensive personality be forming by now?

    — Is there any acceptable rationalization for the Rams' pitiful run defense? Over the last six games, the Rams have allowed 1,005 yards rushing at an average of 5.3 yards a carry. During that time, they've given up seven rushing touchdowns and 31 runs of 10 yards or more. If you can't control the likes of Tim Hightower and Justin Forsett, you're not doing your job.

    — Spagnuolo continues to defend his team's effort. "I believe in the fight of this team," he said after Sunday's loss. But coach also attributed the collapsing run defense to poor tackling. Isn't the tackling an example of will and determination? If you have a runner in your grasp and let him go, then you aren't physically finishing the tackle. Or you aren't concentrating on executing the proper tackling technique.

    Yes, I know the Rams have talent deficiencies at defensive tackle and outside linebacker. But you can't convince me that lousy tackling is unrelated to effort.

    After another Sunday bloody Sunday the Rams are 3-24 since the start of last season, and 6-37 since the beginning of 2007. For all of our patience and understanding, at some point we want to see evidence of genuine improvement.

    And it's getting tiresome to have Spagnuolo appear after every loss to praise his team for playing hard.

    And I don't know if it's even true, that they're playing hard. Many of them are, yes.

    But I do know that playing hard isn't enough.

    You win games by playing better.


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    I am shocked that we can't beat any team in our division. We should know them and be able to play them better than other teams. Our division is not a good one.

    The Steelers threw in a brand new QB and almost won the game last night. Obviously they have the basics down, and a good coaching staff in place.

    I am sure it takes time to get a team running correctly, takes time to get to know the players, and develop a good scheme and get the right play calling done. How long does it take? I have no idea. All these losses are painful. It is hard to be patient.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    I'm not too familiar with this Bernie guy, but alot of the points he brings up are valid. As horrible as the Raiders are every year, Tom Cable had his team prepared enough to beat the likes of Cincy and Philly. KC got a nice upset this season, as did Tampa. Fans in Detroit atleast they know who their QB is gonna be next season..

    I fully expected to win no more than 5 games this season, but its a real possibility that our lone win so far may be our only win this season. I like Spags' personality-he seems like a genuinely nice guy who cares alot for his players, and many of his former players have wished him luck with the Rams. But with that said, there comes a time when a coach needs to be held accountable for not having his teams prepared enough to win. Is it time we, as fans, hold Spags accountable for the mounting losses? Maybe, maybe not. Thats your choice to make as fan. Its just incredibly frustrating to hear the term "Any given Sunday"" everywhere but
    St. Louis.

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    NJ Ramsfan1 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Quote Originally Posted by Fettmaster View Post
    I'm not too familiar with this Bernie guy, but alot of the points he brings up are valid. As horrible as the Raiders are every year, Tom Cable had his team prepared enough to beat the likes of Cincy and Philly. KC got a nice upset this season, as did Tampa. Fans in Detroit atleast they know who their QB is gonna be next season..

    I fully expected to win no more than 5 games this season, but its a real possibility that our lone win so far may be our only win this season. I like Spags' personality-he seems like a genuinely nice guy who cares alot for his players, and many of his former players have wished him luck with the Rams. But with that said, there comes a time when a coach needs to be held accountable for not having his teams prepared enough to win. Is it time we, as fans, hold Spags accountable for the mounting losses? Maybe, maybe not. Thats your choice to make as fan. Its just incredibly frustrating to hear the term "Any given Sunday"" everywhere but
    St. Louis.
    Good post, Fett- I agree on all counts about both Bernie and Spags. A lot of people on this forum are critical of Bernie for various reasons and he is not always on target. But I think this was his best article in awhile for the very valid questions he raises. Particularly alarming are the points he makes about Tampa, KC, etc. all being able to pull off an occasional win or even an upset while we muddle along, unable to capitalize on anything. It is discouraging, to say the least.

    Someone made the point on another thread that the time to truly be able to evaluate Spags, Devaney and company will be at the end of next season. I would agree with that. Spags does seem like the right fit personality wise for this group and appears genuine in his efforts at fielding a winner. But sooner or later, effort has to pay off in the form of wins.

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    It's a combination of things: extremely bad luck, cleaning up the mess of other head coaches, players uncanny knack for getting hurt, a QB who has lost all confidence, a bad/patchwork offensive line, a horrible coordinator, no go-to receiver and many, many bad draft choices for starters equals a bad team, and bad teams DON'T get breaks. That's the way it goes, there's always next year .

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Quote Originally Posted by blood85 View Post
    It's a combination of things: extremely bad luck, cleaning up the mess of other head coaches, players uncanny knack for getting hurt, a QB who has lost all confidence, a bad/patchwork offensive line, a horrible coordinator, no go-to receiver and many, many bad draft choices for starters equals a bad team, and bad teams DON'T get breaks. That's the way it goes, there's always next year .
    not the dreaded "there's always next year" how many more seasons will we have to say that ?

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Quote Originally Posted by blood85 View Post
    It's a combination of things: extremely bad luck, cleaning up the mess of other head coaches, players uncanny knack for getting hurt, a QB who has lost all confidence, a bad/patchwork offensive line, a horrible coordinator, no go-to receiver and many, many bad draft choices for starters equals a bad team, and bad teams DON'T get breaks. That's the way it goes, there's always next year .
    Spot on with your diagnosis, my question is with all that you just listed how do you even begin to start to turn this team around? I sure wouldn't want Devaney's job.
    [SIGPIC][/SIGPIC]

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Quote Originally Posted by blood85 View Post
    It's a combination of things: extremely bad luck, cleaning up the mess of other head coaches, players uncanny knack for getting hurt, a QB who has lost all confidence, a bad/patchwork offensive line, a horrible coordinator, no go-to receiver and many, many bad draft choices for starters equals a bad team, and bad teams DON'T get breaks. That's the way it goes, there's always next year .
    Agreed in the main.

    In answer to those who object to 'there's always next year'; what choice do you have?

    You may not want to accept it but you have to.

    This team has been a mess on and off the field for 3-4 seasons and arguably longer than that. A one season turn-around was always going to be a long-shot set against that backdrop of failure. People like to point to the Falcons and Dolphins as being recent exceptions but if you look at our own cinderella season, it takes a lot of stars to align to have a one-season wonder.

    Now you may argue, with some justification, that we should have 1-2 more wins at the moment but the fact remains is that our already deficient level of talent has been decimated by injury and our inexperience doesn't enable us to mask it.

    If I had to start levelling criticism, I'd say the following:

    - Our approach to the WR position was bordering on negligent
    - Our offensive co-ordination would look to be sub-par
    - Our game-day decisions haven't always been the best
    - The Witherspoon trade I thought realised questionable value

    None of which takes away from the fact that overall I think Spags and Devaney have started a process which I expect (dearly hope) will produce green shoots next season and tangible results in the third year.

    I don't know what else we could reasonably expect.

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Its Spags first year, we cut a lot of veteran players, its obvious all the other teams in our division are better than us, why is it such a surprise we're losing??

    Id be more than happy to slowly improve, build a solid team, beat the lesser talented teams in years to come and slowly get up to the level of the top teams. Let Spags and Devaney do their work...

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Quote Originally Posted by Bing69 View Post
    Its Spags first year, we cut a lot of veteran players, its obvious all the other teams in our division are better than us, why is it such a surprise we're losing??

    Id be more than happy to slowly improve, build a solid team, beat the lesser talented teams in years to come and slowly get up to the level of the top teams. Let Spags and Devaney do their work...

    Exactly.....How long does it take to put a totally new system (Offense & Defense) in place? The mess that Linehan left us with was much worse than any of us realized. Spags and Devaney are working on building a roster with their type of players. How long will that take?

    How long did it take Belicheck to do all of the above????

    The key in mind is that we need a system in place that is proven and than have the ability to recognize the talent needed to fit that system. Which in turn makes for a consistent and productive team every year.

    Patience......

    GO RAMS!!!!!

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    Why do other bad teams manage to pull off unexpected wins? Kansas City beat Pittsburgh. Oakland took down Philadelphia and Cincinnati. Tampa Bay upset Green Bay. And bad teams have a knack of jumping on falling teams; Detroit and Kansas City took down the dysfunctional Washington Redskins — something the Rams could not do.
    Cleveland havent beaten anyone good, and maybe we are just worse than Detroit, Kansas and Oakland?


    — Is there any acceptable rationalization for the Rams' pitiful run defense? Over the last six games, the Rams have allowed 1,005 yards rushing at an average of 5.3 yards a carry. During that time, they've given up seven rushing touchdowns and 31 runs of 10 yards or more. If you can't control the likes of Tim Hightower and Justin Forsett, you're not doing your job.
    How about only one defensive lineman who should be playing full time in this league (Chris Long)? Cliff Ryan is good but should be part of a rotation. Little is at an age now where he should be playing in a rotation also. The other guys are scrubs really. Not to mention the fact that we have three defensive lineman on IR who were expected to contribute or were contributing heavily

    The simple fact is that when Spags and Devaney took over running this team it was in salary cap hell, and had positions all over the roster that needed improving. An improvement was never going to come in the first year, through one period of free agency and one draft.

    Especially when we come out of the draft without a QB of the future, another top draw defensive end and a top quality WR, simply because we had holes in other areas that needed filling

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    I am shocked that we can't beat any team in our division. We should know them and be able to play them better than other teams. Our division is not a good one.
    I can't remember our last division win, I agree even if we are not wining many games shouldn't some wins come in our own division.
    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways

    I didn't expect much, and I'm not asking for much.

    All I wanted to see, really, were signs of progress in 2009. And shouldn't this team be getting better, even if the gains are incremental and modest? Instead, the Rams are getting worse. Is there any justification for that? .
    Yes .. injuries.


    After the game, I asked Spagnuolo if he thought his Rams were slipping and getting worse. After saying he wouldn't cite injuries as an excuse, Spagnuolo sort of did just that. .
    Hello! What can Spags say at this point. The unwritten rule is coaches aren't supposed to make excuses because of injuries. BUT, when a team is pretty much devoid of talent across the board with it's starters healthy, if that team loses a significant amount of starters on both sides of the ball, would anyone in their right mind bet on that team to win? We are very likely the least talented team in the NFL right now. When Jason Brown left the game, that was the coup de grace from my perspective.


    — Didn't Spagnuolo earn his reputation on defense? Shouldn't a defensive personality be forming by now?
    — Is there any acceptable rationalization for the Rams' pitiful run defense? .
    Possibly, but is it realistic to expect players that no other NFL team wanted to come in and be instrumental in winning games? Think LaJuan Ramsey, Leger Douzable and some others .. I don't think anyone pegged Darell Scott as a candidate for defensive rookie of the year either.

    I understand the frustration, but when Spags worked his defensive magic with the Giants, he had abundant talent to work with. The 2010 draft and free agency ostensibly will bring in a fresh batch of talent coupled with the return of players currently on IR. Next year if there isn't consistent improvement, then Spags and Billy will be under intense scrutiny ..

    We need TALENT guys .. Right now the Rams are a "one trick pony" on offense, and a no trick pony on defense .. Sure Laurinaitis is developing nicely, and Long is developing slowly, but that's about it. Who on our defense are other teams afraid of? Little maybe? Sorry Bernie, but "playing hard" may be as good as it gets this year ...

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