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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Rams' rebuilding strategy frustrates fans

    Bernie Miklasz
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    03/07/2010

    Rams executives didn't lose any sleep Friday when the NFL's free-agent expedition got underway after the stroke of midnight.

    The Rams didn't make any surprise late-night recruiting trips to sign a pass-rushing defensive end. That's how the Detroit Lions landed Kyle Vanden Bosch; coach Jim Schwartz personally showed up on his doorstep to make the free-agent pitch. Using that Schwartz charm and a four-year, $26 million deal, the Lions got their man.

    The Rams also declined to gain free agents' immediate attention by waving giant fistfuls of green paper at them. The Lions had no such reservations, bestowing $25 million (over five years) on aging wideout Nate Burleson. The Lions believe they found another target for young franchise quarterback Matthew Stafford.

    The Rams didn't ring in the opening of the market by swinging a trade. The Lions opted for that route, sending a fifth-round draft choice to Cleveland for defensive tackle Corey Williams and a No. 7 pick. Williams is no star, but he's a 4-3 alignment tackle. And the Lions, at No. 2 overall, are in position to draft Gerald McCoy or Ndamukong Suh.

    Did the Lions overpay and overreach?

    That's entirely possible. Vanden Bosch, 31, has only 7 1/2 sacks over the last two seasons and may be wearing down. Burleson has been nothing special lately. These deals could drag them down later. But after going 2-14 last season — and losing to the 1-15 Rams — Detroit's second-year regime decided to rush into the fray in a bold attempt to improve a chronic loser.

    Fans in Detroit were buzzing Friday, energized by seeing their franchise take such an aggressive approach.

    It's interesting to note the two strategies. The Lions appear to be going all in. The Rams appear to be saving their chips.

    The Rams do have a plan — which we'll try to explain later — but it won't be an easy sell to a fan base that's increasingly ambivalent.

    The Rams did sign a backup quarterback, A.J. Feeley, and gave him $3 million a year. He hasn't thrown a regular-season pass since 2007. And this was hardly a definitive move. What this means for sure, no one knows — not even the Rams. Is Feeley the starting quarterback for 2010? Is this a sign that the Rams plan to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick or perhaps the first pick in the second round — and hired a less-scarred veteran to fill the role until the kid is ready?

    The Feeley move prompted more head-scratches than yawns.

    And there's no indication that the Rams are plotting any substantial moves in this free-agent season.

    Heck, the Rams may not even retain safety O.J. Atogwe, one of their better and more-promising players, and one of their few playmakers. He's being allowed to shop for a free-agent deal. The Rams have the right to match any offer and keep Atogwe.

    It's almost as if the Rams, having gone 6-42 over the last three seasons, are operating on a subterranean level. They're below the rest of the NFL in record; now they've gone underground in other ways. If the Rams go any lower, they'll be dropping out of the NFL.

    The Rams are stuck in a strange and unenviable spot right now.

    The franchise doesn't have an owner. Oh, Chip Rosenbloom and sister Lucia Rodriguez technically maintain ownership, but they're on the way out after having sold majority control to Shahid Khan. But Khan still must gain league approval before taking over and the process might take two months or more. So the team is in transition, in between bosses. And it's awkward.

    Because of the necessary dumping of old and overpaid players last year, the Rams have plenty of money to spend. But do chief operating officer Kevin Demoff, general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo really want to toss a lot of cash around when they're stuck between the outgoing owner and the incoming owner?

    And the free-agent pool was reduced by about 200 players because of changes that automatically kicked in when the NFL owners and players couldn't reach a new labor agreement for 2010. There isn't a lot out there, and we've already seen a few NFL teams go crazy in handing out ridiculous contracts.

    From my conversations with Rams officials, this seems obvious: the Rams are taking a strong position here and will not waver.

    — The Rams insist on primarily building through the draft, because that's the way the best teams do it. One problem with that: the good NFL teams also consistently draft terrific players. The Rams have had way too many strikeouts on draft days.

    — The Rams will not overpay mediocre free agents just for the sake of appearance. Well, what about Feeley, then? The Rams' defense is this: Feeley's deal wasn't out of line with some of the free-agent contracts dished to backup quarterbacks last season— most notably Dan Orlovsky and Chris Simms.

    — The Rams are banking on a new labor deal in time for 2011 and expect that free agents will flood the market. As one team official put it: why give big money to Nate Burleson when the team can pursue younger and more appealing wide receivers a year or so from now?

    On the surface, the plan — such as it is — makes sense. On principle, it makes sense. The draft is the best way to go. And we've seen this franchise waste a lot of free-agent money on the likes of Drew Bennett, Chris Claiborne, Jamie Duncan, etc.

    This methodical approach also requires a remarkable amount of patience from Rams fans. And the customers have been treated to six wins in the last 48 games. This strategy also requires a remarkable amount of skill from those making the decisions in the draft room. And we know how that's been going. Of the 11 players chosen by the Rams in the first three rounds from 2006 through 2008, seven are gone already. But the people currently running the show at Rams Park weren't in charge then.

    The Rams are asking for their fans to have faith.

    The fans are looking for solid evidence that their faith will be rewarded.

    The NFL draft begins April 22, and the Rams won't be able to sit that one out. It will be a defining moment for the second-year regime at Rams Park. Let's hope the boys are ready for their close-up.


  2. #2
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    I respect and feel where thier coming from, but its been very frustrating these past couple of years.Ive been a loyal fan since the 70's and seen good times and bad and i will always support the Rams until the day i die i bleed blue & gold.So im going to put my trust in Billy D and coach Spags and hope for the best......and thats all i have to say about that!!!!

  3. #3
    Nick's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Pretty decent write-up by Bernie, since he goes into what the Rams' strategy actually might be. The note about Feeley is interesting...

    — The Rams will not overpay mediocre free agents just for the sake of appearance. Well, what about Feeley, then? The Rams' defense is this: Feeley's deal wasn't out of line with some of the free-agent contracts dished to backup quarterbacks last season— most notably Dan Orlovsky and Chris Simms.
    To elaborate, Orlovsky signed a three-year, $9.15 million contract to be Matt Schaub's back-up last year. Chris Simms - who threw two passes in 2008 and zero passes in 2007 - signed a two-year, $6 million contract last year with Denver. Add these to the Pennington, Redman, and '08 Trent Green examples, and the fact that prices usually go up from year to year, I think it's pretty clear that the Rams paid market value for Feeley.
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  4. #4
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    also as far as im aware Feely has never had serious health problems like Pennington,Green & Simms have had where in all cases they have been career threatening and due to not being sacked senseless during his career,although nearly 33 his body is probably as healthy as a QB in his mid 20`s.
    like already stated elsewhere on the boards i believe by yourself Nick,barring injuries to the starters those other QB`s are far less likely to start some games next year. if 3 million a year for 2 years insures that Bradford isnt exposed before he`s ready and avoids him being a long term bust because of it..then that 6 mill contract is small change well spent in the grand scheme of things.

    i must confess when i saw the article title and Bernies name attached to it..i was expecting it to be a lot more negative than it actually was..as Bernie goes i think that was a well thought out article and refreshing to see no stirring of the pot for once.

  5. #5
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Glad he stated the whole situation and not just the points that make the Rams look bad.

    I have faith in DeSpags and they haven't really shown me a reason to not have it, despite what people think. It annoys me that fans are acting like 5 year kids that are mad because they can't have everything they see in the toy store...

    You wan't to go 8-8 for one year and watch all you enormous FA signings tank or do you want to be patient and build a consistent winner and competitor year in and year out...

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Pretty good article. And Bernie is right that the Rams better strike gold in this draft.

  7. #7
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    And the motto for 2010 is...."increasingly ambivalent"...I like it!
    "The disappointment of losing is huge!"

    Jack Youngblood

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    WOW
    A decent article by Bernie, I am impressed. Anyway it seems like waiting for the 2011 FA market is a good strategy. Why pay for Vanden bosch when you could have Ray Edwards, who I think will be a FA in 2011[Citation Needed]. Yes, they do need to strike gold this year in the draft. But in the 2009 draft we got 3 incredibly promising players in the first three rounds, so I am not worried about it. Drafting horrible players was primarily the job of Linehan.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    It is definitely frustrating for a lot of fans. I've been dealing with irritable Ram fan friends and let me just say it ain't pretty. For myself, however, I have faith in the F.O. and until they prove otherwise I see no reason to go into panic mode.
    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    I'm not upset that the Rams aren't in the running for overpaying any of the big name FAs this year. I think it's wise to stay out of that mess. What upsets me is that we seem to be letting, or in the process of letting, just about every respectable player from our roster walk. We need to make the necessary moves to keep the up and coming players from our 2009 roster on the 2010 roster.

    The FO is using great foresight in predicting the 2011 FA crop and how large it will be. I respect that. But in the mean time, bring back the core to our rebuilding. Atogwe seems obvious here. Gibson played was a starter for us before he was injured. Etc, etc. Why are we even toying with the idea of re-signing Incognito?

    I'm really baffled right now.

  11. #11
    Tony Banks's Avatar
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    [QUOTE=shower beers;334697]I'm not upset that the Rams aren't in the running for overpaying any of the big name FAs this year. I think it's wise to stay out of that mess.[QUOTE]


    I completely agree. There really doesn't seem to be a lot to get excited about in the FA market. There's still a lot of time for other things to develop.

    I'm also baffled by the Atogwe thing. Unless they know something we don't, I'm not sure what the logic is there. No compensation at all seems strange.

    And what's up with Fells? I hope they work something out ther. If we still had Linehan, I'd rest easy knowing we'd take at least 2 TE's in the draft. But since we don't, I'm not sure what the plan is there.
    Last edited by Tony Banks; -03-07-2010 at 08:34 PM.
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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Bernie does a good job of explaining the Rams approach to respectability. I've said previously that it is clear the Rams are choosing to build through the draft rather than throw money at guys who could just as easily fizzle out as be successful. It is understandable that fans want to see movement. But sometimes we value the "sexy" pick rather than sound judgment. Because another team signs a guy doesn't mean we're morons if we go after him too. With the uncertain ownership and collective bargaining situations, the Rams' approach is a sound one.

    With that said let's state the obvious: Failing to nail this draft is not an option. This is a most critical time in Rams history and will shape our organization for years to come- for good or for bad.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    This methodical approach also requires a remarkable amount of patience from Rams fans. And the customers have been treated to six wins in the last 48 games.
    I wonder if the question will be not if the fans can be patience but will the new owner be patience with Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney it's look like a long rebuilding process that may mean another 2 or 3 win season.
    :ramlogo:

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Im actually surprised that this article was written by Bernie, as it takes a well balances look at both the reasons for some fans annoyance, but does show the view the team is taking. Overspending on Vanden Bosch and Burleson. Im glad the team didnt. Paying going rate for Feeley? Fine by me. And he is right that the team needs to draft well this year.

    The only questionable move by the Rams would be them offering Atogwe the low tender. But i believe its in an effort to draw the sides into an agreement, rather then letting him go.

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    Re: Bernie: Rams' Rebuilding Strategy Frustrates Fans

    Wow. An informed article that stuck to the story instead of bringing the writer in as the story itself?

    BM must have hired a ghost writer.



    Okay, seriously, I get the "slow-roast" concept. I know our "microwave" fans aren't going to have the patience for it, but I'm sure they too will enjoy the eventual product, assuming they don't check themselves into a clinic when the Rams don't when immediately.

    However, what I don't get is the Atogwe deal. Yes, he'll be 29 when the season starts, but surely there's enough in the tank to get another long-term deal done, instead of just letting him walk. First right of refusal? Just not getting this one yet.
    "Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod

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