Rams have a draft chip in bid for Fisher

Friday, January 6, 2012

The football gods must be smiling down on Stan Kroenke. While the Rams owner was putting on the full-court recruitment of Jeff Fisher on Thursday in Denver, Kroenke got a double shot of good news that he can surely use to further impress the man he craves to transform his NFL franchise from a flop into a championship contender.

With news that another potential franchise-type quarterback (Oklahoma's Landry Jones) is heading back to school and another big-time wide receiver (Alshon Jeffrey) is coming out, Kroenke and team vice president Kevin Demoff got another favorable bargaining chip to dangle in front of Fisher.

Why is this good news?

A simple matter of supply and demand. With Southern Cal QB Matt Barkley and Jones deciding to stay in college, a first round that was shaping up to be heavy with franchise quarterbacks has now been whittled down to only two who grade out as franchise-type passers (Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III). And depending on who you talk to, there are between four and six teams that desperately need to draft a young, strong-armed QB.

So do the math. Suddenly, the value of the Rams' first-round pick, the No.2 overall, is even more valuable than we already suspected. Luck will be snatched up by Indy with the first pick, which leaves Cleveland, Washington and Miami desperately scrambling to position themselves for RGIII and the Rams sitting pretty with the only pick that guarantees his acquisition.

So let the bidding war begin.

This is one of those rare occasions when the football gods bestow wonderful gifts on lousy teams like the Rams. So Kroenke and Demoff can tell Fisher and whoever they will interview for the head coach and GM openings that by the time the April draft rolls around, the Rams could auction off that No.2 overall pick for multiple picks. OK, this isn't exactly breaking news. Even before Jones' announcement, we already knew the pick had added value. But once Jones did pull his name out of the NFL's lottery, it only heightened the already obvious value of the Rams' pick.

That's a little tidbit that Fisher has to know.

And while I wouldn't suggest dropping too far down the first round (and losing out on superb Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon), Jeffrey's presence in the draft does give the Rams options. And with a flood of some very talented offensive linemen declaring for the draft this week, the Rams are in much better position to come away with not only a game-breaking WR, but end up with no fewer than three or four immediate impact players among the first 40 picks.

That is the sort of draft value that should be tantalizing to a new coach coming into a rebuilding project like the Rams.

There is no magic pill to make all this losing go away. There is no guaranteed formula for success either. While it's great that the Rams have all these picks, it's no guarantee that Fisher would be able to turn this thing around no matter how much success he had in Tennessee. As they say in business, past performance is no guarantee of future success. Daniel Snyder's hiring of Mike Shanahan in Washington has gotten the Redskins 11 victories in two seasons. And drawing on The Patriot Way as a formula for success is no sure thing, either. Just take a look at the slow process going on in Kansas City under Bill Belichick disciple Scott Pioli.

But it still makes all the sense in the world to go after him hard, because he is clearly the best candidate out there, because Plan B is a humongous question mark.

If Kroenke's big-game hunting comes up short, it will be a lot harder to win over your fan base when you're prepared to present it with unknown commodities. Harder, but not impossible. But definitely harder.

They will have to work hard and fast to identify the right GM/coach combination for themselves, but they know that isn't going to be easy. Going with non-brand names has certainly worked in Atlanta with the Tomas Dimitroff-Mike Smith combination. But this is a fan base that will get a little queasy if Kroenke and Demoff change directions and bring in unfamiliar names and unproven coaches.

That's why the Fisher gambit is so important. Kroenke is not the kind of guy who loses very often at the negotiating table, so I have to imagine the full-on push to get Fisher will be a furious pursuit. As we've already seen with the firing of Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney, Kroenke doesn't dawdle. If Fisher is his guy, we should know that by week's end.