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  1. #1
    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Real story on Draft move is link to past

    Sports Columnist Bryan Burwell
    ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
    09/11/2009

    Perhaps they think this is the only sensible strategy they can employ. Faced with the daily task of slogging through the waist-deep debris left by the last guys to leave the building, the new regime at Rams Park seems to have adopted the rather entertaining tactic of whistling while they work.

    Every day the Rams' new management team of coach Steve Spagnuolo, general manager Billy Devaney and executive vice president Kevin Demoff put on the good public face, soldiering along as though they really aren't mired in the very serious business of franchise disaster relief. Every time they talk, they act out these well-choreographed lines that seek to divert our eyes from the wreckage they've been commissioned to restore, even though most practical folks can plainly see the mile-deep hole that's been left behind.

    I get it. I understand it. In fact I absolutely admire it as Spagnuolo delivers his no-nonsense, panic-free, stay-the-course inspiration inside his locker room. When you are the new head coach trying to fix a team that's won only five lousy games in two years, it's your job to constantly deliver your positive "Don't worry, I got this" message all day every day, and the players would be wise to listen.

    It's Spags' job to change the culture inside the locker room.

    But outside those walls, it's an unnecessary sales job because most observers acknowledge that the Rams are working on this overwhelming rebuilding effort with huge fiscal handicaps already in place.

    We bring this up in the aftermath of Thursday's surprising release of starting linebacker Chris Draft, just 72 hours before Sunday's regular-season opener in Seattle. Cutting Draft may have been a justifiable football decision (the 11-year veteran was being replaced in the starting lineup by second-year man David Vobora), but it was in large part a necessary business evil, too.

    Yet after the news became public mid-morning, the Rams curiously spent the rest of the day trying to act as if Draft's release was 100 percent a football decision, when we knew it wasn't.

    The move was certainly based in part on his play but also because of the Gift That Keeps on Giving, the haunting, mistake-riddled Jay Zygmunt Error at Rams Park. And sadly for Draft, he ended up paying the consequences for the now defrocked general manager's bad business habits.

    We used to think the Rams were only wretched on the field during their rapid decline since the Super Bowl years. Turns out, they were also unconscionably stupid off the field, too. The lasting stain of the Zygmunt Error won't necessarily be that 5-27 record since 2007 or a decade of rotten draft picks. We came to expect that failure because he was a bean counter, not a real football guy. Now that he's gone, we're seeing the indelible mark he left. Turns out, Zygmunt was professionally trained to negotiate contracts and manage the salary cap and he was bad at them, too.

    Thanks to Zygmunt's work as Rams chief contract negotiator, the franchise ranks second in the NFL in "dead money" — money still being paid out to players no longer here but that counts against the $123 million cap. As of Thursday, the Rams have a staggering $22 million in dead money, which has left Demoff, Devaney and Spags in a heck of a bind.

    But on Thursday, the new management trio carefully avoided the subject. The company line was that Draft's release was all football and had nothing to do with the cap, which, of course, isn't even remotely true. That $22 million in dead money is an enormous bear that Demoff and Devaney will wrestle with all season. And just like every other team in the league, the Rams made tough economic decisions over the past week to get down to the 53-man roster and massage their salary cap issues at the same time.

    Notice how many veterans were cut in the last 48 hours, and then pay attention to how many will be re-signed on Monday or Tuesday when teams no longer will be responsible for paying a full year's salary to those vested players.

    It was about economics Thursday, and it will be for the rest of the season for the Rams. And if you know anything about the sorry, no-account recent history of the team, you already know that.

    But I guess management is worried that by publicly acknowledging its financial disadvantage because of bad draft picks, ill-advised personnel moves, questionable coaching hires, horrible contracts and mountains of dead money, fans might get the wrong message and stop buying tickets.

    I don't think so.

    By now, it would be almost therapeutic to just come clean. We all know how bad it was and that the fix won't come overnight.

    But we also know this: At long last, the guys who broke it have left the building, and that might be the best news of all.


  2. #2
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Before I respond, I am wondering what you think R8?????

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    r8rh8rmike's Avatar
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Notice how many veterans were cut in the last 48 hours, and then pay attention to how many will be re-signed on Monday or Tuesday when teams no longer will be responsible for paying a full year's salary to those vested players.
    It'll be interesting to see if Draft is one of these veterans who re-signs, although his comments didn't make it sound like he was happy with the way things went down.

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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Makes perfect sense, and as stated, a few of the vets released will be back next week and have been told "to enjoy their week off and we'll see you after this weeks game".

  5. #5
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    If the Rams are so tight against the cap, how are they going to afford to resign any veterans? How much are they budgeting for injury replacement signings? Most teams budget at least $4 million.

    I'm not a Ziggy fan but I think this is silly to blame him. Pace, Holt and Pisa are starting in the NFL. The Rams voluntarily cut them generating massive dead space. That's not his fault. While I'm fine with cutting them to rebuild in 2010, let's not act like these guys couldn't still be on this roster and contributing for another year or two.

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    RamOfDenmark is offline Registered User
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Excellent article, even if it is kind of depressing. This is why I think it will take a couple of years to rebuild this mess of a franchise. I wonder if Spagnuolo will still be here once we start winning - he could see himself canned for lack of results when in reality he had almost nothing to work with because of his predecessors. He's got a very unenviable job IMO. We need to be patient - as long as we make good choices with our drafts and as long as we adjust and do the right things strategically and don't get completely blown out on the field every week we're going in the right direction for the first time in a long time.

    What we should have done is fired Zygmunt once he started wrestling with Martz for power - he was a beancounter with a huge ego on a powertrip, and clearly not a very good one either (putting it mildly). Some of us have been saying this for years - but Georgia had zero idea what was going on in 'her' franchise (for all intents and purposes in terms of decisions it was Shaw's & Zygmunt's franchise).

    I wholeheartedly agree with the conclusion - the only reason for optimism right now is that we finally got rid of Shaw, Zygmunt, Linehan etc.. They were criminally bad at their jobs and it was absurd especially in Zygmunt's case that he was able to hold on to his job and constantly get promoted for years in spite of his obvious incompetence and increasing interference in football matters.

    In the end it falls back on Georgia - she was simply not qualified to own an NFL franchise - which may not come as a huge surprise considering how she obtained it.

    Now let's look to the future and continue this mammoth rebuilding project.

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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Not to me either, and I don't see the vets re-signing either. Spags has a whole different game plan. It is the change . I don't agree with the moves, but I am not going to sit here and assume the vets will be re-signed. It would be great if they were.
    Quote Originally Posted by r8rh8rmike View Post
    It'll be interesting to see if Draft is one of these veterans who re-signs, although his comments didn't make it sound like he was happy with the way things went down.
    Last edited by CaliGirlRamsFan; -09-11-2009 at 01:53 PM.
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Denmark, I want to think he's going to be our coach for awhile...IF the Rams show more heart, and it seems like we are on the right path. I think that if we go out every Sunday and have close games, win or lose, I'll be happy because the attitude, the aggressive playing is there. Last year, we were getting blown out and I think some of that was because of not caring. Some of it is talent, yes, but sometimes these guys just didn't care. And I think that attitude with Spags around has changed.


    Always and Forever a fan of the St. Louis Rams

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Quote Originally Posted by RebelYell View Post
    If the Rams are so tight against the cap, how are they going to afford to resign any veterans? How much are they budgeting for injury replacement signings? Most teams budget at least $4 million.

    I'm not a Ziggy fan but I think this is silly to blame him. Pace, Holt and Pisa are starting in the NFL. The Rams voluntarily cut them generating massive dead space. That's not his fault. While I'm fine with cutting them to rebuild in 2010, let's not act like these guys couldn't still be on this roster and contributing for another year or two.
    I think the point is that vested vets signed after the season start CAN be moved on a weekly basis to give us that wriggle room if needed.

    There's nothing silly about blaming Zygmunt but it's a spilled milk conversation,imo, that goes way beyond the most recent problems but since you mention those 3 guys, let's look at them for a second.
    All 3 players were signed with huge signing bonuses on top of A list salaries. That's bad cap management for the longterm. Well-managed teams avoid this.An injury or sudden drop in productivity and you are screwed for a long time.
    Example Holt vs Fitz,TO,Moss.

    5.6 base salary for Holt in '08 + 4 mill in mixed bonus money counted against cap

    2.1 for Fitz + about 5 mill

    830k for TO +about 5 mill

    1.9 mill for Moss + 4 mill bonus

    Starting to see the picture? Yes ,it hurt a lot to cut Holt this year because all of that guaranteed money hit at once.

    Maybe Holt has a good year on a much better team than the most homer Ram fan expects the '09 team to be but was he worth 3 mill more this year than those guys. Uh, I doubt it.

    Ditto for Pace whose $15 signing bonus is still astronomical in comparison to other OL deals made more recently and on top of a generous salary would have kept him right up there with the top OTs in the game which he really wasn't anymore ,imo.

    Was Pisa's $4 mill total against the cap earned on the field the way Farrior's, Willis' and many other LBs paid about the same were? No freakin' way.To put it in perspective even more, James Harrison's salary against the cap for '08 was about 1.6 mill. Yeah, Pisa was worth about 2 1/2 times the NFL D player of the year....

    Then throw in the deals Zyggy brokered for the likes of Josh Brown and Bell. Did we really need to give the richest kicker contract ever to Brown? He got a $4 mill signing bonus. There's your $1 mill for Bruce right there in the '07 off season if you want to argue about letting guys go who still had gas in the tank.Why didn't we have money to keep Curtis, assuming The Rams had the smarts to know he was worth keeping which I doubt? see above.

    Yes, there were plenty of bad football decisions & unforeseen events that had nothing to do with Zyggy but his legacy will haunt us the longest,imo. And there's no reasonable argument I can think of to blame DeSpags for biting the bullet to fix it.

    It's frustrating for me as a fan when it means losing players who could still help & are relatively cheap like Draft but I want to let it play out for a while before even passing judgement on such small potatoes compared to Zyggy's colossal and chronic mismanagement.
    Last edited by Azul e Oro; -09-11-2009 at 03:06 PM.

  10. #10
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    I hope they know what they are doing. Pisa gone, now Draft too. So many player changes going on it. The team is changing quite a bit this year.
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  11. #11
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Did anyone on this board complain when ziggy and shaw locked up pace, holt pisa, etal? I dont think so.

    If you want to blame ziggy for lousy personnel choices, such as bennett, and some terrible draft choices, blast away (of course there were plenty of voices in those decisions) but blaming all the dead money on his "bad cap management and bad contract negotiating skills" is stupid. Those are the same skills that got us faulk, locked up faulk, warner, bruce, holt at the same time and managed the cap around some awful behavior by pace's agents. Did they make mistakes? Sure. Hindsight is 20-20. People screamed when he let wistrom go and wistrom was an overpaid bust in seattle.

    This is classic scapegoat journalist 101. Its just plain wrong. I never understand how people want to blame it all on shaw and ziggy but dont want to give them credit for the gsot. How do people think the rams got faulk and aeneas williams?

    This article reminds me of what i see CEO's do all the time in corporate america. Come into the job and the first thing they do is blame the dead guy (ie the fired guy) for everything thats wrong and of course fail to give credit for everything thats right.

    Ramming speed to all

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    Azul e Oro is offline Registered User
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    Quote Originally Posted by general counsel View Post
    Did anyone on this board complain when ziggy and shaw locked up pace, holt pisa, etal? I dont think so.

    If you want to blame ziggy for lousy personnel choices, such as bennett, and some terrible draft choices, blast away (of course there were plenty of voices in those decisions) but blaming all the dead money on his "bad cap management and bad contract negotiating skills" is stupid. Those are the same skills that got us faulk, locked up faulk, warner, bruce, holt at the same time and managed the cap around some awful behavior by pace's agents. Did they make mistakes? Sure. Hindsight is 20-20. People screamed when he let wistrom go and wistrom was an overpaid bust in seattle.

    This is classic scapegoat journalist 101. Its just plain wrong. I never understand how people want to blame it all on shaw and ziggy but dont want to give them credit for the gsot. How do people think the rams got faulk and aeneas williams?

    This article reminds me of what i see CEO's do all the time in corporate america. Come into the job and the first thing they do is blame the dead guy (ie the fired guy) for everything thats wrong and of course fail to give credit for everything thats right.

    Ramming speed to all

    general counsel
    There were better people in the mix to get the balance right for both personnel and financial decisions during the build-up to GSOT,though. I'm thinking of Vermeil and Armey,of course.

    I don't blame Zyggy for personnel decisions but I'm not going to give him credit,either.

    What did money management have to do with Warner, Hakim,Proehl,London, all of the 0-line minus Pace? Zyggy's skills brought these guys to The Rams? These weren't coups; just work-a-day deals for seemingly serviceable pros and minor draft picks in terms of their market value at the time.

    And how many were recognized & re-invested in by The Rams later wasn't necessarily directly Zyggy's fault, for sure,but I don't see why we should let him off the hook for not managing the long term budget well enough overall to give the football men a chance to keep the good 'uns when we had the acumen and good fortune to find them.

    A lot of people thought Faulk was too expensive initially; the injury and attitude issues,etc .The truth is, he was a gamble that paid off beyond all expectation. And since we were still paying him millions after he stopped playing, I'd say the "lock up" contract's structure wasn't well thought out, either. Hindsight BS goes both ways , imo.


    I'd say the GSOT happened despite Shawgmunt,not because of it. Like sentient life in the universe, it was a staggering longshot to have happened in such circumstances.

    And we'll never know how much of a hand he had in the screwing up of the financial relationship with LA that led to the move or the bad deal that was cut with St Louis. I doubt he's blameless,though.

    It's also pretty selective memory to say there was no consternation surrounding the deals for Holt,Pace, and Pisa. I wasn't on this board but it was talked about heatedly in my Rams circle,at least.

    Not only about how much money was spent but how they were structured and the overall timing- not getting the jump on negotiations with emerging players,when to use the franchise tag, negotiating trades before a player lost all value,etc. I think these things would have been partly Zyggy's domain,at least.

    And I'm sure he got poorly-considered parameters on what should be spent & how it should be structured on any given player.But I don't remember his ever getting a bargain that was considered a bargain at the time,do you? Usually the opposite.

    There's no way I'll believe that the Zyggy-style steeply escalating salaries, overly-long contracts, and huge bonuses were good business. Nobody else in the NFL who has had sustained success in the cap era seems to have worked that way that I've heard of.

    You are right that it wasn't all Zyggy's fault; there is plenty of blame from Frontiere on down but it doesn't mean he was good,either.

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    chucknbob is offline Registered User
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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    There is plenty of blame to go around. I don't understand why we spend so much time dropping blame on Zygmunt, Linehan, Shaw, etc.... I agree we are hurting BADLY in nearly every position, but I for one am looking towards tomorrow.

    Let's call a spade a spade, we will not be superbowl champions this year. BUT, with the goood leaders that I feel we have now, we will be back in that race in a couple of years.

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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    The good news is that often when a team is taking that kind of a cap hit in dead money, it means that they're absorbing guaranteed money from out years. Hopefully by taking the hit in 2009, we'll be getting out from under it for 2010 and beyond.

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    Re: Burwell: Real Story On Draft Move Is Link To Past

    My point azul was that a good chunk of the dead money is attributed to either moves that made sense at the time or lousy personnel decisions and you cant blame all of that on ziggy without also giving him some credit for when things went well. Getting those contracts done isnt so easy and as a person that negotiates contracts for a living, i take it a little personally when someone says "blame the lawyer" for everything. I agree completely that ziggy was miscast in his role. I think he did some very good things for the organization and some things that went wrong. My entire point is that he is NOT the scapegoat for the problems associated with the collapse of the team. I also agree that charley was a key component of our success, and the decision to push him out was a bad one.

    ramming speed to all

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