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  1. #1
    eldfan's Avatar
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    Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move



    For so many reasons both large and small, one of the most difficult things for any organization to do in pro football is to have the guts to say goodbye to a first-round draft pick. So when the Rams decided on Monday to trade away Jason Smith, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2009 NFL Draft, it was a clear admission that the organization knows it made a costly error in talent evaluation, not to mention a terrible investment in valuable salary-cap space.

    However in passing off the extremely talented but underachieving right tackle to the New York Jets, this was not a colossal bruise to the football smarts of the existing Rams brain trust, merely a little necessary clean up on Aisle One from a big mess left behind by previous failed regimes. General manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher were able to ditch Smith with a clean conscience, mainly because this mistake doesn't count against their records. Trading him away was not only the smart thing to do, it was also the most compassionate thing to do, because after all those concussions, Smith was no longer the big, mean and bruising young prospect that was drafted three years ago, and because of that he may never live up to the high expectations of the organization and the fan base.

    So the Rams swap Smith out for tackle Wayne Hunter, a 10-year veteran who fell out of favor with Jets fans when he was elevated (and failed) as a starter last year. "We just felt like it was a good deal for both teams and probably a better deal for both players, just a fresh start," Fisher said after Tuesday's practice at Rams Park.

    As he left the building on Monday for the final time, heading off to New York and a new football life, Smith was the unfortunate symbol of everything that had dragged the Rams organization so far down in the first place and led to the hiring of Fisher and Snead. By any measure, he was a bust as the second pick in the '09 draft, but I believe he belongs more under the column of "injury-related bust" than "bad talent evaluation bust." He was supposed to be an anchor on the left edge, but that didn't work out mainly because I don't think he was coached very well in his first three years in the NFL.

    Still, I was never worked up about the ramifications of moving a high first-round pick to the right side of the line, because I just feel like the object to building a great offensive line is to assemble the best five linemen and get them all on the field at the same time no matter how it works out.

    So when Rodger Saffold became available a year later and his quick, athletic feet made him better suited to protect Sam Bradford's blind side, it made sense to shift Smith over to the right side, hoping a change in scenery would better fit his mean personality and his ability as an effective, mauling run blocker. But then the concussions started coming, and then he suffered the big hit last year when he was scared out of his wits and believing for a few haunting moments that he might have suffered life-threatening spinal cord damage.

    It was a false alarm, but Smith was never the same after that. If you talked to Smith this summer, you could hear in his voice a more introspective man who loved his family, embraced his religion and no longer considered football to be the defining element of his life. That may have made him a better husband and family man, but it became a detriment to his football personality.

    If you want to know why there was wholesale housecleaning, Smith is the quintessential symbol of the old Rams. Buzzard's luck piled on top of growth-stifling bad coaching, mucked up by questionable talent evaluation.

    Regardless of the reasons for his lack of success in St. Louis, Smith was another failed high draft pick, another critical selection that went wrong. But he wasn't alone. Why has this organization been so bad for so long? Horrid personnel decisions by every regime that has been in place here over the past 12 bad drafts.

    From 2005 to 2009, the drafts that should have stocked this roster with veterans turned out to be almost a complete washout for the Rams. No one from the '05 draft class is still on the roster. No one from the '06 draft class is still on the roster. No one from the '07 draft class is still on the roster and only Chris Long remains from 2008. And now with Smith out the door, only three players from the 2009 draft are left (middle linebacker James Laurinaitis, cornerback Bradley Fletcher and defensive tackle Darell Scott), and only one of them is a starter (Laurinaitis) and one might be out the door by week's end (Scott).

    So in a five-year span that should have been the very foundation for a successful organization, the Rams dramatically crapped out on draft night after draft night. Out of a possible 44 players selected between '05 and '09, the Rams are left with only two starters, no Pro Bowlers and one back-up.

    Three players in five years.

    The nightmarish '06 draft was the worst ever, a complete and utter disaster. The '06 Ty Hill/Joe Klopfenstein/Claude Wroten/Jon Alston/Dominique Byrd draft class was particularly cringe-worthy because out of the 10 players the Rams selected (including three third-round picks), none are earning a living in the NFL anymore.

    To be fair, not all of this poor draft retention can be blamed on bad drafting, because 11 of those 44 Rams draft picks are still in the NFL, six of them good enough to be starters somewhere else. Some of it is as a result of poor coaching, some of it's a result of bad pro personnel evaluations that let good players go (see: Damione Lewis). But most of it is because year after year after year after year, someone sat in that draft room and systematically scuttled the personnel department's hard work, altered the draft board then chose the wrong players (former team president John Shaw).

    That's why a new regime is in town, to fix the devastation from so many bad drafts from so many failed front-office combinations since the turn of the century. So it was easy to pull the trigger on a Jason Smith trade because they knew picking him wasn't their mistake. But I suspect they also understood that the longer he stayed around, before too long, they would have begrudgingly had no choice but to accept some sense of ownership.

    :ramlogo:

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    Ventesette's Avatar
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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Nice piece. I think a huge factor in "player retention" comes from changing regimes. How many FO's have you gone through in that time period? How many coaches? How many coordinators? Each of those guys like to bring in their own guys and sometimes players with value don't fit the new system. Great coaches will adapt the system to the players, but when you are at the bottom starting over, guys have a tendency to bring in players they know and fill the roles they want. For example Schottenheimer has brought in Clemens, Turner, Hunter and Mulligan because they know the system.

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    But most of it is because year after year after year after year, someone sat in that draft room and systematically scuttled the personnel department's hard work, altered the draft board then chose the wrong players (former team president John Shaw
    I have never heard this one has any one else?

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Quote Originally Posted by Ventesette View Post
    Nice piece. I think a huge factor in "player retention" comes from changing regimes. How many FO's have you gone through in that time period? How many coaches? How many coordinators? Each of those guys like to bring in their own guys and sometimes players with value don't fit the new system. Great coaches will adapt the system to the players, but when you are at the bottom starting over, guys have a tendency to bring in players they know and fill the roles they want. For example Schottenheimer has brought in Clemens, Turner, Hunter and Mulligan because they know the system.
    Clemens was here last year.

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Quote Originally Posted by sjacksonrules View Post
    Clemens was here last year.
    True, but he was also an UFA that they brought back.

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    A lot of coaches use the "He knows the system" or the "hes scheme friendly" phrase . . I really am not a fan of that , just because you are scheme friendly doesnt mean you are good , it just means you are easier to plug right into the system , it makes it easier for the coaches but at the sametime someone who is more talented but not so scheme friendly may not get the chance
    Torry Holt Dont play that

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Sounds like his heart may not be in football any longer. It's a shame, but I suppose a potentially life-altering injury will do that to you. Some things are just too important to let that happen. Can't fault him for that.

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    Re: Burwell: Trading Smith a smart move

    Quote Originally Posted by letsgoramz View Post
    A lot of coaches use the "He knows the system" or the "hes scheme friendly" phrase . . I really am not a fan of that , just because you are scheme friendly doesnt mean you are good , it just means you are easier to plug right into the system , it makes it easier for the coaches but at the sametime someone who is more talented but not so scheme friendly may not get the chance
    In generally, I agree with you, but when you are installing a new system those guys can help with the learning curve for the other players. You don't want to jettison good players or pick up stiffs for big money, but when you are getting cheap guys like Mulligan and Clemens you really can't go wrong. They will be helpful in camp and you can always cut them.

    There is also the issue with trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. The Jets went through this a ton lately. When Parcells left, Herm came in with the Cover Who and the Jets had big money tied up in CBs. They had to let the Texans take a highly regarded low dollar tackle, Ryan Young for the privilege of giving up two top cover corners (Aaron Glenn and Marcus Coleman). Then when Herm left Mangini put in the 3-4 and the Jets linemen and LBs were too small (John Abraham and Jonathan Vilma) and they had to go. All of those guys were good players, they just didn't fit the system.

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