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Thread: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

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    Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    By Jim Thomas

    Jeff Fisher said it again Monday, at his last news conference of the 2013 regular season.

    “I think we’re closing the gap (in the NFC West),” Fisher said at Rams Park. “We’re not there yet, but I think with a year of improvement we’ll be much closer.”

    It takes a coach with a résumé and a lot of self-confidence to make such a statement. After all, the Rams went 4-1-1 in division games last year and fell to 1-5 against the division in 2013.

    They lost four of those five games by an average of 18 points, with none of those four losses coming by fewer than 10 points.

    “We’ve got to be better in the division, no question,” linebacker James Laurinaitis said after Sunday’s 27-9 loss to the newly crowned NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks. “If you’re gonna win it, you’ve got to play really well and be really good in it. And we’ve got a tough (division).

    “I think that’s the most disappointing part of the season is how poorly we did against the division. At home against San Fran, that one was tough to swallow. We still are haunted by the Seattle game at home.”

    In the immediate aftermath of a 7-9 regular season, it’s clear that the Rams have closed the gap on becoming a playoff-caliber team. Resounding victories over Indianapolis, New Orleans and Chicago bear testament to that. After going 3-7 a year ago outside the division, they went 6-4 this season.

    If the Rams were residents of the AFC South, NFC North, or even NFC East this season, they might have been preparing for a postseason game Monday instead of taking exit physicals and cleaning out lockers. But their home is the mighty NFC West, easily the strongest division in football.

    Yes, what used to be the NFC Worst is suddenly the NFC Best.

    Arizona (10-6) leapfrogged the Rams into third place this season in the West. Seattle (13-3) and San Francisco (12-4) once again are legitimate Super Bowl contenders. With just two wild-card berths per conference since the realignment of 2002, you’ve got to finish at least third in your division to even have a shot at Mr. Lombardi’s trophy.

    “Anything can happen,” Fisher said. “All three teams play really good defense, and we’ve got to play better offense and score more points to compete with them. I think defensively we can compete with these teams.”

    If Fisher and general manager Les Snead have shown anything in their two offseasons in St. Louis, it’s that they’re not going to sit on their hands. Since he has become controlling owner, Stan Kroenke has shown a strong commitment to spend money when necessary.

    The Seahawks and ***** certainly won’t sit still — they remain obsessed with each other and their quest for Best in the West. And the Cardinals, with the shrewd hire of coach Bruce Arians, look like they’re all-in as well. So keeping up with the Joneses has never been tougher in this neighborhood.

    The starting point, of course, is possession of the No. 2 and No. 13 overall picks in next May’s draft. Do they trade one of those picks? Both? Stand pat? As Fisher pointed out Monday, they have no less than 4½ months to “massage that.”

    “Obviously, we’re excited about that,” Fisher said. “We have a lot of exciting things ahead of us in the offseason. A lot of decisions to make.”

    Fisher said he doesn’t anticipate any coaching staff changes, but things happen, situations change. For example, with longtime Fisher associate Jim Schwartz out as Detroit head coach, does Fisher find a place for him on his staff? (Assuming Schwartz doesn’t find another head-coaching job or decides to sit out a year.)

    Deciding what to do with the current roster is a key part of the equation as well. There doesn’t figure to be as much turnover as in Fisher’s first two offseasons in St. Louis, but even well-established teams churn up to a third of the roster every year.

    “I am proud of this team,” Fisher said. “This team — inside the building, on the practice field — is one of the better ones from a chemistry standpoint I’ve ever been around. They do everything that’s asked of them, and they do it well.

    “I think we have a lot to look forward to from the standpoint of not only last year’s young guys, but this year’s. ... We have a young team that’s gonna get better. And it’s going to get significantly better over the offseason.”

    Good enough to truly compete in the NFC Best? We’ll see.

    “I’m optimistic,” Laurinaitis said. “This 53 won’t be the exact same next year. But let’s be frank. There’s a lot of young guys that are gonna be back. There’s gonna be a lot of talent in here that we can win with.

    “So I’m excited about the prospects of this organization, this team, and the direction that we’re going. It’s a very big offseason for us. Very big. Third year in with the head man (Fisher). Sam (Bradford) rehabbing a comeback. It’s just a big offseason, and I’ll be in St. Louis for most it.”


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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Quote Originally Posted by MauiRam View Post
    Good enough to truly compete in the NFC Best? We’ll see.

    “I’m optimistic,” Laurinaitis said. “This 53 won’t be the exact same next year. But let’s be frank. There’s a lot of young guys that are gonna be back. There’s gonna be a lot of talent in here that we can win with.

    “So I’m excited about the prospects of this organization, this team, and the direction that we’re going. It’s a very big offseason for us. Very big. Third year in with the head man (Fisher). Sam (Bradford) rehabbing a comeback. It’s just a big offseason, and I’ll be in St. Louis for most it.”
    The Rams HAVE to finish above .500 in 2014 to continue down the road of "closing the gap".
    Sam coming back 100% ready by game 1 will be make or break for that happening unless the Rams can somehow land a better back-up than Clemens. Going 1-5 in the division was a disaster anyway you slice it. That can't happen in 2014. Anything less than 3-3 will be unacceptable and will be a sign of no progress. Year 3 for Fisher is the year to make a jump into playoff contender. That means that games 15-16 have to mean something whether they end up in the playoffs or not.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Nice article, thanks for posting it Maui. I think much will happen this off-season, because as I've said before the expectations for next year will be to contend for the playoffs. I hope we improve in the things that cost us some games such penalties and injuries. As for talent good things lie ahead, not simply 2 first round draft picks but players like Jared Cook I think will flourish after a year learning the new system, Brian Quick and Stedman Bailey will be more utilized and our CB's (Jenkins and Johnson) will be a year wiser. Once we shore up the O-lIne and get Sam back things will definitely look better. But then I thought things would be better than 7-9 this year. That's why they play the games.

    Go Rams!
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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    It takes a coach with a résumé and a lot of self-confidence to make such a statement.
    Word around here has it that it's neither of those things.

    Apparently, he's a moron!

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    I wonder what stuff Jeff (Fisher) is smoking? Closing the gap on what? The longest sub .500 finish in Ram's history? He's got me there if that's the "gap" he is referring too.

    But to actually finish with a worst divisional record with more tools on your team then what you started with the previous season and say your closing the "gap"--sigh. Who is he trying to kid? Hopefully ownership has pointed out this little fact to Jeff. More I hope ownership has given him the "or else" speech to his continued tenure as Rams head coach.

    Win two games against the Saints and Colts but lose to the Falcons and Titans? That isn't much of a gap closing in my book. Losing your running game for about HALF a season and rediscovering it for the other HALF...note the half a season remark? And this is all closing the gap.

    The only real discussion Ram fans need to be having is, is it better for a "coaching change" now or wait and see next season.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post

    The only real discussion Ram fans need to be having is, is it better for a "coaching change" now or wait and see next season.
    Thanks for reminding us why fans don't get to make personnel decisions for their teams.
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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    I wonder what stuff Jeff (Fisher) is smoking? Closing the gap on what? The longest sub .500 finish in Ram's history? He's got me there if that's the "gap" he is referring too.

    But to actually finish with a worst divisional record with more tools on your team then what you started with the previous season and say your closing the "gap"--sigh. Who is he trying to kid? Hopefully ownership has pointed out this little fact to Jeff. More I hope ownership has given him the "or else" speech to his continued tenure as Rams head coach.

    Win two games against the Saints and Colts but lose to the Falcons and Titans? That isn't much of a gap closing in my book. Losing your running game for about HALF a season and rediscovering it for the other HALF...note the half a season remark? And this is all closing the gap.

    The only real discussion Ram fans need to be having is, is it better for a "coaching change" now or wait and see next season.
    Just a friendly reminder.....closing the gap with a backup QB.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Quote Originally Posted by Ram Dragoon View Post
    I wonder what stuff Jeff (Fisher) is smoking? Closing the gap on what? The longest sub .500 finish in Ram's history? He's got me there if that's the "gap" he is referring too.

    But to actually finish with a worst divisional record with more tools on your team then what you started with the previous season and say your closing the "gap"--sigh. Who is he trying to kid? Hopefully ownership has pointed out this little fact to Jeff. More I hope ownership has given him the "or else" speech to his continued tenure as Rams head coach.

    Win two games against the Saints and Colts but lose to the Falcons and Titans? That isn't much of a gap closing in my book. Losing your running game for about HALF a season and rediscovering it for the other HALF...note the half a season remark? And this is all closing the gap.

    The only real discussion Ram fans need to be having is, is it better for a "coaching change" now or wait and see next season.
    Yep, the old “or else” speech ought to take care of everthing. Great idea! Surely this speech has worked wonders in the past. It would seem you believe Jeff has just been screwing around so far, coaching when he feels like it kinda sorta – right? So Stan would be remiss not to set Jeff straight with an “or else” speech. Might as well include Snead and Demoff too – correct? They’ve been a part of this abysmal gap closing as well. While we’re at it, we should probably dump Bradford too! No sense keeping him around to suffer through a fourth offensive coordinator. Better yet, Stan could arrange meetings with Jerry Jones and Dan Synder to get some really good tips on the best way to deliver an “or else” speech. I’ll stop there ..

    We all want to win RD. That said, the numbers don’t change: 32 teams, one Super Bowl winner. Who won it last year? Where are they this year? It is tough to win consistently year to year in this league. One team (that we don’t like much) has managed to do that pretty well – they’ve won their division yet again this year. That team in particular is the model Stan K. has stated he wishes to emulate. He appears to be doing that.

    All of us here want to win – we have that in common with probably every fan of every team in the league. Doing it regularly however, is an extremely elusive blend of genius, artistry, common sense, and good old fashioned luck: maintaining a relatively healthy roster throughout an entire NFL season, not to mention being on the favorable side of blown calls more often than not. Keep the faith fellow Ram fan! Our day will come.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    I think he was on the mark here. We were 6-4 against teams outside our division with substantial improvement over the course of the season and marquee wins against tough teams. Our defense can run with the best, but the gap is between our offense and the other offenses in our division. Right now, you win this division, and you become one of the favorites to go the distance. We simply have to do better against Seattle and SF.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Last year, we had a great divisional record but did poorly against the rest of the league. This year, it was just the opposite. At the risk of being overly simplistic, we need balance between the two.

    I do not subscribe to the philosophy that Jeff Fisher hasn't done a good job here. The talent upgrades have been dramatic. The attitude has changed. Our defensive line can play with anyone in football. With a couple of exceptions, the last two drafts have been good. Should we be satisfied that we've gone 7-8-1 and 7-9 in successive seasons? Of course not. Are there elements of Fisher's coaching that could be improved (i.e. stressing the difference between fiery, inspired football and stupid, undisciplined play)? You bet. But calls for change or ultimatums of a "win or else" edict are ridiculous.

    We played 9 games this season in the toughest division in football without our starting quarterback. You need not look any further to determine why we were 7-9.
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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    One step forward two steps back:

    I still stand by what I said. Thing is there is another sad fact. The Rams lost 2 games to divisional opponents (Seagulls and Cards) and where THUMPED, humiliated, and embarrassed in 3 games (twice at the hands of the 49whinners and Seagulls). The win against the Cards was more where the Rams held on to the win.

    Now would someone please tell me HOW the Rams are closing the gap? Already having more talent, then in past seasons...I am lost here.

    In an earlier post prior to the season I said football is like Chess, but no team has a full set of pieces and it becomes a game in how you use what you have. Well I still think the chess pieces the Rams have where not put to good use

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    Well... we did dominate the two teams that won playoff games today, so there's that.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    Quote Originally Posted by AvengerRam View Post
    Well... we did dominate the two teams that won playoff games today, so there's that.
    There is that, pity they where not in the NFC West...but I think if either the Colts and Saints face either 49whinners or Seagulls...well it is likely its a short playoff run for either the Colts or Saints.

    However--I think the Saints had the right defensive scheme even though the Saints lost against the Seagulls and the Saints do run the screen play(s) unlike the Rams against an aggressive defense. So head-to-head, the Saints have the best chance and the Colts have virtually no chance.

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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    The cold, hard reality is that Seattle and SF are currently better than we are. That is a fact we hate to acknowledge, but must face nonetheless. And a team who is better than its opponent will win most of the time. We have the misfortune of playing in a division with both of these teams and an Arizona team which is a good ball club. Last year, we came into the season as a joke- and we were able to beat some divisional teams who overlooked us. This year, we were afforded no such luxury and the divisional record reflected that.

    Sooner or later, the fans have a right to expect a return on all the moves that have been made. And I think if next year a healthy Bradford comes back, we stay relatively healthy and STILL do not make a dent in the fortunes of the other divisional teams, THEN this questioning of 'closing the gap" will be more valid. Until then, any talk of Fisher's tenure being "a failure' is premature.
    Last edited by NJ Ramsfan1; -01-05-2014 at 12:26 PM.
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    Re: Fisher: 'We're closing the gap'

    To measure the gap by our division record is not really all that accurate, not having Bradford for most of those games is a factor. With Sam we where .500 this year. I doubt any of the other teams would beat us without their starting QB and us having ours.

    I don't look at the gap between us and them being all that important. Who they have on their team this year will change by 20-25% every year. They won't be the same teams and either will we next year. Case in point just four year ago the NFC West was the biggest joke now it's the best division in the league.

    Both the Hawks and the Whiners have two QBs that will need to be paid 100 million plus contracts shortly and that will impact their overall roster. Both those teams have aging all pro running backs, that will change shortly.

    The Whiners already have stepped back as they did not win the division anything short of the SB for them is a bust. Certainly a loss today would be moving in the wrong direction.

    The Hawks have a good team, now can they will need to keep it together, guys like Tate and Sherman are going to want to get paid. It's harder to keep the team together IMO then to build it.
    They took a misstep with Percy Harvin six-year, $67 million contract IMO. They can't pay everyone big money and Wilson is more then deserving of a monster contract.
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