By Bryan Burwell
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
12/18/2005


There's really no need to sort through the emotional debris of another game your flailing Rams could have and should have won. Why waste much time searching for answers to the maddening list of questions that swirl around this franchise as it continues on its sad and unnecessary decline?

Maybe you see a need to know why any offensive coach with any shred of functioning brain cells would put a revived Marshall Faulk on the bench in the final two minutes of a very winnable 17-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, but not me.

You've probably let out exasperated sighs and hair-pulling shrieks wondering how it's possible for the Rams offense to draw EIGHT drive-killing false starts, or maybe how on just about the biggest play of the game - a fourth-and-1 with a little more than three minutes to go in the fourth quarter and the Rams poised to drive in for the game-winning score - that a Philly linebacker was able to roll into the Rams' backfield and drop Faulk for a 2-yard loss without anyone in a white jersey so much as breathing on him.

Me? I'm on to bigger and better things. I am marching to the beat of a different drummer, because I know all the questions can be answered in one quick burst of indisputable logic.

This is what bad teams do.

Bad teams can play hard, just like the Rams seem to do on most Sundays. Bad teams can even play well for extended periods of time, just like the Rams did Sunday, stomping through the Philly defense for more than 300 yards, and turning the Eagles into a one-dimensional, unimaginative offensive side show for most of the game.

But in the end, bad teams lose, because that's what bad teams do.

Bad teams lose even when the other team's quarterback fails to throw for 100 yards, because bad teams like the Rams can play TWO quarterbacks who can't throw for over 100 yards (and by the way, when's the last time you saw an NFL game in which three quarterbacks failed to throw for 100 yards individually, like maybe 1943????).

So I am through fretting over the mundane details of these Sunday afternoon torture sessions. Trying to assign blame for the mistakes made in this game makes about as much sense as getting worked up over a death-row inmate spitting on the floor on the way to the gas chamber.

Inside the Rams locker room yesterday, you the sense that "dead-team-walking" presence. The anger that used to simmer in the room after loses just a few weeks ago has been replaced by a resignation that this team is simply a pale shadow of its former championship self. When someone asked Faulk whether the old championship Rams teams would have found a way to win this game, he merely shrugged his shoulders.

"That's the past," the future Hall of Fame tailback said. "The teams you're talking about are not here anymore, nor is the coach, or anything like that. We have to put that behind us and start rebuilding to start something new here."

I couldn't agree more. So let the rebuilding begin, and make it quick, fair and all encompassing. A lot of folks seem to think that the wrecking ball on the Rams Park renewal will only swing through the coaches offices, and certainly through the player's locker room. But the makeover should just as surely include a substantial overhaul in the executive suites as well. In other words, spread the blame evenly and accurately, because everyone is to blame for this team's fall from greatness.

Some time very soon, Rams president John Shaw will have to make some very difficult decisions that will shape the direction of this franchise. Will he do what it takes to return the Rams to the top of the NFL heap?

Shaw always has been one of the smartest men in the room in the insular world of pro football, but he also has been one of the most confounding ones. Only a few years ago, he was being hailed for making the moves that put the Rams on the verge of a dynasty. Yet he is now the steward of this franchise as it tumbles back to earth in a dysfunctional free fall. For that he deserves a sizeable chunk of the blame, because he knew what the problems where, who created them and not only did nothing to stop them, but in many ways created the environment that allowed them to fester and boil into this messy season.

Shaw has the chance to recreate the Rams once again. Acting quickly on the Mike Martz buyout/firing will be the first smart move he can make. The last game of the season is January 1 in Dallas. On January 2, Shaw and Martz ought to be standing together at a news conference patting each other on the back and blowing kisses as the old coach leaves Rams Park on his way to the rest of his football life. Then Shaw can get on with his business, too, which is reshaping the franchise in his image.

But which image will it be this time, one that reflects the wise decisions of an intelligent dynasty builder, or one that casts Rams Park as a stage for wacky soap operas and dynasties in ruin?