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It's time for Rams to show improvement ..
By Bryan Burwell
It was Tuesday afternoon at Rams Park, and for some odd reason Steve Spagnuolo wanted to hang out in the indoor practice facility, which on this sweltering 95-degree day felt like a steamy Turkish bath. There was no air-conditioning inside this soaring, empty barn, nor any giant ventilating fans to move the thick and suffocating air. Yet the moment the Rams coach came bounding into the room, he had this wide grin spread across his face.
While everyone around him was dripping with sweat, everything was perfectly cool with Spagnuolo. The start of his second training camp as an NFL head coach was less than 24 hours away, and Spagnuolo was just as eager as some of his young players.
"It's just a good time of year," he said.
Spagnuolo was optimistic and eager to get started on Year Two of the imposing task of fixing this broken franchise. If we've learned anything about him after his rookie season, it's that Spagnuolo is obsessive about the details that he believes will lead to winning. If you listen and observe, you will see evidence of that meticulous nature almost every day. Spagnuolo charts out his entire season down to the minute. He considers nothing too big or small a detail if he believes it will somehow change a losing climate into a winning one. So there was a very good reason why he held his first press conference of the summer inside this sweltering shed.
"I wanted you guys to come in here so you could see the new banners," Spagnuolo said. "I bet none of you even noticed."
How could you not notice the giant championship banners hanging from the walls of both end zones? This was part of Spagnuolo's many offseason home improvements at Rams Park. There were large banners indicating everything positive in the franchise's lengthy NFL history, dating back to the glory years in Los Angeles when they were Coastal Division champs under the late George Allen to the Super Bowls and NFC West titles that have been earned since arriving in St. Louis.
"Whaddaya think?" he said. "Aren't they nice?"
Yes they were. This is all part of Spags' plan for instilling some organizational pride around here, and educating his young players on the historic relevance of the Rams franchise. But the only problem with celebrating this rich championship past is that it also serves as a dramatic reminder of how far this franchise has fallen. The last significant date on the wall refers to the 2003 NFC West title.
Since then, it has been seven long years of a steady decline to the depths of pro football, and only the most crazy and unrealistic optimist believes that "2010" will end up on the wall by the end of this season.
But that doesn't mean this young Rams team isn't finally heading in the right direction. You might find this to be faint praise for a team that bottomed out at 1-15 last year. But the Rams needed to bottom out before they could begin the long road back to respectability. The Rams are considered the worst team in the NFL heading into the preseason. What happens over the next six weeks will go a long way in determining whether they will stay that way once the regular season begins.
I believe that while this isn't necessarily the breakthrough year for the Rams, it has to be the year when we see strong evidence that this is finally an ascending team. They have a new franchise quarterback (Sam Bradford) to groom, two potential young offensive tackles (Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold) to transform into reliable anchors, a superstar running back on the mend (Steven Jackson) and a stable of unproven young wide receivers who will be given every opportunity to confirm the unsubstantiated support they've been given by the coaches and front office. This is a team full of young offensive and defensive players who will be given every opportunity to prove they can play in the NFL, not to mention more than a few veterans who are being counted on to turn the Rams from an NFL laughingstock into a team that can compete on a weekly basis.
Much of that anticipated progress hinges on Bradford. Peyton Manning won only three games as a rookie, but it didn't take long for the NFL to recognize that he was indeed as good as advertised. That is what we need to see from Bradford this summer, something good enough to make us believe that he is the unquestioned best option as the Rams starting quarterback even if he is an unproven rookie.
This is not the season to expect the Rams to become overnight sensations.
But it is time for us to see undisputed proof that this franchise really is moving in the right direction.
Re: It's time for Rams to show improvement ..
I think Burwell said everything we have since last season ended. Finally, the offseason is about to be.......off.
Re: It's time for Rams to show improvement ..It's time for Rams to show improvement ..By Bryan Burwell"Before the gates of excellence the high gods have placed sweat; long is the road thereto and rough and steep at first; but when the heights are reached, then there is ease, though grievously hard in the winning." --- Hesiod
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