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Thread: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

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    Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    By Howard Balzer

    The Rams will gather on the practice field today for the final day of preparation for Sunday’s game against the *****. Of course, it is also the final practice of the season, save for the walk-through and mock game that takes place Saturday.

    Coach Steve Spagnuolo will be no different than he has been for his previous 47 games as Rams coach, running practice, correcting and acting no different than if his record was 37-10 instead of 10-37.

    If he has harbored any thoughts that this might be his final practice as Rams coach or that Sunday could be his final game, he doesn’t show it publicly. That is Spagnuolo’s strength as a leader. His players always know what to expect.

    But the reality is that’s not probably enough in our short attention span society. It doesn’t matter that Spagnuolo’s Rams were 7-9 last season with a mostly young roster and average team. After the decision to blow up the roster in 2009, the Rams had no business winning seven games. They did, thanks to an offensive plan that protected rookie quarterback Sam Bradford and the unexpected presence of Danario Alexander, whose big plays helped win three games.

    Alexander wouldn’t have been on the roster had Mark Clayton not been lost for the season in Week 5. Who knows; maybe if the Rams had won only four or five games, it would have been viewed as incremental progress and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur might not have been hired as head coach by the Cleveland Browns.

    But Shurmur left, and Spagnuolo hired offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels. He knew there might be growing pains with a new offense in a lockout year. But steady progress was expected.

    Of course, we often know what happens to the best-laid plans. Running back Steven Jackson is injured after scoring on a 47-yard touchdown on the first offensive play of the season. Bradford’s security blanket, Danny Amendola, catches five passes in that first game, but he is injured and lost for the season. Cornerback Ron Bartell also goes down, starting an unprecedented run of injuries at that position, which began in training camp when Jerome Murphy was also lost for the season.

    We all knew how difficult the schedule was for the first half of the season, but when the Rams came back from the bye and gained 424 yards against Green Bay, it appeared the offense might be onto something even though they failed to score a touchdown. For those with short memories, the “regressing” Bradford was 28-for-44 for 321 yards in that game, and Brandon Lloyd wasn’t on the team yet. Alexander had six receptions for 91 yards and Greg Salas had eight for 77. Even tight end Lance Kendricks had four catches for 71 yards.

    But then Bradford was injured on the final play of that game, Alexander went out the next week for six games and Salas was lost for the season three weeks later. Except for one aberration against New Orleans, the offensive subsequently degenerated into a dysfunctional mess that only has Jackson as the shining light.

    When Jackson was asked Thursday what he has learned from this year’s experience, he said simply, “That it’s important to have continuity.”

    Of course, he probably knew that, but it has been glaring this season.

    The offense has had one player start all 16 games, Harvey Dahl, and he has started at two different positions. If Mark LeVoir starts at left tackle Sunday, there will be five starters on offense with three on the offensive line that weren’t with the team in training camp.

    The ever-changing roster and in-game injuries makes a thin roster even thinner, and filters its way down to special teams.

    And because of that, Spagnuolo and Co. could pay for it with their jobs, as if they could control most of it.

    There are those that look at the record and nothing else. Explanations why apparently don’t matter. But if it was thought Spagnuolo did a good job last year, did he suddenly become a bad coach?

    Most pointedly, what does anyone think the hot names supposedly being pursued or considered would have done in these circumstances?

    Jeff Fisher was a very good coach in Tennessee. But what happened when things didn’t go as planned? In 16 full seasons with the franchise, Fisher had five losing seasons and five that were 8-8. He had a total of six winning seasons.

    Jon Gruden won a Super Bowl with Tony Dungy’s team, then went 7-9 and 5-11 the next two seasons. The Bucs did have an 11-5 season, then were 4-12 the following year. In the six seasons after that Super Bowl, Gruden’s Bucs were 45-51.

    a** Dick Vermeil always said, “I became a lot better coach when I got better players and they stayed healthy.”

    Firing a coach or general manager is easy. Finding someone better is the tough part.

    When McDaniels was asked what he had learned from this difficult season, he said, “You can’t ever assume anything. Bringing me here, doesn’t mean that I’m going to do anything that I’ve done in the past. Bringing an individual player here doesn’t mean they’re going to do the same thing (they’ve done in the past). You have to mesh together. It’s a group of individuals that has to become a team and has to work together, has to fit together the right way. I think it’s about how people interact and people mesh together and you have to continue to work in this business to make sure that you have the right group of guys together.”

    When, as Jackson said, “It’s been a lot of moving parts,” what McDaniels discussed is virtually impossible.

    The NFL is an unforgiving league where just winning a game is brutally hard. Now, Stan Kroenke has a decision to make, his first major one as owner of the franchise. Perhaps he’s already made it.

    But on that continuity theme, Kroenke hopefully knows that patience through hard times can pay off even if it’s not considered the popular decision and franchises that constantly change coaches and systems become mired in quicksand and often end up with players that don’t fit.

    If he makes a change, does Kroenke want to pay between $5 and $7 million a year for a “proven” coach? What have the Redskins received for the $7 million a year they are paying Mike Shanahan along with a large assistant coach budget?

    On the other hand, is it progress to hire another successful coordinator and likely start over with another new offensive system and defensive system? After all, Kroenke supported the Spagnuolo hire, and knew this probably wouldn’t be a quick fix.

    At the end of the day, Kroenke has to go with his own gut and do what he believes is right, not what he believes others think.

    We can all only hope he gets it right.


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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    A good read... I agree with Firing a coach or general manager is easy. Finding someone better is the tough part. I'm not feeling there a great coach to be had... right now.

    Constantly change coaches and systems become mired in quicksand and often end up with players that don’t fit.
    We are in that mode... are drafts stink because we keep changes coaches and our drafted players are starting for other teams... not all but some...

    I think a case could be made to let him go or to say one more year...

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Unlike Burwell, Balzer puts a lot of thought into what he writes and I can respect that, whether I agree/disagree with him.

    I don't think the Rams are doomed to total failure if Spags were to return, but I think if Devaney is still GM, there is going to be no real progress made in getting this franchise back to respectability and a real missed opportunity with the Rams in position to have a top pick this draft. Remember, Devaney is one of the guys in SD who thought drafting Leaf over Manning was the way to go. Brilliant!

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    I'm always a bit puzzled when people say "Well, I'm just not excited about the available candidates out there" or "I just don't see a sure thing". Truth is, there are no Vince Lombardis or Chuck Knolls looking for work. You could make an argument that the best available candidates out there are guys who won Super Bowls or got there. Gruden, Cowher, Fisher and Billick fit the bill.

    But even more important to consider: the next great coach is an unknown. Who thought Mike Tomlin was a surefire replacement for Bill Cowher? Anyone who says so isn't being truthful. And the guy has done a great job- maybe even better than Cowher. How about Mike McCarthy in Green Bay? How about Mike Smith in Atlanta? All were relative unknowns prior to their being hired. WE HAVE NO IDEA as fans who will be a good fit- all we can do is hope management gets it right for once.
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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    insanity......doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

    Taking the safe route is not what this organization needs. The owner needs to put his stamp on this team and show the fans and the league Rams are no longer NFL doormats.

    Spags has proven 37 times he is not the guy. Coupled with Linehan, we are 21-62. Time to move on....There is somebody better suited for this team. Let's see how Stan does.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Not to take anything from Mike Tomlin who I think is a pretty decent football coach but he didn't inherit a Steelers team run by Linehan. He got a team that had won a championship. He also has a hall of fame defensive coordinator.

    The Steelers have an organization that is built properly to win from the top down. If we dont start there our next coach will give Spags a run for his money.
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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by macrammer View Post
    insanity......doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
    So when you say doing the same thing over and over again, do you mean giving Spags a chance to win with an improved lineup or do you mean blaming the HC for not winning with insufficient talent, firing him, and blowing the team up again? You could argue that repeatedly firing your head coach every two to three years if he hasn't gotten you where you want to go fits into the same category.

    While I have been frustrated with Spagnuolo's conservative game decisions, I'll give him credit for maintaining an even keel through difficult times. He doesn't look as lost out there as Linehan did toward the end of his tenure here.
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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    So when you say doing the same thing over and over again, do you mean giving Spags a chance to win with an improved lineup or do you mean blaming the HC for not winning with insufficient talent, firing him, and blowing the team up again?
    Improved line-up? Not if Spags has a say in who stays and who goes. I do agree that the Rams do need to significantly upgrade the roster with 4 or 5 new faces on either side of the ball plus special teams, I just don't think Spags should be in the loop.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
    I'm always a bit puzzled when people say "Well, I'm just not excited about the available candidates out there" or "I just don't see a sure thing". Truth is, there are no Vince Lombardis or Chuck Knolls looking for work. You could make an argument that the best available candidates out there are guys who won Super Bowls or got there. Gruden, Cowher, Fisher and Billick fit the bill.

    But even more important to consider: the next great coach is an unknown. Who thought Mike Tomlin was a surefire replacement for Bill Cowher? Anyone who says so isn't being truthful. And the guy has done a great job- maybe even better than Cowher. How about Mike McCarthy in Green Bay? How about Mike Smith in Atlanta? All were relative unknowns prior to their being hired. WE HAVE NO IDEA as fans who will be a good fit- all we can do is hope management gets it right for once.

    I'm one of those guys that is just not thrilled with the coaches out there.... Like I said Fisher I like the best, he's got the experience but he's never won it all. It's not like he built a team that won two SB.

    Cowher again coached for one team that gave him what 15 seasons. My concern is he's been out of the game too long. The NFL changes fast, not sure it's the same game it was when he coached. Do you see the Rams giving him five years to make us a winner, I don't. This is a get it done in two years league now, five year plans are long gone.

    Billick to me is a great coach, that being said for me I'm more of an offense minded fan, I like to see points. One of the things I dislike so much about Spags is he is so conservative in his game management, always playing it safe and hoping the defense will win the game. That's what I see Billick doing... he won with a great defense and little offense.

    Gruden took over a team built by Tony Dungy, he led them to the Super Bowl win. I'm not convinced he could rebuild the Rams. Lets not forget he has had one of the biggest collapses in NFL history, losing four straight games following a 9-3 start to miss the playoffs. He took over a very good team with a great defense and made the playoffs three times in seven years before he was let go. Again I think he is a great coordinator not a great HC. he beat the Raiders in the SB mainly because he knew the plays and the Raiders where to stupid to change things up.

    But even more important to consider: the next great coach is an unknown. Who thought Mike Tomlin was a surefire replacement for Bill Cowher?
    I think he's more a product of the organization, meaning he worked in an environment with more stability then most people have at a real job. When most teams like the Rams hire a coach and can't make a commitment to the plan to build the team based on all the reasons they hired the coach in the first place. One of the reasons I'm not so excited about three of these coaches is they had a decade and half to win the SB...I just don't think the Rams can stay the course for more then two or three years. If any of these coaches where in year three and they had the same things happen to the Rams this year not sure we would have won anymore games.
    Last edited by Rambos; -12-31-2011 at 04:13 PM.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by mh-i View Post
    Improved line-up? Not if Spags has a say in who stays and who goes. I do agree that the Rams do need to significantly upgrade the roster with 4 or 5 new faces on either side of the ball plus special teams, I just don't think Spags should be in the loop.
    I absolutely agree. After three years of coaching the Rams, Im still trying to identify what Spags real strength's are as a HC. Nothing stands out to me.? He did improve the defense somewhat from
    the first year, to second year. But he hasn't been able to sustain, the defense's improved play. Alarming when you think its his area of expertise, and he was going into the third year of his system.
    Other than the improved defensive football, he has done virtually nothing with the team. The Rams are still in the same hole they were in, when Spags first took over. Only their not in, quite as deep now? After three seasons as coach, you would expect to see at least a glimmer of hope, in some kind of shape or form, somewhere in his work. Ive just never felt him as a coach, which is always a bad sign.
    Last edited by GROUND DOG 39; -12-31-2011 at 06:40 PM.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Defense is his area of expertise but there isn't a defensive coordinator in this league who can play solid defense with defensive backs from other teams practice squads. Sure teams deal with injuries all the time but they're normally spread around a little bit. When's the last time you saw a top 10 defense with a secondary ravaged like ours?
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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Who thought Jim Harbaugh would turn around the mess that existed in SF... in just one season.

    NFL history is filled with head coaches that lead their team to incredible, surprising success, or to epic, unexpected failure. Total wins and losses have always been the primary instrument to which all are and should be measured. How fans, players, and even ownership feeeeeelll about the numerous circumstances that surrounded a head coach is not.

    After three seasons as the Rams' head coach, with the worst record in franchise history at 10 wins and 37 losses (soon to be 38), what side of NFL history should Steve Spagnuolo fall?

    So you still want Steve Spagnuolo to be head coach of this team for another season? Yes? Insane.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by DE_Ramfan View Post
    Defense is his area of expertise but there isn't a defensive coordinator in this league who can play solid defense with defensive backs from other teams practice squads. Sure teams deal with injuries all the time but they're normally spread around a little bit. When's the last time you saw a top 10 defense with a secondary ravaged like ours?
    I have seen a few occasions this season where injuries done at CB, have really affected the play of the Rams defense. But never to the point where it was painfully obvious every week.? It still doesn't explain the play of the front seven, when playing the run game. Which is the primary objective in Spags defense.?
    Last edited by GROUND DOG 39; -01-01-2012 at 08:58 AM.

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    Re: Kroenke's Call Tougher Than You Think ..

    Quote Originally Posted by Goldenfleece View Post
    So when you say doing the same thing over and over again, do you mean giving Spags a chance to win with an improved lineup or do you mean blaming the HC for not winning with insufficient talent, firing him, and blowing the team up again? You could argue that repeatedly firing your head coach every two to three years if he hasn't gotten you where you want to go fits into the same category.

    While I have been frustrated with Spagnuolo's conservative game decisions, I'll give him credit for maintaining an even keel through difficult times. He doesn't look as lost out there as Linehan did toward the end of his tenure here.
    If you read the entire post, you would have understood what my reference to insanity was. I am not one to make excuses for a person that has failed at their job. As such, I FULLY expect Spags to be fired and the new owner to perform and execute his due diligence accordingly so this organization can move ahead in the right direction FINALLY..

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