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  1. #1
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    Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Playing to win is a concept that escapes Rams

    By Jeff Gordon
    STLTODAY.COM SPORTS COLUMNIST
    12/07/2009

    Here’s the funny thing about the NFL: When bad teams play to win, sometimes they actually win.

    Rams fans may have given up on this premise, given their team’s stubborn refusal to believe in the “Any Given Sunday” mantra. Their team was at it again in Chicago, falling to the Bears 17-9 with an especially timid offensive performance.

    Once again, the Rams didn’t appear to be gunning for victory. Rather, they looked to be keeping the game as close as possible.

    Apparently first-year coach Steve Spagnuolo sees progress in the narrower losses. Fans see only losses -– and they also see other also-rans ACTUALLY WINNING GAMES.

    Upsets happen all the time in this league. Just ask the Oakland Raiders, a team that had mustered just 49 points in its first five road games this season.

    Experts gave them little chance to beat the Steelers in Pittsburgh. The Steelers, after all, got quarterback Ben Roethlisberger back for this game.

    Pittsburgh HAD to win to remain viable in the playoff hunt. And yet . . .

    Journeyman quarterback Bruce Gradkowski threw three touchdown passes -- including the game-winning 11-yard strike to Louis Murphy with nine seconds left -– to rally the Raiders to their 27-24 victory.

    This is the same Bruce Gradkowski who couldn’t beat out Brock Berlin for the No. 3 quarterback job during the Scott Linehan Era.

    This is the same Bruce Gradkowski who looked more like an MMA fighter than a polished quarterback during that training camp up in Wisconsin. When the Rams cut him, nobody seemed shocked or outraged by the decision. And yet . . .

    Gradkowski came after the Steelers on Sunday. He ran around and made stuff happen on the fly. He pulled off the sort of unlikely heroics the NFL is known for.

    Here are some facts:

    * He became the first Raiders quarterback to throw three touchdowns in a fourth quarter since Ken Stabler did it against the Saints on Dec. 3, 1979.

    * As a Brown last December, Gradkowski posted a 1.0 passer rating during a 31-0 loss to the Steelers.

    * In his first two career games at Pittsburgh, he threw five interceptions and led his offenses to a total of three points.

    * This trip to his hometown of Pittsburgh went much better: He earned a 121.8 rating as a Raider, throwing for 308 yards in the process.

    * In one mighty effort, Gradkowski raised Oakland’s season passing TD total from five to eight.

    “That was so exciting, I can't even put into words how I feel,” Gradkowski told reporters after the game. “To come home to Pittsburgh, where I was born and raised, it's exciting. To come back and be able to share this with my family, how happy I saw my mom and dad after the game, that's awesome.”

    Gradkowski was playing to win.

    “Bruce had something about him today,” Raiders tackle Cornell Green told the San Francisco Chronicle. “I don't know if it was being home or just letting it all hang out, but he took control of the huddle. He's cursing at people to hurry up. He brings that fire.”

    If only the Rams could muster such fire, perhaps they, too, could actually win some games.

    Given Sunday’s turn of events, many Rams fans are howling about Gradkowski’s departure from the Rams. They complain that it was an egregious error to let him go.

    But Tampa Bay let him go, too, after deploying him as a starter for one year and as the back-up the next. Cleveland used him as a fill-in last season, then moved on without him.

    Oakland brought him in to back up the disastrous JaMarcus Russell and waited half a season to get him on the field.

    Gradkowski is just a guy. But he is a guy who played to win Sunday -- for a team willing to take some shots down the field.

    Rather than review their own pathetic offensive game video, the Rams should take a good long look at what Gradkowski and his undermanned teammates did at Pittsburgh.

    The Raiders played to win and they won. It’s such a simple concept, yet it’s one that eludes the Rams organization week after week after week.


  2. #2
    macrammer's Avatar
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    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Mike,

    Thi is essentially the way I saw it on Sunday. Playing to keep score close and not really looking to put real effort into winning. I know we discussed this on another thread a but I did find the article interesting (and frustrating!!) thanks for posting.

    As for Boller, who is/was responsible for signing him and cutting Gradowski?

  3. #3
    NJ Ramsfan1 is offline Registered User
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    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    I'm not going to sit here and say that cutting Bruce Gradkowski was a huge error in judgment. That isn't the decision that made the Rams a poor football team. But the gist of the article is right on the money. The Rams don't play to win. They don't take chances. They don't take a gamble every once in awhile. They try to keep it close and hope they stumble into a win. Gimmicks don't work on every down, but shoot, take a chance every once in awhile.

    Tony Sparano inherited a 1-15 football team in Miami. Running an unconventional offense to compensate for a lack of overall offensive talent, he had them in the playoffs the next year. After an 0-3 start this year, Miami has righted its ship with an unproven Chad Henne at the helm- and beat New England Sunday. They are playing TO WIN and the coaches are getting the absolute most out of their players in terms of production. Oakland beats Pittsburgh. Washington nearly beats New Orleans- and would have if not for a missed 29 yard field goal. Yet, we remain stuck in neutral. It's frustrating.

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    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    We are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.

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    BEER's Avatar
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    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Spags needs to come into his own. I think he is trying to be to much like
    past coaches he was under. But I also believe he is going to be a great
    coach at sometime, with or without the Rams.

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    BEER's Avatar
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    Re: Playing To Win Is A Concept That Escapes Rams

    Quote Originally Posted by RockinRam View Post
    We are playing not to lose, instead of playing to win.
    He does have a little Marty ball in him. I hope he changes sooner than latter.

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