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Thread: Rams done for the season
Rams done for the season
BY JEFF GORDON
ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
It’s finally over. The 2008 NFL season has ended in St. Louis. There are no more losses left on the Rams' schedule.
They put a wrap on this fiasco with an agonizing 31-27 loss in Atlanta. They played a spirited game against the Falcons but lost, again.
Despite playing in the league’s worst division -- the NFC Worst, er, West – they lost their final 10 games to finish 2-14.
The ’08 Rams will be remembered as one of the most exasperating professional teams to ever represent St. Louis.
Maybe the old baseball Browns had worse teams, maybe not. Let the historians debate that one.
We know this much: the failure of the ’08 Rams was epic. Injuries alone cannot explain how this former champion came unglued.
Bad personnel decisions, incompetent coaching, player immaturity, the abject failure of high-priced veterans, leadership vacuums at every level of the organization . . . many bad things had to happen all at once to produce so many losses in a parity-driven league.
The Rams lost every way imaginable. Sometimes they got blown off the field from the start.
Sometimes they lost in dramatic, come-from-ahead fashion – as they did Sunday, when they led 7-3, 14-10 and 27-24.
They lost to good teams, like the playoff-bound Falcons, as well as bad ones. They lost at home and on the road. They lost in all four time zones in the contiguous United States.
The Rams were to do whatever it took to NOT succeed. In this case, they surrendered 263 yards rushing and failed to take full advantage of the three Falcons turnovers.
The cast of players changed slightly from week to week, but the same mistakes kept occurring.
Defenders missed tackles. Blockers missed assignments. Defensive backs blew coverage. Receivers ran the wrong routes. Quarterback Marc Bulger missed his targets in critical situations..
The Rams collapse was so thorough that it triggered unthinkable change. This quirky, family-run franchise is finally headed in a new direction.
In the near term, new general manager Billy Devaney will try to make this team solid again. He will lead the search for the next coach, starting immediately.
Interim coach Jim Haslett is a candidate. He shares Devaney’s vision for ’09. He understands the need to toughen up on defense, strengthen the offensive line and rely on Steven Jackson to drive a ball-control offense.
Jackson plowed the Falcons for 161 yards and two touchdowns rushing. He also caught four passes for 54 more yards.
“He played his butt off,” Haslett told Rams radio after the game. “There is a guy you can build a great football team around, just like this (Falcons) team.”
Indeed, Atlanta is playoff-bound thanks to running back Michael Turner – who gashed the Rams for 208 yards rushing in this game.
“This is the team you want to resemble next year,” Haslett said.
To salvage another year out of Bulger, the Rams must shield him from punishment and give him a less ambitious passing game to operate. Haslett is clearly on board with that plan.
But with the Rams needing to get much more from the returning players, why not bring in a whole new coaching staff? Wipe the slate clean, give everybody a fresh start and raise expectations for every employee of the organization.
The players are petitioning Rosenbloom to keep Haslett. That is a nice show of support for a good, hard-working football man.
It would have been nicer to see the players actually win some games for their coach, though -- especially when the Rams hosted losers like the Seahawks and ***** in the Edward Jones Dome.
This team had chance after chance after chance to come through for its coach, but it kept failing instead. Sunday was just one more missed opportunity.
So now we’re seeing change. Rams President for Life John Shaw stepped aside and moved into an advisory role. He still wields clout as owner Chip Rosenbloom’s chief adviser, but he is no longer the titular head of the operation.
The Czar of Rams Park, Jay Zygmunt, actually left the organization altogether. Seriously, the man has finally left the building.
(I always thought it would take a nuclear strike to make that happen, but 27 losses in two seasons forced him off the premises.)
Now, finally, it’s time to start over. Rams fans can only hope their team’s off-season goes better than the regular season did.
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