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Rams see big payoff from staying the course ..
BY JEFF GORDON | Posted: Wednesday, October 6, 2010 1:03 pm
Back when the Rams hired Steve Spagnuolo as their new head coach, general manager Billy Devaney told fans what to expect.
“OK, this is 'Spags' football identity,” Devaney told the Post-Dispatch. “It's simple but effective. Knock people down. Hit them in the mouth. Give the ball to a big back and run the football. Protect your own quarterback. Put extreme pressure on the enemy quarterback. That's his team. A blue-collar, beat-you-up kind of team.”
And that is exactly what the Rams are becoming this season. It is still early in the process – they are 2-2 after playing four non-contenders, three of them at home – but their team identity is emerging.
How did they finally reach this turning point? By devising a realistic plan and then sticking with it, even after 17 losses in this regime’s first 18 games.
This is the key to success in college and professional sports. Create pragmatic goals, figure out how to achieve them and then see the process through – no matter how much media types (this one included) and the public squawks.
Don’t change up when success is slow to come. Don’t change up to answer the critics.
Don’t compromise for Page Ranking reasons. Stay on course and finish the job.
The Blues have done this on John Davidson’s watch. His goal was to rebuild the Blues with home-grown players. As a former NHL goaltender, he also knew that contenders are built from the back end out. That became the quest.
The team invested top draft picks on defensemen Erik Johnson and Alex Pietrangelo. Roman Polak developed nicely and Ian Cole, another first-round pick, is on the cusp as well. The team’s foundation is taking shape.
GM Doug Armstrong added goaltender Jaroslav Halak to buttress the team, sacrificing young forward Lars Eller to make it happen. First things first – the Blues needed to get stronger in their own end.
Mission accomplished. If coach Davis Payne can push the young forwards further than predecessor Andy Murray could, the Blues should become a perennial playoff team again.
The Cardinals also have a plan, one that shifted midway through the previous decade and caused internal strife. The franchise remained committed to locking up core players to long-term deals, but it began placing more emphasis on player development to fill in the blanks.
This team whiffed on the 2004 June draft, finding just four fringe big leaguers (Chris Lambert, Jarrett Hoffpauir, Mike Parisi and Mark Worrell) in 47 picks. Those four players have played just 49 games in the majors.
That failure led to scouting and player development changes. Starting with the 2005 draft, here are some of the Cards draft picks to reach the majors: Colby Rasmus, Jaime Garcia, Mitchell Boggs, Tyler Greene, Nick Stavinoha, Bryan Anderson, Chris Perez, Luke Gregerson, Jon Jay, Allen Craig, Adam Ottavino, Mark Hamilton, P.J. Walters, Jess Todd, Clayton Mortenson, Daniel Descalso, Steven Hill and Brett Wallace.
Despite the improved player development, the Cards missed the playoffs three of the last four seasons. GM John Mozeliak and Co. still must prove this plan works. Manager Tony La Russa must buy in as well, or move on to the next challenge in his life.
The Cards will stick with the plan, just as the Blues and Rams stuck to their plans. Bill DeWitt Jr. doesn’t flinch much.
Of course, staying the course can be immensely unpopular. The Rams know all about that. People inside and outside the organization always have different ideas.
The Rams passed on more exciting choices to take defensive end Chris Long and offensive tackle Jason Smith with their top pick in back-to-back drafts. Spagnuolo insisted on building from the lines out and that what the team did.
The team extended that philosophy to free agency and trades. Fans clamored for playmakers, but the Rams kept fortifying their front defensive seven and offensive line instead.
(Given Spagnuolo’s desire for dominant line play, your cyber-correspondent campaigned for the Rams to take Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh in the last NFL draft. The Rams found an impact veteran for the middle of the line, Fred Robbins, and did OK by taking quarterback Sam Bradford. No regrets there, eh?)
After the Rams started this season 0-2, there was still much angst in the STLtoday chats and forums. Fans pined for the “Greatest Show On Turf” days. Fans wanted to fire Spags and bring back Mike Martz.
But after watching the Rams literally pound a couple of teams, the public began warming up to Spagnuolo’s vision for the Rams. As it turns out, watching the Rams physically hammer other teams is pretty entertaining.
This style can win games, too, just as finesse football won for the Rams back in the “Greatest Show” era. Spagnuolo knew this plan could work . . . and now it IS working, just 1¼ years into his regime.
This is shaping up as lesson every sports franchise can learn from.
Re: Rams see big payoff from staying the course ..
Getting the Rams back to the old days. When teams knew they were going to get bloody after playin us. Good to see the style comin back although i loved the GSOT.
Re: Rams see big payoff from staying the course ..
The only thing I remember is complaints about Shurmur's play calling. At any rate, if anybody did want the Spagmire fired I will quickly apologize for them, heck we had two threads of formal apologies to Bradford for wanting Suh.LA RAMMER
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