Columnist Jeff Gordon
(E-mail a "Letter to Gordo")
So let’s sum up the state of the Rams franchise on the morning after the final game of the 2007 regular season:
Primary owner Georgia Frontiere
is hospitalized with a serious medical problem. Her heir apparent, Chip Rosenbloom,
has just cursory knowledge of the NFL. He also has very strong ties to Southern California.
Team president, John Shaw,
operates the team by remote control from Los Angeles. With Georgia ailing, Shaw is uncertain how much longer he wants his gig.
Football czar Jay Zygmunt
appears positioned to consolidate his power, not lose it. P-D columnist Bryan Burwell
reports that scouting guru Tony Softli
could get the axe in a faux “housecleaning.”
Head coach Scott Linehan
has shown no indication he can lead an NFL team into the playoffs. Skepticism abounds, among media types, fans and, yes, the players themselves. Marc Bulger
rolled his eyes at him on the sideline. Torry Holt
screamed at him. That sums up the locker room sentiment.
Although the team can blame its 3-13 finish on massive injury problems, plenty of young veterans took a backward slide during the team’s collapse. What do the Rams have, really, in guys like Alex Barron, Claude Wroten, Dominique Byrd, Joe Klopfenstein
and Marques Hagans
Then there is the stadium issue. As more teams get state-of-the-art facilities, the Edward Jones Dome continues to sink in the rankings of NFL venues. Soon, the facility here will need more than cosmetic upgrades.
In time, The Ed will need replacing. As long as Los Angeles is without a NFL franchise, any owner seeking better stadiums will have tremendous leverage.
Then there is the issue of the St. Louis marketplace and the local economy. Are there enough disposable dollars in this region to support three pro sports franchises at premium prices?
When a franchise goes bad, as the Blues did, it pays big time. The erosion of the Rams’ fan base will continue in the wake of the ‘07 fiasco.
Unless this franchise makes wholesale improvements during the offseason -– which nobody anticipates -– PSL owners and luxury suite renters will bail in droves. The Rams will need lots of help from visiting fans to sell out games.
When you connect all these dots, the picture is not pretty.
During a 2 ½-hour live chat with Rams fans Sunday night, your cyber-correspondent tried to counsel distraught STLtoday.com visitors. But given all these circumstances, the near-term and long-term prognosis for the Rams in St. Louis is not good.
What could save the Rams?
A white knight ownership group -– like the Dave Checketts
/Blues group, only with far more capital -– could swoop in and rescue the operation. Rams fans wish Stan Kroenke
would be that guy, since he has the resources and smarts to make it happen.
But Stan is committed to his Colorado enterprises and Georgia may be committed to keeping the team within her family. So the likelihood of seeing a Blues-caliber revival any time soon is not good.
It is far easier to project a total disaster here.
Another dreadful season with Linehan playing out the string as a lame-duck coach . . . a precipitous decline in attendance . . . key Rams bailing via free agency . . . the revised Rams ownership doubting the viability of St. Louis as a long-range NFL market . . . public rejection of future stadium demands . . . heated overtures from LA for the franchise to return home . . . yes, it’s pretty easy to get into Chicken Little mode while assessing the state of the former World Champions.
The Dolphins stink, but billionaire Wayne Huizenga
hired Bill Parcells
to clean things up.
The Falcons stink, but billionaire Arthur Blank
is committed to making things right again.
It all starts at the top of the organizational chart. And what’s at the top of the Rams organizational chart right now is a giant question mark.
Have a nice New Year, Ramfan.