St. Louis Rams: ...On Winning
By Joe Stanfill
typical baseball season is 162 games. Basketball runs 82 contests. Professional football teams only get 16 chances to be great. Winning in the NFL is of the utmost importance. Winning... is everything.
Winning is everything. Despite what our pop-culture may preach today, with the "everyone gets a trophy" mentality, no one, and I mean no one wants to be a loser. But losing is like a disease. (insert pause to recall- "The Natural") First losing happens occasionally, something we just shrug off as an inevitable part of competition; like a small cough. Slowly that cough seeps further into our lungs, becoming entrenched into our system, looking something like a three or four game losing streak. Before we know it, we are lying in bed, with our "better half-s" feeding us soup, in between our leaning over a bucket. This is the equivalent of a 2-14 season. The only cure for the disease of losing, is to reshape the way we think about winning, and to encourage a culture of winning. There are many reasons why teams end up in the toilet year after year, but none greater than the poor culture of the organization. The patron saint of football, Vince Lombardi said it best:
Winning is not a sometime thing; it's an all time thing. You don't win once in a while, you don't do things right once in a while, you do them right all the time. Winning is habit. Unfortunately, so is losing.
What happened at Rams Park over the 2012 off season, and so far during this regular season, has been a changing of the guard; a shift in philosophy. Gone are the days of pats on the back, and clapping to reward mediocrity. What Jeff Fisher and his staff have brought to this team is undeniably the greatest thing to happen around the Rams organization since Rodney Harrison took out Trent Green's knee. Sure, the Rams have only won one game going into week four against the Seattle Seahawks. What this team lacks in wins so far, they make up in fight. Play back a game from this season, and then compare that tape to years past. Jeff Fisher has brought a spark to this team and an attitude that demands tough play; that demands 100% effort on every down, and it brings out the desire to win in everyone. Fisher has a handful of backup offensive and defensive linemen playing their butts off down after down, which doesn't come easy in this league. In reference to the win against the Washington Redskins week two Fisher said:
When you’re here, you expect to win. But these guys, they all had it deep down inside of them. We just had to bring it out of them.
Jeff Fisher's long time cornerback, Cortland Finnegan, who followed him from Tennessee said:
You know what, I think that’s just the attitude of our head coach and everything that we’re about. We want to be a physical defense, we don’t want to back down or take anything from anybody.
A winning attitude must be bred, and nurtured like a garden. You start out rough and tumble, violently tilling up the soil and casting aside stones (read- bad seeds). Then you plant the seeds of thought and passion. Careful watering and pulling of weeds continues throughout the growing season, and before too long, you've got a thriving and bountiful harvest. Developing a winning team is an arduous task by any measure, with many facets to the process. The most important of which is a leaders attitude. One of the great leaders of our time, General Colin Powell said:
I think whether you’re having setbacks or not, the role of a leader is to always display a winning attitude. No matter whether we’re doing well or poorly, we’re going to have a winning attitude. It ainʼt as bad as you think. It will get better in the morning. So, it’s an attitude I’ve always tried to display during my leadership experience. I would say: "Guys we may be down, but we’re never out and we’re going to ﬁnd a solution and we’re going to come back." So like any football or basketball coach, you always, always believe you’re going to win.
Even our new general manager Les Snead is deeply involved in the culture shift. In an article for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Thomas quotes Snead's high school coach Wayne Woodham:
Les just jerked his helmet off right there out on the field, and his face was as red as one of these southern tomatoes. Les really didn't think that he was downfield (illegally). He was mad at the official, and then he was mad because it cost a touchdown for the team. It just showed how determined he was. That's always stuck with me about Les, just wanting to be the best at whatever he did.
The Rams are moving in the right direction. All you have to do is look at the sidelines during the game. No matter what the score, whether they are up or down on the board, the coaches are excited, and the players are all eager to get onto the field and do their part. Jeff Fisher and company have started a winning culture here. Winning is everything in the National Football League, and soon the Rams will be doing plenty of it.