There's a thread on these boards that asks the teasing question, "How big are your balls?". I haven't visited said thread for reasons that, as of this moment, I'm unable to voice. It could be of course, that I am deeply insecure about the size of my balls, it could be that I'm just not quite ready to tell you all exactly how big my balls are, it might even be that I'm unprepared for the disappointment of finding out that the thread isn't actually referring to the kind of balls that I had in mind at all and is instead referring to that hoard of footballs you have stowed in your garage in fond memory of more athletic days.
Mine are Crystal. They look both forward and back.
What else would you have thought I was referring to?
I can't deny it any longer, I have an eye on the past and the future of the franchise. Defeat at Tampa would be less than catastrophic but more than inconvenient. Its hard to overstate these things when there's so much hate and grief in the world, but in the context of the current NFL season, the Rams goose would probably be cooked.
Possibly and hopefully not.
Linehan inherited a jaded team where poor drafts, the burden of time and an indifferent free agency policy had led to a gradual leeching of talent. It was not, and had not been for some time the team of yesteryear. The glory days of the GSOT were long-since gone and we were seeking solace in the personality of its creator. Such things could not be expected to last long of course, the strength of personality of Mike Martz could not be expected to paper over the fault-lines that ran throughout the team for very much longer.
Linehan, in my view, has brought the team on a ways since his appointment. We would seem to have a more comprehensive approach to the day to day on his watch which has led to a strengthening of the playing and coaching staff and greater cohesiveness across the organisation as a whole. We're talking far more often about football these days and a lot less about other more peripheral things. There are less distractions surrounding the team.
I've talked about this elsewhere. I've mentioned previously that there would come a time when Linehan would suffer by comparison with the personality of his predecessor. Where his game-day apporach would contrast sharply with 'Mad' Mike. That time has arrived and the actuality of our won-loss record has coincided with a resurgence of the criticism that first raised it's ugly head in the mid-part of last season. People are questioning leadership, pre-season preparation, coordination, desire and fire.
What they aren't questioning, as much as I might like them to, is talent on the roster and luck.
We have not been one of the most talented rosters for quite some time. Whilst we would seem to be loaded on the offensive side of the ball, the defence has long given cause for concern and still does. Whilst we may be loaded on the offensive side of the ball we don't have great depth. Such has been been proven both last season and this in the way that injuries to key sections of the offensive line have lead to an unravelling of offensive performance.
Improvements have been made undoubtedly, but we still see the Rams indulging in the Martzian remedy of playing guards at Tackle (Brown), It's to be hoped that we don't see them going even further along this route and scouring the country for retired players (Nutten).
What this means of course is that whilst yes, we do have players capable of turning a game, we don't have sufficient numbers of them that would ensure that we win more than we lose. What this means, set against a backdrop past offensive genius, recent franchise success at the highest level and a fanbase used to seeing things unfold a certain way is that Linehan is indeed on a hot-seat. It could be argued that he always was and that this coming game represents a kind of rubicon for him.
Lose and things get very difficult very quickly. Win and you're still right in the thick of it with reasons to be cheerful.
The margins, as ever are wafer thin, they always have been in the coaching profession. The NFL regular season is only 16 games and this limits the margin for error and magnifies the importance of any mistakes you make. That Linehan knew this is a given, it comes with the job, but my insistence on him seeing out his contract isn't mere charity or the blinkered approach of a loyalist. I wasn't particularly in favour of his appointment, neither was I against it, but once he was in the seat I knew that it was a three year deal. It had to be, the things that needed to be addressed were more than cosmetic. Whoever took the post would have been dealt the same hand.
Were we to lose against Tampa and the less patient amongst us gain greater voice and the team enter a confidence draining tailspin that led to a panic firing at some point in the season, the front office would be sending a signal across the league. The season of course would effectively be over from the moment the decision was taken. Fans would stay away, games wouldn't be televised, statisitical incentives and pride would be the only things left to play for and the coaching staff wouldn't bust their behinds knowing that they'd be moving on the following season.Future applicants would feel that they'd only have two seasons to demonstrate improvement, which would deter some of the more qualified applicants and assitants would be correspondingly much harder to find. Free agents? Forget it, they'd be highly unlikely to come to a franchise that has an inherent two-year timetable for improvment, involving as it does hirings, firings and general instability.
We'd have some nice draft picks perhaps, but look what we've done with them at times.................
More to the point, in firing Linehan you'd be ignoring the 'trend' ( I hesitate to call it such but can't think of a better word) of third-year improvement. In many cases, the second year of the revoloution is always harder than the first. Enthusiasm wanes slightly, the excitement of the 'new' factor wears off and momentum of the intial days gradually slows. The fundamental changes can be seen coming through in time, generally after 3-4 years. There are exceptions to this to be true, but historically the time to be most wary is just after a revoloution. Get rid of Linehan at any point this season and there is a risk of mid-term franchise decline.
The team we have now is still capable of 10-6 and a playoff spot, although I'll concede that 8-8 and a middling draft pick looks far more likely. They have been beset by turnovers, terrible injuries and perhaps being a little undercooked. That they have the talent to surmount some of these issues is clear, that they lack the depth to mask some of these issues is also clear.
This week, as much as any week can serve as a window to the future. The future of our season, our team and our coach.
Of course, a resounding victory that catapults us toward the heightened tensions of the playoffs would be very welcome and likely condemn these small ruminations as mere 'balls'.
Lets hope so eh?
That was a well thought out summation of the recent past, present and future of our team.
I agree that Linhan inherited a dysfunctional team when he came on board. Our defense and special teams had been poor for a few years before his arrival. The offense still had its stars, but, our team still found a way to lose the close games quite often. Much more than they should have.
It should come as no suprise to anyone that it would take time to turn around the culture that had been ingrained in this team long before Linehan got here. It should be no suprise that there were going to be growing pains as he and Haslett work to turn that culture around into a healthy, cohesive and productive unit.
There is no question that if we lose in Tampa that Linehan will be on the hot seat. Some would suggest that he is already there. As Fat has pointed out, a win in Tampa and we're right back in the hunt. Winning cures many ills.
Hopefully, we get that win on Sunday. But, if we don't I will still support Linehan. I've seen enough from him to conclude that he has a plan and that he is working hard to point us in the right direction with a sound philosophy and foundation. I hope he gets a chance to finish what he started and I think our team will better off for it.
Now, let's go kick some Tampa butt!
That's why, as I mentioned before in another post, this game, good define our season and the future of the Rams/Linehan era.
Well, Phat, if they are indeed crystal you might want to refrain from dropping them.
I agree with your dissertation in that Linehan walked into a not-so-good situation and agreed to show improvement within the THREE YEARS his contract allowed for.
We are almost 3 games into the 2nd season so it is a long way from knowing if the team shows improvement, record wise, over last year. The way our starters are being injured (and suspended?) only makes Linehan's job that much tougher. Hopefully the team steps up and shows the league, and their fans, that there is enough depth and will-to-win left on the team to make a run at the Lomabardi Trophy.