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  • Oct. 4: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?

    Oct. 4: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?
    By Bernie Miklasz
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    Let’s cut to the chase:

    I’ve been covering the NFL for nearly 30 years, and I think the 2009 Rams are the worst non-expansion year team I’ve seen. Well, at least as they are right now, at this moment, sitting at 0-4 following an embarrassing 35-0 beating from the San Francisco *****. I could be wrong, of course. I didn’t sit here and do 12 hours of research to support my “worst ever” observation. That’s all it is; an observation. And this opinion can be revisited and updated in a few weeks, or at the end of the season, as more games are played, and as the Rams progress, or regress.

    But I haven’t seen a mess as big as this for a long time.

    What about the 2008 Detroit Lions? They went 0-16. When we’re talking “worst,” they’re the leader in the clubhouse in terms of record. And if the Rams win a game or two, they won’t be the worst. But up to this point, the trend is ominous. At least the 2008 Lions scored points, around 15 per game. And those Lions had (and still have) a big-time playmaker at WR in Calvin Johnson. At least there was some sizzle. And the ‘08 Lions were competitive at times, losing five games by 8 points or less. Overall, the 2008 Lions lost their games by an average of 15 points. Through four games, the Rams have lost by an average of 21 points.

    What about the 2008 Rams, who went 2-14? Well, they were hideous, sure. And we will never forget that beatdown by the NY Jets at the Meadowlands; the Rams were down 40-0 at the half and lost 47-3. But overall, the 2008 Rams lost their 14 games by an average of 15 points. The ‘09 squad is losing by an average of three TDs so far.

    And the Rams don’t score. Not much, anyway. The 2009 Rams have been shutout twice in four games, and were held to 7 points in a third game. They didn’t even have a red-zone possession at San Francisco. They had only 177 yards against the *****. And for the season, the Rams are averaging 6 points per game. Abysmal. For historical perspective, consider this: the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs — a winless (0-14) expansion team widely considered the most futile outfit in NFL history — averaged 8.9 points per game. Those expansion Buccaneers had more game than what we’ve seen from the ‘09 Rams offense.

    The Rams have scored 7 points, total, in three road games this season. Through four games, they have converted only 31.4 percent of third-down plays — and that would be the worst by a Rams team since STATS LLC began storing third-down conversion rates in its data base in 1991.

    The Rams are averaging 258 yards per game, and if that holds, it would be the 25th-lowest output by an NFL offense since the 1970 merger.

    The Rams’ average of 6 points per game would be the worst by an NFL team since the merger. The “crown” currently belongs to the 1977 Buccaneers, a second-year NFL franchise that averaged 7.4 points per game.

    The Rams lack efficiency and danger in the passing game, The Rams are at the bottom of the league in yards per passing attempt, and have hit only only two passes of 25+ yards this season. The Rams have one player on offense, and as we saw in San Francisco on Sunday, defenses will park as many players as desired in the box to swarm Steven Jackson, because the Rams are no threat to burn anyone downfield. And until this changes, unless this changes, I don’t see how the situation will improve in the near future.

    Through the first four games, the Rams have been outscored 58-3 in the second half.

    Seriously: does it can any worse than that? Is it possible?

    I could go on. But where is the relief? When does this 2009 Rams schedule open up to provide instant access to a victory?

    Some thoughts from the game:

    * As I wrote last week, Kyle Boller isn’t the long-term answer at QB. Marc Bulger isn’t the answer. Signing a retread isn’t the answer. The Rams won’t completely turn a losing program over until they install a QB of the future. I continue to hear some really wise individuals on the radio say it would have been silly to draft a quarterback, Mark Sanchez in the 2009 draft. Their “logic” is this: the Rams are bad, so the QB would be getting killed. Let me ask a question: so if I understand this correctly, bad teams should never draft a quarterback to build around? Oh, really? That’s interesting. Yeah, the Dallas Cowboys, coming off a 3-13 season, were insane to draft Troy Aikman in 1989. What were they thinking? And can you believe the stupidity of Bill Walsh, who drafted Joe Montana in 1979? The *****, 2-14, were awful in 1978; it was irresponsible to draft a QB in that situation. And I cannot believe Chuck Noll was foolish enough to waste a draft pick on Terry Bradshaw in 1970. The Steelers were coming off a 1-13 season; only a nutcase would draft a QB at that time. And we’re all laughing at the Atlanta Falcons (4-12) for taking Matt Ryan in the first round in 2008. A question for these Vince Lombardis of the airwaves: is there a NFL rule that dictates you only draft a QB when your team is good? Thanks.

    * On a blog written last week, I issued a warning about Kyle Boller’s road performance during his active playing days (2003-2007) with the Baltimore Ravens. He had a 5-15 record as a road starter, with a poor QB rating of 62.1, and the Ravens lost the last 10 road games started by Boller. His road losing streak is now 11. It wasn’t all Boller’s fault, of course — again, the O-line was bad — but he didn’t play well. Amazingly, fans and media continue to engage in a Bulger vs. Boller debate. It’s like choosing between a toothache and a migraine. My gosh, how this franchise has bottomed out. Fans and media can’t see the daylight, so they sit in the dark, yammering about bad QBs.

    * DE Chris Long, second overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft: I’m looking at the box score put out by STATS LLC, and perhaps the stats crew missed a play or two; perhaps there was a mistake. But on the unofficial log of statistics, Long’s name does not show up under the categories of “tackles” or “assists.” And this would explain why the Rams have not been able to get better. They simply are not getting the kind of impact that you MUST receive from top draft picks.

    * That Rams offensive line had demonstrated some improvement in the first three games, as evidenced by the 4.9 yards per carry, and a sack rate that had dropped from 8 percent to 4.8 percent. (Part of that is attributable to the QBs getting rid of the ball quicker in a 3-step, or 5-step, dropback. But the line collapsed again Sunday in San Francisco. It was just a horrible effort and performance. The ***** attacked the pocket all day. Most of Jackson’s 79 rushing yards were earned by his ability to bounce outside, or bounce off tacklers. There’s no excuse for such weak line play. GM Billy Devaney will have to answer for the play of this line. He signed or drafted most of it, at a hefty financial cost. I realize that it’s going to take a lot of time to rebuild this entire program, but the O-line was the first priority, and an area where the Rams invested draft picks and free-agent money. So I believe it is fair to expect more immediate results.

    * Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo finally took a necessary first step by benching an underachieving, mistake-prone player, left tackle Alex Barron. I know that Spagnuolo benched guard Richie Incognito in the first game for a series (or two?) after #68 was flagged for a personal foul. But Incognito was soon back in good graces. Barron stayed out of the game. But here’s what concerns me: in his post-game remarks on the radio, Spagnuolo all but apologized for the Barron benching, saying “that’s not me.” Well, he’d better start holding players accountable and in a tough way. A positive approach works, but only to a point. You have to impose high standards. Players who lack talent can only do so much; they won’t get much better, if it all. But there is simply no excuse for the penalties (10 on Sunday) and knucklehead mistakes. That’s a lack of discipline and focus. And it should not be tolerated. I hope Spagnuolo is tough enough. I guess we’ll see. A coach doesn’t have to express regrets for benching Alex Barron. He should take a bow.

    * Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur doesn’t have a lot to work with, and I am trying to keep that in mind. The QB play is mediocre at best. The O-line is erratic. And the Rams have the worst group of receivers in the NFL. That said, I do not understand why the Rams don’t take any shots downfield. Yes, protection is an issue. I know. I just wrote about it. But the Rams do have a speed guy in WR Donnie Avery. Sure, he’s made mistakes, but he’s a second-year WR who was raw coming out of college. You have to keep going to him, to build confidence. You have to keep giving him a chance to make plays. And you have to at least give the defense a reason to be on the lookout for Avery’s speed. He’s the only wideout on this roster who can outrun defenders; you have to utilize that. About 5 minutes into Sunday’s game, Avery made a very nice catch-and-run for 22 yards. It was his most positive play in a long time. OK, so why not go back to him, and keep Avery busy? But Avery didn’t catch a pass again until there was a little more than 5 minutes left in the third quarter. He finished with 3 catches for 47 yards, averaging 15. 7 per reception. The ***** offered an example of what we’re talking about. Their second-year wideout, Josh Morgan, dropped a pass that would have gone for a huge gain. But they came back to Morgan for a 24-yard TD. The Rams have to make more of an effort to connect with Avery’s skill. They don’t have much skill on offense. And they have to try and run him deep a few times a game, to try and hit a home run.

    * Bernie Bytes: The Rams are concerned about the salary cap, and they have been releasing guys to save money, and in that context, I have no idea what tight end Randy McMichael is doing here. His skills have eroded… when the Rams signed fullback Mike Karney, I was hopeful that he’d make a positive difference as a lead blocker. I don’t see it happening, at least not yet…it’s 3rd and 1, and you run Samkon Gado? An example of why the game-day coaching has left something to be desired… since signing a lucrative deal with the Rams, kicker Josh Brown ranks around 25th in the NFL in field goal percentage…I think Steven Jackson gets unfairly dogged by fans most of the time, but he’s gotta do a better job of picking up the blitz.

    I know some of you are looking for me to list the “positives” coming out of the game in San Francisco.

    Well, when a team loses by 35 points there are no positives. Did a few guys play well? Of course. DL James Hall has no reason to feel any shame after that game. Same (for the most part) for rookie MLB James Laurinaitis.

    But that’s one of the problems around here.

    We keep coming up with a mostly false list of “positives” for a team that’s now lost 14 consecutive games, and 31 of the last 36. As if there’s a balanced sheet of positives and negatives.

    Raise the standards.

    I’m done growling now.

    Thanks for reading …

    -Bernie
    :ramlogo:

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  • r8rh8rmike
    Bernie: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?
    by r8rh8rmike
    10.04.2009 8:13 pm
    Oct. 4: Could Rams Be Worst Ever?
    By Bernie Miklasz


    Let’s cut to the chase:

    I’ve been covering the NFL for nearly 30 years, and I think the 2009 Rams are the worst non-expansion year team I’ve seen. Well, at least as they are right now, at this moment, sitting at 0-4 following an embarrassing 35-0 beating from the San Francisco *****. I could be wrong, of course. I didn’t sit here and do 12 hours of research to support my “worst ever” observation. That’s all it is; an observation. And this opinion can be revisited and updated in a few weeks, or at the end of the season, as more games are played, and as the Rams progress, or regress.

    But I haven’t seen a mess as big as this for a long time.

    The 2009 Rams aren’t entirely responsible for what happened last year — there are a lot of new players on the roster — but the fact is, the team has lost 14 consecutive games. That’s the longest current streak in the NFL and the longest streak in franchise history. They have lost the 14 in a row by an average of 17 points. In a competitive league where many games go right down to the wire, the Rams are routinely routed by the opposition.

    What about the 2008 Detroit Lions? They went 0-16. So when we’re talking “worst,” they’re the leader in the clubhouse in terms of record. And if the Rams win a game or two, they won’t be the worst. But up to this point, the trend is ominous. At least the 2008 Lions scored points, around 15 per game. And those Lions had (and still have) a big-time playmaker at WR in Calvin Johnson. At least there was some sizzle. And the ‘08 Lions were competitive at times, losing five games by 8 points or less. Overall, the 2008 Lions lost their games by an average of 15 points. Through four games, the Rams have lost by an average of 21 points.

    What about the 2008 Rams, who went 2-14? Well, they were hideous, sure. And we will never forget that beatdown by the NY Jets at the Meadowlands; the Rams were down 40-0 at the half and lost 47-3. But overall, the 2008 Rams lost their 14 games by an average of 15 points. The ‘09 squad is losing by an average of three TDs so far.

    And the Rams don’t score. Not much, anyway. The 2009 Rams have been shutout twice in four games, and were held to 7 points in a third game. They didn’t even have a red-zone possession at San Francisco. They had only 177 yards against the *****. And for the season, the Rams are averaging 6 points per game. Abysmal. For historical perspective, consider this: the 1976 Tampa Bay Bucs — a winless (0-14) expansion team widely considered the most futile outfit in NFL history — averaged 8.9 points per game. Those expansion Buccaneers had more game than what we’ve seen from the ‘09 Rams offense.

    The Rams have scored 7 points, total, in three road games this season. Through four games, they have converted only 31.4 percent of third-down...
    -10-05-2009, 07:20 PM
  • Nick
    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
    by Nick
    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Monday, October 11, 2010 9:37 am

    Good morning to you. Let's get this thing going:

    * Perspective: I was pretty harsh in my initial reaction to Sunday's 44-6 destruction at Detroit. I thought the Rams reacted poorly to adversity. I thought they stopped competing. Not in a voluntary "We Quit" type of way. But when that game began to avalanche on the Rams, they just lost energy and they lost heart. It happens. I was surprised that it happened to this particular team, though. Because one thing I counted on from them was to give us a relentless effort, no matter what. That part was woefully lacking.

    But here's where the calmer perspective comes in: a lot of NFL teams have days like this, when everything blows up and their Sunday turns to smithereens. A few weeks ago the NY Giants were busted 31-10 at home by Tennessee, and the Giants looked lost. The newspapers were filled with talk about the coach being doomed. Well, the Giants have won two in a row since then, and they're looking great. They rebounded. Another young team, Tampa Bay, was crushed by 25 points in a loss to Pittsburgh but pushed that away and defeated Cincinnati Sunday to go to 3-1 on the season.

    Look at the Arizona Cardinals. This is a flawed team, and those problems were ripped open in horrible losses to Atlanta (41-7) and San Diego (41-10). But the Cardinals haven't freaked out, haven't cowered. They went back to work. And the Cardinals upset defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans on Sunday. Arizona is 3-2 and leads the NFC West. That's because the Cardinals have developed some survival skills. The Cardinals have been able to put hideous games behind them and move on.

    That's what the Rams must do now. The massacre in Motown is over. The question now is: how do they move forward? How will they handle it? This is an important part of the character development of a young team.

    *Leadership? OK, the question must be asked: where was the leadership heading into this game? Look, if we're going to praise the coaches and Steven Jackson and Fred Robbins and O.J. Atogwe and other veterans for keeping the young players' heads and egos in proper working condition, then it's fair to wonder why the Rams were unprepared for what awaited them in Detroit. I do not mean to single out those guys specifically; my point is more general. I just have to question why the fellows did not have the same mindset that we witnessed in the wins over Washington and Seattle. I get it; the Rams had won two in a row and were soaking up the praise, with everyone talking about contending for the NFC West and all of that. But how in the world does a team that's been the joke of the NFL for several years take such modest success and somehow conclude that all they have to do to get a win in Detroit is to show up and get...
    -10-11-2010, 02:47 PM
  • MauiRam
    Bernie: Monday Morning Quarterback ..
    by MauiRam
    * Those of you who reject the Rams-are-still-rebuilding excuse certainly can build a strong case. Detroit was 0-16 in 2008, and 2-14 in 2009. Their rebuilding was damaged by injuries to QB Matthew Stafford in '09 and again in '10. But going back to late last season, the Lions have won seven in a row, and they're clearly turning a corner and doing so in a tough division. The Tampa Bay Bucs were 3-13 in 2009 and have gone 12-7 since the start of the 2010 season, and have beaten some good teams.

    This is Billy Devaney's third year as the GM, and his fourth year as the top talent scout in the organization. This is Steve Spagnuolo's third season as the head coach, and he has considerable authority in making personnel decisions in conjunction with Devaney. With the Rams having now gone 1-6 in their last seven regular-season games, there are only three possible conclusions for this wrong-way direction: (1) they're failing in the important assignment of choosing players; (2) they're failing to do a good job of coaching, and deploying, these players; (3) a combination of both.

    * We can't continue to blame Jay Zygmunt, John Shaw, Scott Linehan, Mike Martz. The Rams have had three drafts under Devaney, and before that he played a major role in in the 2008 draft. The Rams at present have only five players who were on the roster in 2007, the final season before Devaney was brought in: RB Steven Jackson, DE James Hall, backup OL Adam Goldberg, punter Donnie Jones, and CB Ron Bartell, who is on injured reserve. The current football operation at Rams Park is responsible for the product, period.

    * The Rams offensive line, in my opinion, represents the most significant waste of money on athletic talent in the history of St. Louis sports. That's not hyperbole. That's not me trying to be controversial. There have been some bad contracts, but we're talking about isolated deals for an individual player. And the kind of money given to Kyle Lohse, Mark Mulder, Drew Bennett, Jay McKee, etc. doesn't really approach what we're talking about when we examine this Rams' offensive line. Devaney and Co. have invested tens of millions of dollars in this group, and they have used two premium draft picks on this group, and it is simply incapable of protecting quarterback Sam Bradford. It is simply incapable of standing up and competing in a manner that earns respect. Not to mix politics into this (sorry) but this is like some massive-spending boondoggle that we see in Washington D.C.

    * If it continues, Bradford will not be able to hold up to the punishment and abuse he's faced during the first three games. It's just a matter of time before he officially becomes a victim of what could be the most overpaid, underachieving NFL offensive line that I've seen in more than 30 years of covering the league.

    * This is what's so sad about Bradford: the Rams have a precious asset here, but the people who run the team have...
    -09-26-2011, 12:02 PM
  • Nick
    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB (1/3/11)
    by Nick
    Bernie Bytes: Monday Morning Backup QB
    BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist | Posted: Monday, January 3, 2011 11:19 am

    Good day. (I think.) For a Rams fan, the New Year came crashing in on Sunday night and it wasn't much fun. I'm assuming the morning after is rough. Can we turn back the clock and do the game over? I guess not.

    Anyway ...

    I'm not inclined to search for the ol' silver linings when a team squanders an opportunity to win a division by playing so miserably against a highly beatable opponent. I expressed those views in an online piece that I wrote late Sunday night, just in case you missed it. But obviously, if we want to look for it, there was some benefit to losing:

    1. The Rams will select 14th in the 1st round of the 2011 draft, rather than 21st. That could turn out to be significant. (And Seattle, which would have had the 8th pick by losing, will draft 21st overall.)

    2. Rams GM Billy Devaney will have to get a wide receiver or two for this team to give the passing game an upgrade and more dimension. I think Devaney would have done that, anyway. But the futility of the passing game and the terrible performance by the receivers in the 16-6 loss to Seattle was valuable in reminding everyone that Sam Bradford needs some help to get this offense to a higher level. The Rams simply cannot come back and peck away with small ball again in 2011.

    3. The loss should give owner Stan Kroenke even more motivation to get involved and push his football people to be more aggressive.

    There's much more to it than that, of course. We'll elaborate in Tuesday's column...

    MOVING ON ...

    * When he meets with the media Monday afternoon, expect Rams HC Steve Spagnuolo to defend the limited use of Steven Jackson by citing the team's many three-and-out drives. And how that made it difficult for the Rams to get into their full stride, which would have included more runs for Jackson. This is pretty much what Spagnuolo told reporters after the game in Seattle.

    Well, I don't think I'm buying it. The Rams had seven three-and-outs Sunday. And Jackson handled the ball on only three plays during those series. He didn't touch the ball at all on four of the seven three-and-outs. So I'm not sure what the coaches were waiting for. The Rams had one very nice drive in the game, going 13 plays and 83 yards for a FG that cut Seattle's lead to 7-3. Jackson got the ball six times on the march: four carries for 26 yards and two catches for 15 yards. He handled the ball on six of the first nine plays on the drive, including one sequence of four consecutive plays where he ran it or caught it. And the Rams put together an impressive drive (well, at least until it stalled in the red zone.) I don't think this was a coincidence. Because of the defense that the Rams were facing, Jackson should have had a more extensive...
    -01-03-2011, 11:24 AM
  • r8rh8rmike
    Bernie: Quick Takes On Rams 9-7 Loss @ Washington
    by r8rh8rmike
    09.20.2009 8:19 pm
    Quick Takes on Rams 9-7 loss @ Washington
    By Bernie Miklasz


    Good day…

    * The Outcome: The game was there for the Rams all day, just waiting to be claimed. Baffled coach Jim Zorn and the Redskins tried to give it away to the visitors, and the Rams flubbed the opportunity. Were the Rams better in Washington than they were in Seattle? Yes. The Rams defense kept the Redskins out of the end zone, and Steven Jackson rushed for 104 yards. But the bottom line is the 12th consecutive loss for the franchise. Disappointing. The Rams have played two games and have scored 7 points. That’s inexcusable.

    * The Effort: The Rams played hard in Washington and the players are clearly determined to do better. That’s what they should be doing, of course. They have every reason to be motivated. But that hasn’t always been true ; in 2007 and 2008 we saw too many faint-hearted efforts. Now the challenge will be to hang tough during more hard times. The Rams are off to an 0-2 start and the schedule doesn’t get any easier. Green Bay comes to The Ed after getting burned at home by Cincinnati, and then the Rams head to San Francisco, which is 2-0 and playing a physical, relentless style of football. San Franciso coach Mike Singletary is succeeding in changing his team’s losing culture. The Rams aren’t close to making that conversion.

    * The Coach: Keeping the morale up will be more of a challenge for rookie HC Steve Spagnuolo. I don’t mind his positive approach. This is the Dick Vermeil way of doing things. Spagnuolo has to stay upbeat, and keep his players working and competing. It might make fans feel better to hear/read Spagnuolo savage his team after a loss, but that wouldn’t achieve anything. He has to remain true to himself. Keep an eye on Spagnuolo. You don’t really find out about a coach until he has to deal with losing streaks and adversity, and the rookie boss has entered that zone. In addition to the 0-2 start and one TD in two games, the offensive line has taken a hit with injuries. Post-Dispatch beatwriter Jim Thomas noted that it took Spagnuolo 25 minutes to gather himself before he faced the media after the game. (The NFL-mandated wait time is 10 minutes.) I don’t know what that means, but again: losing isn’t easy to handle.

    * Game Management: Spagnuolo and staff really need to grow in this area. Offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur can’t keep getting plays in late. You can’t burn all of your timeouts early in close games. Wasting the final timeout before that 4th quarter punt with 9:25 left in the game? What was that? A confused player, Kenneth Darby, called it - but ultimately this is the coach’s responsibility to make sure the players know what to do and when to do it. And defensive coordinator Ken Flajole was slow to adjust when the Rams inexplicably left Redskins tight end Chris Cooley uncovered for most of the first half.

    * Play...
    -09-21-2009, 03:05 PM
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