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Where's The Rams Coaching Staff's Fire?

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  • Where's The Rams Coaching Staff's Fire?

    12.09.2009 4:30 pm
    Whereís the Rams coaching staffís fire?
    By Andy Dapron


    **DISCLAIMER: I KNOW STEVE SPAGNUOLO AND HIS COORDINATORS ARE ROOKIES AT THEIR POSITIONS. I ABSOLUTELY AND UNEQUIVOCALLY BELIEVE THAT SPAGNUOLO HAS DONE GOOD THINGS FOR THE RAMS, PARTICULARLY IN HELPING THE TEAM CONTINUE TO WORK HARD AND PLAY HARD DURING A DIFFICULT SEASON, AND IN STABILIZING THE ONCE DYSFUNCTIONAL ATMOSPHERE AT RAMS PARK. THE RAMS ARE LACKING IN TALENT, SPAGNUOLO AND HIS STAFF DESERVE MORE THAN ONE SEASON TO UNDO THE MESS THAT IS RECENT RAMS FOOTBALL, AND GIVEN THAT TIME, THEY HAVE A CHANCE TO ACHIEVE SOME GOOD THINGS.**

    There. Iíll put that out there first, because itís true, and because I know that those points are bound to be made in response to what I say next.

    To repeat a familiar refrain, there has been a lot of talk lately, by me, by all the beat writers and the columnists, by the network commentators, the play-by-play men, and all the other talking heads, about the competitive fire of the Rams players. They still have it, everyone insists. In spite of the eleven losses and all the struggles, weíre still getting effort. Weíre still getting intensity. Weíre just not getting wins.

    Fair enough. Since being torched 42-6 by Indianapolis in week 7, only once has a game felt like it was never really within the Ramsí reach. That was last week against Seattle, and the Rams did show some measure of resiliency this week, playing a terrific game on special teams, holding the Chicago ground game to 3.2 yards per carry, and limiting the Bearsí offense to 248 total yards. The Rams have every reason to have checked out by now, but theyíre still hanging around in these games. So, Iíll buy that the Rams players are still giving everything theyíve got.

    After watching Sundayís 17-9 loss to the Bears, I wonder if the Rams coaches are matching that fire.

    Itís an odd thing to question. Players usually reflect their coachís mentality. And Iím not suggesting for a minute that that Ramsí coaches donít to get off the snide as badly as the players do, or that they players arenít inheriting that little bit of grittiness thatís allowing them to hang in these recent contests from their coaches, particularly Spagnuolo.

    But, I do feel like the coaches are lacking a winnerís mentality, especially when it comes to play-calling.

    The Bears game was the perfect example. Despite a game in which the offense produced no touchdowns and only 233 total yards, including an absolutely paltry 98 yards passing (Not even 100 yards! Wow!), this game was right there for the Rams the whole way. One big play might have been enough to tie this game and force overtime. Two big plays, and maybe the Rams leave the Windy City with their second victory.

    Instead, the Rams seemingly deny themselves the opportunity to make a big play by refusing to even test the waters deep downfield. The Rams completed one pass of more than 20 yards Sunday. They actually took a shot downfield maybe one or two other times. Youíre not going to make many plays that way.

    Yes, Steven Jackson is the Rams most viable, most potent offensive weapon, but try as he might, he canít do it by himself. And part of the beauty of having a running back like SJ39 is supposed to be all the one-on-one matchups it creates on the outside.

    Those matchups were there for the Rams all game long. Theyíve been there for the Rams all season long, but the Rams coaches arenít calling for the knockout punch, even while the opposing fighter has his guard down.

    Itís common, if not expected, in the NFL these days that teams will follow a turnover or a long return by trying to deal a fatal blow with the next offensive play. Something long. Something big. Something to capitalize on the swing in momentum.

    Hereís how the Rams chose to attack on these occasions:

    After Chicago running back Matt Forteís fumble on the second play of the game was recovered by free safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, Kyle Boller threw a six-yard pass to tight end Randy McMichael.

    Later in the first quarter, the Rams followed Danny Amendolaís 43 yard kick return by running Jackson off tackle, again for six yards.

    When the Rams snuffed out Chicagoís fake field goal attempt in the second quarter to halt the momentum generated by the Bearsí own takeaway and get the ball back on downs, they once again ran Jackson off tackle, this time, for three yards.

    Following a 30 yard punt return by Amendola in the final period to give the Rams the ball at the Chicago 42 yard line, the Rams ran Jackson off tackle again. Jackson picked up nine yards this time.
    Whereís the killer instinct?

    I realize that no one is going to confuse Boller, Donnie Avery, Brandon Gibson, and Amendola for Kurt Warner, Isaac Bruce, Torry Holt, and Az Hakim in their heydays. But, these guys arenít just practice dummies, either. One of Bollerís strongest attributes is his deep ball. Avery has the speed to get behind a defense. Amendola has some moves, as he showed on those big returns. We saw Gibson keep New Orleans busy in his first appearance as a Ram three weeks ago. These guys have some plays in them.

    The coaching staff just wonít let the players try to make the plays. I said it early on in the season, and Iíll say it again: Even if you donít feel like your players are the most talented, even if you donít feel like the matchups favor you, at some point, you have to try. Take a shot, just to keep the defense honest, just to keep the offense awake, just to give yourself a chance to make a big play. I donít know about you, but frankly, Iíd rather see the Rams lose ícause they got picked on a couple of long balls, rather than because they failed to convert on all these four- to six-yard squeakers. If youíre going to go down, go down swinging.

    Spagnuolo and offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur should share the blame for this new Worst Coast offense. Shurmur is the architect, and is responsible for calling all these plays that donít move anythiung more than ten yards beyond the line of scrimmage. However, Spagnuolo seems to endorse the teamís listless, lifeless offensive approach, remarking after the game, ďIím not going to go too far off of what we are and what weíre trying to develop here.Ē Besides, I think if Spagnuolo told Shurmur to stretch the field a little more often, Shurmur would listen.

    Jackson is the key to the Ramsí offense, no doubt. He would be even if the Rams had Ike and Torry in their prime on the outside. Right now, though, the Ramsí coaches seem determined to get him killed by continuing to try to jam him into eight, nine, ten defenders stacked into the box, sore back and all. Given Jacksonís tremendous production under such tough circumstances, can you imagine what he and the Ramsí offensive line could do if the Ramsí coaches would force one or two of those defenders back by moving the ball downfield once in a while?

    Regardless, the Ramsí coaches need to start taking some chances with their calls. They need to start trying to reach out and grab a win, rather than trying to just back into one. Playing with fire isnít just about how hard players work and how intense they are from snap to snap. Itís about the approach and the plan of attack, too, and right now, I just donít see the fire in the coachesí plans.

    Gordo wants the Rams players to go for the win. Maybe the coaches should start calling the game that way, too.

  • #2
    Re: Where's The Rams Coaching Staff's Fire?

    I think the article makes a great deal of sense. The Rams are playing "safe" football. While you cannot rely on gadget plays all the time, a team that is short on overall talent and is 1-11 overall needs to take chances. Mix it up. Show a little creativity.

    What's troubling to me is that Steve Spagnuolo, a guy I still have faith in by the way, seems to feel his current offensive approach is the way to go, and I simply don't agree. Far be it from me to tell him how to run his football team, but one would think if you've struggled as terribly as the Rams have offensively, you'd make some major adjustments in your play calling.

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    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie: Spags Had To Go For It
      by r8rh8rmike
      10.18.2009 5:27 pm
      Oct. 18: Spags Had to Go For It
      By Bernie Miklasz


      My Stream of Consciousness flow on the Ramsí 23-20 OT loss @ Jacksonville.

      * Make it 0-6 on the season and 0-16 since Oct. 19, 2008. Monday is the 1-year anniversary of the Ramsí last regular-season win. And now Indianapolis and Peyton Manning come to STL on Sunday. The Rams are 5-33 since the end of the 2006 season. This, presumably, is some sort of karmic payback for the Miracle of 1999.

      * This is a bottom-line business. It isnít high school. In the NFL they donít hand out trophies and ribbons for trying hard. And 0-6 is really bad. And 16 consecutive losses is unacceptable. But I respected the Ramsí effort and determination and several aspects of their performance at Jaxville. There have been many times since the start of the 2007 season when Iíve wanted to stop watching the game, because the Rams have been so weak in terms of competitive character. Iíve seen too many Rams games where the players donít care, and these no-shows are disgusting. Watching Sundayís game, I saw a group of players who were doing everything and anything they could to win a game. And I respect that. I think the Rams are getting better. I know that isnít enough, and that it doesnít count; there are no moral victories. But if nothing else I at least want to come away from a game with a some respect for the players and their desire to win. And that happened Sunday. A team thatís been ravaged by injuries fought like mad to win a game. I appreciate that part of it.

      * Coach Steve Spagnuolo had to go for the win at the end of the 4th quarter. His offense had battled and scrambled and survived its way down the field and had a chance to win in regulation. The Rams defense ó on the field for a remarkable 51 snaps during the second half ó was gassed. You just knew if it went to OT and the Jaguars got the ball first, the Rams defense would be too worn down to make a stop. So you had to go for the win, go for the throat, right then and there. Seven seconds left, at the Jax 9, and one timeout left. You have to take a quick shot into the end zone. If it fails, and the ball is thrown out of the end zone or is incomplete, you donít need the timeout. You kick it on the final play. Or if you make a play thatís short of the end zone, then you call the timeout and kick it. And if you turn the ball over or take a sack, so be it ó at least you went down taking your best shot, and most people would respect the attitude. I would not criticize Spagnuolo for being aggressive there, even if hs decision blew up on him. You have to go hard there, let it roll. You were 0-5, and the organization had lost 15 in a row, and thereís no reason in the world to be safe and conservative.

      OK, even if you disagree ó and as a guy who tries to be fair I recognize that thereís a reasonable case to be made for what Spags did ó then answer me this:...
      -10-19-2009, 05:14 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie: You Snooze, You Lose; Watching The Rams, It's Easy To Do Both
      by r8rh8rmike
      You snooze, you lose; watching the Rams, it's easy to do both

      Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
      ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH
      12/07/2009

      CHICAGO ó I don't know about you, but I can't watch this anymore. This isn't football; it's anesthesia.

      The Rams are supposed to be running a West Coast offense, but I think someone forgot the "offense" part. I don't see anything "West Coast" about it, either. The West Coast passing game was developed by the late genius, Bill Walsh. The Rams are more of a Bill Murray offense. Something has gotten lost in translation.

      Despite having possession of the football in the Bears' backyard for much of Sunday afternoon, the Rams crawled their way to a tortuous demise, managing only three field goals in a 17-9 loss to the unimpressive home team.

      At Soldier Field, the Rams were tin soldiers, slowly marching in formation and getting wiped out before they could make it to the end zone. The visitors were staked to exceptional field position and managed to have the ball on the Bears' side of the field nine times in 13 possessions. The Rams ran 34 of their 65 plays inside Chicago territory.

      This game had a claim ticket, but the Rams passed. Or actually, they didn't pass ó the ball, that is. The Bears stacked the line all day, and frequently played one safety high. That's an open invitation to throw a forward pass down the field. But the Rams wouldn't dare think of doing anything radical like that.

      This would require creativity.

      And imagination.

      And nerve.

      Have you seen much evidence of that at Rams Park?

      Actually, I should apologize to Rams special teams coach Tom McMahon. He designed the most inspired offensive play of the Rams' season, that wonderful fake field goal that went for the winning touchdown pass in Detroit. And that's still the only victory in this dreadful 1-11 season.

      Maybe they should put the special teams coach in charge of the red-zone offense. It couldn't get any worse.

      The Rams have completed only 14 of 42 passes in the red zone this season.

      In this day and age of marvelous passing attacks ó the leather helmets went out a long time ago ó how is that even possible?

      Rams offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur won't be confused with "The Most Interesting Man in the World" from those Dos Equis beer commercials, that's for sure.

      Shurmur is running the murmur offense.

      Sunday he called for 28 Steven Jackson runs and a bunch of dink and dunk passes that wouldn't faze a high school defense.

      The Rams dressed five wide receivers for the first time all season.

      Why, was this a costume party?

      I have no idea why they put five wideouts in uniform. The Rams didn't spread the field, they...
      -12-08-2009, 01:32 PM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Rams Team Report - Nov 10
      by r8rh8rmike
      Rams Team Report
      Yahoo! Sports - Nov 10, 1:40 am EST


      INSIDE SLANT


      As the Rams begin the second half of their first season under coach Steve Spagnuolo with a record of 1-7, no one knows how many wins will occur in the final eight games. Certainly, Spagnuolo was hopeful of having more than one when the team hit its bye.

      But he hasn't strayed from his consistent approach, which is to stress team first, one game at a time, and remain as positive as possible with his message. That can be tough when losses mount up, but Spagnuolo has apparently achieved it so far.

      He admitted, "I have had my moments (of frustration). But I think there's a professional way to do it. I think everybody in this business should be respected for the jobs they have. I think any business is about respecting each other. I don't see any reason to go off the cuff. I keep that to myself. Part of what we talk about as a team is being a poised team. You can't be a poised team if the head coach isn't poised."

      Said safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, "Being a guy who has been here with the Rams now going for five years, some of the younger guys and some of the vets need to see loyalty and faithfulness from the guys that have already been here, and that's going to carry over throughout the locker room so you just build a team that is really focused on one goal and one purpose and being one."

      A head coach has to have credibility, and that can be difficult for a first-timer. It surely helped Spagnuolo that he was an assistant coach for 10 seasons under Andy Reid in Philadelphia and Tom Coughlin with the Giants.

      "I think that he would even admit that we bought into his system," quarterback Marc Bulger said. "We know it's going to be successful; it's just a matter of bearing with it. Once we start getting those wins, it will start to pay off. It's a winning formula. He's been with the Giants and Philadelphia. It's not always easy, but I think that the older guys around here know that it is a winning formula. We've all bought into it."

      Spagnuolo likes what he has seen, especially the absence of sulking players, or those who start pointing fingers at others.

      Said Spagnuolo, "To me, that's a credit to the players. It is easy in this business to venture somewhere else, especially when you don't have a lot of success. That's why I keep going back to and keep saying that I love the group down there, the character, the commitment, the loyalty, because if you have those things, eventually that will be the reason why you win. It won't be about coaches or trick plays. It will be because what your core of players is made of. That will be the reason why we win."

      Expounding on that point, Spagnuolo said he gets impressions from a lot of the little things that are still important in terms of the...
      -11-11-2009, 04:42 PM
    • Rambos
      Rams Searching for Answers
      by Rambos
      By Nick Wagoner/Senior Writer

      As Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo used the wee hours of Monday morning to watch the tape of Sundayís loss at the hands of the Cowboys, he couldnít help but find himself every bit as shocked and disappointed with his teamís inability to tackle as he figured he would be right after the game.

      ďI will just sum it up this way,Ē Spagnuolo said, shaking his head. ďWe have got to solve the defensive issues. I think most of it can be solved by tackling. I added it up this morning, on the 11 plays we missed tackles, after the missed tackle there was a total of 183 yards given up. So you can do the math and figure out if we donít tackle better that part is not going to get better.Ē

      In a confounding season that has seen the Rams start 0-6, there have been myriad issues cropping up every week; some of them have continued to rear their ugly heads while others seem to come more sporadically.

      But at the heart of the issue is the stuff that should be easy. In its purest form, blocking and tackling are the most basic tenets of the game. They are the things you are taught from the moment you step foot on a field back in pee wee football.

      On Sunday, blocking wasnít actually much of the issue against the Cowboys as the offensive line had one of its better pass protection games of the season. No, this one boiled down to a basic lack of tackling.

      ďWe have got to get back to basics,Ē safety Quintin Mikell said. ďThatís what it all boils down to. When you have a game like this, you just get back to basics. You stop worrying about schemes, you donít worry about this or that, you just get back to basics and get back to what you do every week in football. I feel like we have just got to get back to that.Ē

      For the better part of the season, tackling had been one of the fundamentals the Rams hadnít really struggled with much save for a few spurts here and there. As Dallas continued to pound away in the running game with DeMarco Murray, the missed tackles piled up.

      In an unofficial count, the Rams had about 13 blatant missed tackles against the Cowboys with the clear majority of those blanks coming from the secondary on plays that allowed Murray to hit on some big runs.

      When all was said and done, Murray had rushed for 253 yards on 25 carries, including a 91-yard jaunt in which he was untouched by the first of the bakerís dozen of whiffs.

      For a coach who emphasizes to his defense that stopping the run should always come first, Spagnuolo couldnít help but remain disappointed by what he saw on the film.
      ďItís a team game but I canít get past the run defense and Iím talking about the whole team,Ē Spagnuolo said. ďBecause I think itís that important. I just think that a team that is able to run like that on any opponent, it makes it hard to win the game on offense, defense and special teams, all three...
      -10-25-2011, 07:56 AM
    • r8rh8rmike
      Bernie: Give Game Balls To Jackson, Spagnuolo
      by r8rh8rmike
      11.02.2009 10:06 am
      Give Game Balls to Jackson, Spagnuolo
      By Bernie Miklasz


      Greetings. Sorry that I didnít write immediately after Sundayís 17-10 Rams victory in Detroit, but Iím feeling better today, so letís have at it:

      * This one was for Steven Jackson: I wonder if we realize how difficult it is to be a standout running back on a bad team. Not only a bad team, but one with an extremely limited passing attack. It means that every week the opposing team has one goal in mind: stopping the running back. Taking away the Ramsí only real playmaker on offense. Jackson gets ganged up on every week. But Jackson continues to trample the odds. After a command performance in Detroit, Jackson is tied for second in the NFL in rushing and is second in the league in combined yards from scrimmage. Heís averaging 98 yards rushing per game and 4.8 yards per carry. Heís giving the Rams 122 all-purpose yards per game. And heís been at his best when the Rams make it close ó when everyone in the house knows heís going to get the ball. This season in the 4th quarter when the Rams are in a close game ó within a seven-point margin, up or down Ė Jackson averages 6.6 yards per carry. Heís been at his best, overall, in the fourth quarter, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. He breaks down those defensive stacks.

      But Jacksonís attitude and professionalism have been as impressive as his running. Heís been a total team player in 2009. A positive influence in every way. Someone who tries hard to keep his teammates fired up. Someone who refuses to dwell on any kind of negativity. Jackson just keeps pressing on, running through the fog of losing, trying to desperately to break through to the sunlight..

      * This one was also for Steve Spagnuolo: As I wrote in Saturdayís ďBitsĒ column, itís too soon to make any conclusive judgments about Spagnuolo as an all-around head coach. Way too early for that. Frankly, I donít understand how anyone can take a stand ó pro or con ó on the guy so far. There are some things that I really like about him; there are some things that give me concern. Heís never been a head coach before. Heís working his way through this. And heís learning to be a head coach as he cleans a mess created by the previous regime at Rams Park. You think thatís easy? But I was happy to see the man get a win in Detroit. I was happy to see him rewarded.

      I repeat: Spagnuoloís overall steadiness and consistency in dealing with his players is a real plus in this situation. No gimmicks will turn around years of roster-management incompetence and losing. There are no short cuts on the long road back to being a respectable franchise. Spags has a message and stays on it. He refuses to let any player drift away from the cause. Spagnuolo is from the Dick Vermeil school of positive thinking. There is nothing wrong with that. Too many fans think head coaches are supposed to put on a show by hollering...
      -11-02-2009, 10:58 AM
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