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Can't help but like how hard Rams play

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  • Can't help but like how hard Rams play

    Can't help but like how hard Rams play

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
    [More columns]By Bernie Miklasz

    All in all, it was a pretty good week for Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, who had to deal with the usual business at Rams Park, the NFL house of horrors located on the road to nowhere out in scorched-Earth City.

    Spagnuolo's squad was hit with an outbreak of the swine flu, forcing the cancellation of Thursday's practice. The rookie coach cut his incorrigible goon guard, Richie Incognito. Another starting guard, Jacob Bell, became the 11th Ram to go on injured reserve. And that casualty count doesn't include the No. 2 overall draft pick, offensive tackle Jason Smith, who can't shake the effects of a serious concussion.

    The offensive line had to be rearranged again. Defensive end Leonard Little was scratched from Sunday's game with a knee injury. And with the Rams' supply of quarterbacks turning as thin as a Christmas tree parking lot, rookie QB Keith Null was shoved into the starting lineup for the second consecutive week.

    Whatever can go wrong for the Rams already has in this season of unnecessary roughness.

    On Sunday at the half-empty Edward Jones Dome, the Rams did a lot of things right, only to have the day go wrong, and they fell 16-13 to the Houston Texans.

    If you want to update your misery index, the Rams are 1-13 on the season, 1-23 in their last 24 games, 3-27 over the last two seasons, and 6-40 over the last three seasons.

    That's a lot of poison to ingest, but for some reason the players stubbornly continue to fight. They limp out of the game and then limp back in. They endure humiliation and frustration and volunteer to take on more.

    On Sunday we saw Steven Jackson — he of the herniated disc, 1,352 yards rushing and at least that many bruises — get the helmet ripped from his head by Texans safety Bernard Pollard.

    Pollard threw a forearm across Jackson's chin for good measure. With the blood filling Jackson's mouth and covering his lips, SJ39 went Pacquiao and threw a right-hand cross. Then he grabbed hold of Pollard and wrestled him to the ground.

    That scene may have been a keeper from an otherwise hideous 2009 season: the bloodied Jackson, refusing to back down, skirmishing for a lost cause.

    "I love this group," Spagnuolo said.

    The talented Texans obviously walked into The Ed thinking that the doggy-dog Rams would shake the fleas off and obediently curl into a lazy winter nap. The visitors were in for more of a tussle than they imagined.

    The Texans won for two simple reasons: (1) they have wide receiver Andre Johnson; (2) the Rams do not have wide receiver Andre Johnson.

    "We came out here and played hard," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "That's our job, but we have to win, too. We have to stick together. Nobody is going to pack it in. That is not what this team is about."

    Back in Houston, I'm sure they're wondering why their stronger, deeper and more talented roster nearly lost to the bug-infected, woebegone Rams. The Houston fans may be wondering why Texans coach Gary Kubiak can't get his guys to play as hard as Spagnuolo's hopelessly undermanned scruffs.

    This is crazy. The Rams are competing as if any of this still matters. They're under the impression that they're playing for something important. Don't they know they're supposed to lose out so the franchise can gain the rights to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft?

    By losing to the Texans, the Rams moved a step closer to that No. 1 overall pick. And they nearly blew it by winning. Losing can be beneficial. At least in this instance. But don't suggest that to the coach.

    "That's not in my vocabulary," Spagnuolo said.

    I've mocked the idea that playing hard is enough. There are no moral victories. They don't count. We get it.

    I also believe a reasonably intelligent person can look at this barren Rams roster and the unfair nature of the conflict — what hope, really does this coach have to win a game? — and appreciate the integrity of the effort.

    And appreciate a coach who holds on to the naïve notion that he can persuade his players to go hard no matter how bad it gets, no matter how hopeless or thankless it may seem. And it makes you think about how good Spagnuolo can be when he has a more talented roster.

    I've seen Spagnuolo really demoralized only once this season, after the loss in Tennessee, when he probably realized he'd failed in the attempt to rehabilitate his wayward son, Richie. Incognito had three penalties for 30 yards in his debut with Buffalo, another bout of silliness that immediately validated Spagnuolo's decision.

    Spagnuolo doesn't stay down for long. His optimism could probably cure the flu.

    Even though he's coaching an ill team with an even sicker record, Spagnuolo found the time to e-mail New York Giants defensive coordinator Bill Sheridan. After Sheridan replaced the popular Spagnuolo this season, the Giants defense collapsed. Giants players haven't bonded with Sheridan the way they did with Spags, and Sheridan is under fire from the fans and media.

    But Pope Spagnuolo sent Sheridan a note of encouragement, telling him to hang in there and to stay positive and things would get better.

    This, coming from a coach of a 1-13 team.

    "It's just good for morale," Sheridan said after receiving Spags' e-mail.

    I think the story tells us a little something. I think it tells us why the Rams continue to play harder than most teams would if similarly trapped in a 1-13 season. I think Rams players do it out of respect for Spagnuolo. They don't want to let a good man down.

  • #2
    Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

    If we can improve slightly from yesterday's game i see us winning some decent games next season. Remember Miami dolphins???


    • #3
      Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

      Dolphine went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008. We need to do the same and there is no reason why we shouldn't, even if it takes 2-3 yrs.


      • #4
        Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

        Originally posted by rob6465 View Post
        Dolphine went from 1-15 in 2007 to 11-5 in 2008. We need to do the same and there is no reason why we shouldn't, even if it takes 2-3 yrs.
        Err, we wouldn't be doing the same if it took 3 years would we?


        • #5
          Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

          The effort is there. We just don't have the talent all around the team. I kinda expected Andre Johnson to have a huge day. But what do you expect? We're missing our best pass rusher and we have the lousiest group of DB's in the league right now due to injuries.

          The team needs to focus on staying healthy. We know that due to this sport, its hard for them to do that, but if our team was healthy, I think we'd have a different season.


          • #6
            Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

            The effort is certainly there and that's saying quite a bit. Considering how difficult this season has been, it would be really easy for the effort to lag at times.

            Credit to Coach. He is getting the guys ready to play every week even though the task in front of them is always daunting considering their record and the huge IR list that continues to pile up. This is the time of year when some teams start to quit and we haven't seen it from the Rams one bit.


            • #7
              Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

              There is fire and fight in the Rams, that much is certain. Many of the blowouts where do to mistakes (fumbles/ints)-costly penalties killed drives.

              Yet despite all the pratfalls, the Defense was swarming to the ball, though I would have liked to seen more pressure placed on the opposition and penitration into their back field.

              There is hope, just will take time to acquire a few more pieces and putting together the puzzle


              • #8
                Re: Can't help but like how hard Rams play

                I also liked how Jackson wouldn't take the BS from Pollard. Jackson's tuffle with Pollard shows just how tough this team really is.


                Related Topics


                • r8rh8rmike
                  Rams Keep Effort Up
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  Rams Keep Effort Up
                  Monday, December 21, 2009

                  By Nick Wagoner
                  Senior Writer

                  As the ball came shooting out of the hands of Houston running back Arian Foster following a 13-yard catch and run, the eyes of rookie Rams defensive tackle Darell Scott immediately got large.

                  It was as though Scott was about to sit down to a big meal, which, coincidentally, was something he’d been physically unable to do even had he wanted to in the days leading up to Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Texans.

                  Scott reacted immediately and hauled all of his 6’3, 312 pound frame as fast as it could go from near the line of scrimmage the 20 or so yards required to pounce on the ball.

                  Ultimately, Scott fell on it at the Rams’ 8 but the fact that Scott was well enough to chase it down at all was nothing short of a testament to the effort these Rams are still putting in despite the 1-13 record attached to their name.

                  “You talk about an effort play from a game that I don’t know if he even ate anything the three days before it,” coach Steve Spagnuolo said. “That was a pretty good indicator of what those guys have inside of them.”

                  Effort doesn’t amount to a whole heck of a lot in the NFL. In fact, it’s probably the minimum requirement for what it takes to win an NFL game. Most teams that find themselves playing into January start with effort as the baseline and build from there.

                  As with most things in life, when something goes wrong, the easy thing to do is give up, regardless of how well compensated you are or whatever prestige might go with a particular endeavor.

                  For the Rams, that opportunity to call it a day has presented itself time and again this season. Yet, for many reasons, they have refused to pack it in and go quietly into the offseason.

                  “That’s what I expressed to them in the locker room,” Spagnuolo said. “That means a great deal to me, the staff. I know it’s not easy especially for the vets. It’s not an easy thing to go through, not for any of us and yet they are able to dust themselves off, come back to work on Wednesday and get ready to play a game.”

                  While that hard work and effort has amounted to just one win and a whole lot of respect from Spagnuolo for the players, those efforts aren’t going completely unnoticed around the world of football.

                  To wit:

                  CBS analyst and former Steelers coach Bill Cowher on the Rams: “The Rams are playing hard every week, and that is a reflection of their coach. I've been watching film on them and they are playing hard. As coaches, we are judged on wins and losses, but at this time of year, you're tired and beat up, and if a team is still putting out a good effort it's a tribute to their coach.”

                  Or this excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Peter King in his Monday Morning Quarterback column on “I love...
                  -12-22-2009, 06:23 PM
                • MauiRam
                  Bernie: Spagnuolo ready to tackle season ..
                  by MauiRam
                  By Bernie Miklasz Thursday, September 9, 2010 12:35 am

                  Steve Spagnuolo is absolutely, positively ready for his second season as the Rams' head coach.

                  We know this because he's sleeping in the bathroom again.

                  Umm ... the bathroom?

                  Yes, it's tucked in the back of his office on the second floor at Rams Park. The bathroom has the usual amenities, including a shower, a lavatory and toiletries. But last season Spagnuolo added a single bed.

                  And when the coach stays up late at the office, reviewing video, he tries to sleep in the bathroom for a few hours to save time and make a quick pivot back to work in the morning.

                  Not that a 1-15 rookie coach can sleep peacefully. When I asked Spagnuolo what it was like to go 1-15 last season as a rookie coach, he laughed and pointed to the bathroom. "You see that small little room? I spent some time back there," he said.

                  Probably getting sick to his stomach from the pain and anguish of losing. Or perhaps it was his refuge. Spagnuolo would close the door and try to sort everything out in his mind.

                  Emotionally and mentally, Spagnuolo absorbed quite a beating last season. His relentlessly upbeat nature was tested as never before. He won a single game. In the 15 losses, his team was outscored 426-148. Some of his friends wondered if Spagnuolo had made a career-smothering mistake by leaving his post as the New York Giants' successful defensive coordinator to take on such a thankless, hopeless job.

                  "I don't think this way," Spagnuolo said. "I don't know about people saying that it might kill my career, because I simply don't think that way, go through life that way. I've always had to do things this way."

                  Spagnuolo smiled, noted his diminutive stature and added, "At 5-8, and always having to overcome things, it's never been easy for me. I wouldn't know how to go into a situation where it was easy. I only know about starting from a tough situation and working from there. Maybe I function better that way. It hasn't been easy. It's been trying. Have I even wavered at times? Sure, I'm human. But I've never let it last long."

                  It explains why Spagnuolo became a buzzsaw center on his high school ice hockey team at Grafton, Mass. He was an aggressive pest who would torment taller and more skilled opponents. He played second base on the state championship baseball team. He was a quarterback who ran the wishbone offense. Go ahead. Try to knock him down.

                  This resolve carried Spagnuolo through coaching stops that took him around the world over a 27-year period before he became the Rams' coach. The odyssey took him to three countries, six colleges and four professional teams in small towns and big cities.

                  When asked why he hired the largely unknown Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator, Giants coach...
                  -09-09-2010, 12:48 AM
                • r8rh8rmike
                  A New Rams PLan
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  A new Rams plan

                  By Jim Thomas
                  ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

                  One of the first things you notice on the practice field is the ever-present pencil. It's resting on Steve Spagnuolo's ear. Or in his hand.

                  He'll squat like a catcher at home plate and start scribbling while a drill takes place 10 feet away at Rams Park.

                  He's used the same kind of Papermate pencil for the last decade. You know, the plastic ones where you turn the end to get the lead out. Spagnuolo uses it on the football field to help his players get the lead out.

                  What's he writing about?

                  "I actually don't (know)," safety James Butler said. "But I know when he gets up to speak to the team, he has a list of notes. So I don't know if he's writing down in practice what's going on or what. But he's always writing down notes."

                  And then there are the practice "props."

                  — The long plastic strip that's placed at the line of scrimmage, with the letters T-G-C-G-T on it. (As in tackle, guard, center, etc.)

                  — The red cones placed several yards behind the line of scrimmage. (Players not involved in the play must stay behind the cones.)

                  — The footballs with the tips painted white. (It's to get defensive backs in the habit of catching the ball at the tips.)

                  — The "beeper box," which goes off when the quarterback has held the ball too long during 7-on-7 passing drills. (It can be calibrated for 3-step, 5-step and 7-step drops.)

                  You look at all this, and you wonder if Spagnuolo was the type of kid who took a lot of notes, kept his room clean, made his bed.

                  "I probably would say yeah," Spagnuolo said, flashing a "you got me" look at the questioner. "I was actually one of those people that went to class. I can't sit here and say I didn't go. I did. And I always took notes. If I didn't take good notes, I wasn't going to do good. Because I had to study. I wasn't a natural learner."

                  The bed making?

                  "I don't know why I remember this," Spagnuolo said. "(Maybe) because my mother used to say it to people. I made my bed every day till I got to be like 15 or 16 — whatever that age is (for teenage rebellion). And then all of a sudden I became not quite as consistent."

                  So yes, Spagnuolo always had a clean room.

                  "I don't know, I operate a little bit better that way," he said.

                  IT'S IN THE DETAILS

                  Now, at age 49, Spagnuolo is trying to make the Rams operate a lot better as a rookie NFL head coach. The task is daunting to say the least. This is a franchise that hasn't been in the playoffs since 2004, hasn't had a winning season since 2003, and has lost 27 of its last 32 games.

                  As he tries to lay the foundation...
                  -08-30-2009, 03:11 PM
                • Alec22
                  Rams Staying the Course
                  by Alec22
                  By Nick Wagoner
                  Senior Writer

                  By his own admission Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo can often have the sound of a broken record.

                  Each week, win or lose, rain or snow, no matter the circumstance, Spagnuolo squares his jaw, focuses on the task at hand and approaches every game the same way.

                  More than halfway into his rookie season as a head coach, Spagnuolo has never strayed from the team-first ethos he installed from the day he arrived in St. Louis way back in January.

                  In the face of plenty of adversity, Spagnuolo has uttered nary a discouraging word and anyone looking for a full-throated, raging outburst should look elsewhere. And a little prosperity hasn’t had the opposite effect, either as Spagnuolo hasn’t come close to any type of braggadocio.

                  “I have had my moments (of frustration),” Spagnuolo said. “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.”

                  Regardless of the record, if there’s one thing that has remained constant in this first year under Spagnuolo’s guidance it’s his and his team’s uncanny knack to remain unfazed by any possible distractions.

                  Spagnuolo’s message reaches to the team, too. There have been no locker room or sideline blowups, only players staying relentlessly positive and focusing on the single goal of coming together as a team with the sole focus of finding ways to win football games.

                  “Being a guy who has been here with the Rams now going for five years,” safety Oshiomogho Atogwe said. “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.”

                  BUYING IN

                  At Spagnuolo’s initial news conference when he was introduced as the head coach, he made it clear the way he and general manager Billy Devaney wanted to build the team back into a winner.

                  Topping the list was finding a way to build a team that was all about team. A team that would fill the locker room with players that care as much about the guy next to them as they do themselves.

                  Spagnuolo put the Rams through a rigorous training camp that had them tackling in full pads from day one and continued to put the emphasis on building the team concept every day.

                  It was easy enough for the players to buy into the system then because they knew Spagnuolo’s impressive resume coming from winning programs in Philadelphia and New York.

                  “I think...
                  -11-04-2009, 11:32 AM
                • r8rh8rmike
                  Burwell: Blame This Loss On Spagnuolo
                  by r8rh8rmike
                  Burwell: Blame this loss on Spagnuolo

                  BY BRYAN BURWELL,
                  Monday, November 28, 2011

                  There have been plenty of times during the course of his struggling run as the Rams' coach that when the smoke cleared on another Sunday afternoon debacle you could always find some thin wisp of promise in Steve Spagnuolo's reclamation project. Sometimes— heck, most of the time — it took a lot of squinting to see the good amidst the disaster of a 10-33 record.

                  But there always has been something this man's focused, relentlessly optimistic, tunnel-vision public approach and his unwavering "My way or the highway" control-freak personality behind the scenes that convinced me Spagnuolo eventually would find a way to fix this mess of a franchise and turn the Rams into championship contenders.

                  That faith was shaken hard Sunday. The results we've been waiting to see — the big turnaround after last year's surprising leap from a 1-15 disaster in 2009 to a 7-9 season that had everyone believing the Rams were on the verge of winning the NFC West title— just have not happened. The Rams are getting worse, not better. With a 23-20 loss to Arizona on Sunday, the Rams are now 2-9 and guaranteed of an eighth consecutive non-winning season.

                  In the midst of all this losing, here's what continues to be so fascinating about Spagnuolo. He does not show any of the normal signs of an embattled head coach. Watch him during and after games. He does not show any of the disturbing body language of a coach on the hot seat. There are no slumped shoulders, no hang-dog expressions, no back-against-the-wall emotional flailing. Spagnuolo did not sound like a coach on the endangered list full of regret and half-baked alibis.

                  Even while the rest of us are screaming at the results of some of his coaching decisions, Spagnuolo conducts himself with the confident air of a man who firmly believes he still is in complete control of his environment.

                  "I think our team is passionate," he said. "I mean the work I see when they go out, I don't think there's a lack of effort. We know we're a little short-handed in some spots. ... But my pride and competitiveness says that no matter what, we've got to find a way to win."

                  But the cold-blooded business of coaching does not reward coaches for their outstanding personality traits or hand out A's for effort. The halls of Canton are full of jerks, reprobates and brow-beating maniacs who have stalked NFL sidelines. This is a bottom-line business and winning is all that matters. What does it mean that his players don't quit? What does it mean that they fight to the bitter end every Sunday? What does it mean that his team is full of real professionals who refuse to use injuries as excuses?

                  It doesn't buy him much more than the opportunity to let the season play out, giving him the full 16 games...
                  -11-28-2011, 01:30 PM