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Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

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  • Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

    Pressure is on Rams in having No. 1 pick

    Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

    When your team suffers through a 1-15 season, it isn't fun. There is no joy. The beatings wipe the smile away. But the NFL system is supposed to deliver relief. And an instant remedy can arrive through the draft. For the losers, the draft is set up to provide salvation.

    The Rams will have the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which begins on the evening of April 22. The d-day will be here before we know it. And if the Rams choose the right guy, he'll help transform the franchise, and in a dramatic way. But if the Rams blow it and select the wrong player, the team will remain stuck on the league's underside. More years will be wasted and lost.

    The pressure on general manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo is enormous. You see, this isn't just a question of hitting the lotto on that No. 1 pick. There's much more at stake than that. This draft could alter the future of the franchise, on and off the field. This draft could impact the job security of Devaney and Spagnuolo, who are working hard to overcome the football crimes and misdemeanors committed by the previous Rams' regime.

    Moreover, Devaney and Spagnuolo will probably be working for a new boss, Shad Khan. And the boss didn't hire them. The boss doesn't even know them. But the boss certainly will be monitoring his football factory the way he supervises his auto-parts factories. Given his success, Khan seems like the kind of person who expects positive results.

    The Rams, 6-42 over the last three seasons, are about to enter a critical transition phase. If he clears the league's background and financial checks and is voted into the league, Khan will take over as the Rams' new majority owner in a few months.

    No one knows what to expect of Khan, but I'm assuming the man didn't plunk down hundreds of millions of dollars to travel to St. Louis to watch the Rams embarrass him. I'm going to go ahead and assume that Khan isn't fond of writing checks worth tens of millions of dollars for premium draft picks who turn into underachieving busts.

    I'm also going to take it for granted that Khan doesn't want to see thousands of empty seats for home games at the Edward Jones Dome in 2010. And if the Rams can't find a way to motivate a depressed and disgusted fan base, selling tickets will be a formidable challenge.

    The Rams cannot afford to fail.

    In theory, the No. 1 overall pick should provide easy pickings. You have the choice of the lot. No other team can block you or snatch the player you covet. There's no excuse, really, for messing it up. If the 2010 draft goes wrong, it can't be blamed on Jay Zygmunt, Scott Linehan or other ghosts at Rams Park.

    But this is tricky.

    Defensive tackle appeared to be a safe way to go. But is it, really? For a while, it looked like Nebraska defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh was the slam dunk, the no-brainer, the one sure thing. But some draft pundits and scouts are touting another defensive tackle, Oklahoma's Gerald McCoy, as the superior player. So what could have been the easy part of the equation — go with the best bet, the defensive tackle — isn't so simple.

    And then there's the quarterback position. The Rams really won't be able to establish a program until they establish a quarterback for the future. And let's be candid about this; drafting a QB would probably create a strong buzz and sell more tickets. And that would probably please the new owner. In the last two drafts, the Rams declined to pick Matt Ryan or Mark Sanchez. Will they overlook the position again? Or is that the smart move to go in another direction, considering the questions attached to the top quarterback prospects?

    Now that Oklahoma's Sam Bradford is showing that he's coming back strong from shoulder repairs, he's rising up the charts. Bradford is returning to the front of the line as a potential franchise quarterback. But other scouts prefer Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen, who ran a pro-style offense. He's also a tough kid who battled valiantly through injuries and adversity last season. Clausen may possess more of those intangibles that coaches want in a leader.

    That's why there are trapdoors all over the place as the Rams search for No. 1. They could play it safe (DT) or take a calculated gamble (QB) and still come up with Mr. Wrong instead of Mr. Right.

    Or, the Rams could hit that jackpot and launch their comeback.

    Wednesday afternoon, I visited with Spagnuolo for about 90 minutes in his office at Rams Park. It was more of a social meeting. It wasn't an interview session. We didn't get into hardcore draft discussions. But for obvious reasons, the draft is on the coach's mind.

    Spagnuolo is watching tape. He's looked at two or three of Suh's games. He'll view more of them. And Spagnuolo was about to look at tapes of McCoy. Spagnuolo is beginning to learn more about some of the quarterbacks. And down the hall, Devaney and the scouts and the coaches are engaged in similar activity.

    This isn't to say that the Rams are definitely going to take a defensive tackle or a quarterback. They'll have a lot of options. It's early in the process. And free agency comes first; that's the immediate priority. But Devaney and Spagnuolo have a sense of what's on the line. It's an exciting time for them. And a nervous time, too.

  • #2
    Re: Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

    Is there one iota of information in this article that every Ram fan in the country doesn't already know? I'd have never guessed that Devaney, Spags and company are under pressure to get it right in the draft, nor did I think about the negative long term consequences for the organization if they whiff.

    Normally, I'm one of Bernie's bigger defenders on the board. But the only thing this article tells me is that he has a very firm grip on the obvious.


    • #3
      Re: Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

      Originally posted by NJ Ramsfan1 View Post
      Is there one iota of information in this article that every Ram fan in the country doesn't already know? I'd have never guessed that Devaney, Spags and company are under pressure to get it right in the draft, nor did I think about the negative long term consequences for the organization if they whiff.

      Normally, I'm one of Bernie's bigger defenders on the board. But the only thing this article tells me is that he has a very firm grip on the obvious.
      And normally, I'm one of Bernie's biggest detractors on this board but I think that's one of the most nuanced pieces he's written about The Rams in a while. The choice isn't as clear as the "No one but Suh will do" contingent would have us believe.

      Still,I think he's being a little overly dramatic & narrow-minded about the effect one draft pick will have & failed to mention the most important part of the "big picture" that most fans also see. The thing that has slowed down the recovery of this team over the last couple of years, imo, has been the lack of impact from the middle of the draft. The Rams haven't solidified the base of this team with draft classes like Fletcher/Scott/Foster & Greco/King/Burton. Unlike the dark ages of the mid 2000s, it's been about injuries more than poor evaluation,imo, which gives me hope that a sudden leap in productivity is possible in the near future. If that happens, only the most superficial analysts/fans will point to the impact of one draftee as the reason.

      I think Bernie should also look to the future by properly proofing his column. Spelling Khan's name incorrectly (Shad?) is unlikely to get him the insider status/ access he so clearly craves. You'd think a guy named Miklasz who has probably had his name mispronounced & misspelled endlessly would be more cognizant of such subtleties.


      • #4
        Re: Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

        ugh... Bernie dribble. this is me rolling my eyes yet again.

        although, could it be that BM took some prozac this week? i mean, where's the sarcasm and puffery. i see his usual "captain obvious" made an appearance, but i just can't shake the feeling like it was written by someone other than Bernie.

        maybe his new intern wrote it, perhaps?

        maybe Bernie got laid? could it be?!


        • #5
          Re: Bernie: Pressure Is On Rams In Having No. 1 Pick

          Nothing like trying to turn the #1 pick in the draft into a negative!
          sigpic :ram::helmet:


          Related Topics


          • MauiRam
            Daily Bernie Bytes: Rams Draft,
            by MauiRam
            04.22.2010 10:59 am
            Daily Bernie Bytes: Rams Draft,
            By Bernie Miklasz

            Good morning …

            READING TIME, 5 MINUTES:

            The NFL draft is here. Finally. It is, at once, one of my favorite days of the sports years — and also one of the most annoying. The irritating part of draft day are the dumb, unfounded rumors that circulate in the final hours…

            As for the Rams and their No. 1 pick, here’s what I know to be true, and if the info changes I’ll update late: GM Billy Devaney has fielded inquiries the last several days, but nothing has heated up. Devaney told me “there’s virtually no chance,” the Rams will trade the pick, but he’ll still listen if teams want to make a pitch. The Rams’ have set a high price for the No. 1 pick. Contrary to some reports, they have not lowered their demands for the No. 1. It will take a lot to get that top slot away from the Rams. There’s been some buzz about the Redskins today, that they are planning to make some late, eye-opening offer for the Rams’ No. 1. And the Redskins, after trading for QB Donovan McNabb, only have one pick among the top 100 in this draft, and that’s No. 4 overall. As of 10:15 a.m. Thursday morning, the Rams hadn’t engaged in any discussions with the Redskins. All was quiet at Rams Park. No one in a position of power at Rams Park expects a a trade. They fully expect to keep the No. 1 pick and use it. And if they keep the pick the choice will be Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford …. you still hear talk that the Rams are considering four players: Bradford, Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh, Oklahoma DT Gerald McCoy, and Notre Dame QB Jimmy Clausen. But Clausen isn’t on the list. He didn’t make the cut, so to speak. At some point — and I don’t know when — the Rams reduced their focus to Bradford and the two defensive tackles… Clausen appears to be tumbling. I have no idea where he’ll go. But Rick “Goose” Gosselin of the Dallas Morning News, who annually produces the most credible and accurate mock draft in the business, has Clausen falling all the way to No. 30 to Minnesota…so even if the Rams made a deal with Washington — highly unlikely — I’d be surprised if they drafted Clausen No. 4 overall.

            Speaking of idiotic rumors, let’s put this one in the trash bin: the Rams never had any serious discussions with the Steelers over QB Ben Roethlisberger, and never entertained an offer from the Steelers …

            I’m going to go against the grain here and politely disagree with those who say Devaney is under a lot of pressure today, and in this draft … I don’t think there’s a lot of pressure on Devaney … the Rams need a QB, and Bradford has a chance to be great. It’s a fit. It would be a bold move in the respect that the Rams haven’t drafted a QB in the first round since 1964, and so they’d be breaking from pattern. And a QB is more of a high-risk, high-reward type of a pick at No. 1 overall than, say, a DT. So yeah, the...
            -04-22-2010, 01:58 PM
          • RamDez
            Draft looks OK at first glance
            by RamDez
            Draft looks OK at first glance

            Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz
            Bernie Miklasz

            Another Rams draft is in the books, but don't expect any grades to be posted here. I'll leave that to the celebrity pundits who want to pass final judgment before the draftees even strap on a helmet.

            In about two years we'll know if Rams general manager Billy Devaney aced the test or flunked it.

            But as is the case with any draft, we can't help but have spontaneous, initial reactions. And we certainly have questions.

            Let's get to it:

            Here is what I really liked:

            — The No. 2 overall pick, offensive tackle Jason Smith. Abundantly talented, with a hunger to be the best.

            — The fourth-round pick, Clemson defensive tackle Darell Scott: He is big, strong and has talent. Scott had a disappointing senior season, but not because he dogged it. The Rams' coaches will get Scott back on track and he'll have a chance to be a run stuffer inside.

            — The seventh-round pick, Texas running back Chris Ogbonnaya: He's 220 pounds, can catch the ball, is a willing blocker and is an underrated power runner. Used in a variety of roles at Texas, he never really got into a groove, but he has a shot at emerging as Steven Jackson's backup.

            Here's what I sort of liked:

            — The second-round draft pick, Ohio State middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. Look, he'll be a productive tackler. There's no surrender in him. He can probably start immediately. But ... MORE BERNIE

            Here's what I didn't like:

            — USC middle linebacker Rey Maualuga was still on the board when the Rams went with Laurinaitis at No. 32 overall.

            Word is, the Rams had some off-field concerns about Maualuga. But if this turns out to be nitpicking, the Rams could come to regret the decision. Maualuga is a run-stopping maniac who attacks running backs with the kind of zeal that you don't see very often. I don't care if he isn't a three-down MLB; teams use the nickel defense on most third downs, anyway. The Rams have to start plugging the run to fix an embarrassingly soft defense.

            The previous Rams regime foolishly allowed MLB London Fletcher to walk as a free agent after the 2001 season, and from 2002-2008, only the Raiders and Browns have been plundered for more rushing yards than the Rams. Between 2002-2008, no team gave up more runs (414) that netted 10 yards or longer.

            Perhaps there are some rough edges to Maualuga's personality. Perhaps the Rams think he's a little wild, a little out of control. I don't know. But that edginess and danger also made Maualuga the nastiest MLB in this draft, and the Rams took a pass. Maualuga went to Cincinnati at No. 35 overall, and he's going to be berserk in his motivation to make teams pay for not drafting him.

            I sincerely hope...
            -04-27-2009, 12:39 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Rams Give Fans Reason For Hope
            by r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Rams give fans reason for hope

            Monday, September 6, 2010

            For the first time in several years, probably since the last hurrah of the "Greatest Show" era in 2004, the Rams are generating a positive buzz around town.

            There are no expectations of the Rams making the playoffs in 2010, no hope of competing for a Super Bowl, no delusions about where the Rams are and how far they must go to become an elite franchise. Only a hair-on-fire optimist would predict a winning record for the 2010 Rams.

            But it's been a while since fans had something to look forward to. It's been a while since the customers were motivated to spend a Sunday afternoon at the dreary Edward Jones Dome. It's been a while since the franchise's loyal band of supporters could rally around the belief that better days are ahead.

            If nothing else, even among skeptics the curiosity level is up because of the presence of rookie starting quarterback Sam Bradford, the obvious symbol of change.

            Sunday at 3:15 p.m, the Rams will kick off the 2010 NFL season with a home game against the Arizona Cardinals. And finally, there is something to watch. There's a compelling story. The template is fresh and different. And a probable sellout crowd will file into The Ed for a new reason: The fans really want to be there instead of feeling obligated to be there.

            "While I was in church Sunday morning, a couple of people there told me, 'Hey, Steve, you have no idea how excited the town is.' And that's when I picked up on it," Rams head coach Steve Spagnuolo said. "I hope our players feel it. And I hope we give the fans a reason to feel good about what we're doing."

            One by one, pieces are being put into place. New owner Stan Kroenke. Sam the Ram joins running back Steven Jackson, who ranks No. 2 in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage over the last five seasons. There are two talented young offensive tackles, Rodger Saffold and Jason Smith, to anchor a potentially rugged offensive line. And new prospects at tight end. There's a dedicated young middle linebacker, James Laurinaitis. Third-year defensive end Chris Long should be more disruptive. A physical second-year cornerback, Bradley Fletcher, could develop into something special. And active safety Oshiomogho Atogwe, who has 19 interceptions, 14 forced fumbles and eight fumble recoveries in 60 NFL starts.

            There's a sense that the Rams are actually building something rather than throwing a mish-mash of talent together and hoping to get lucky.

            There is also a long way to go as Spagnuolo and the new regime continue to pay for the hopelessly incompetent personnel mistakes of the recent past.

            The Rams selected 18 players in the 2006 and 2007 drafts. After final cuts were made Saturday only one of the 18, backup defensive tackle Clifton...
            -09-06-2010, 06:52 PM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: It's Time To Solve The Draft Puzzle
            by r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: It's time to solve the draft puzzle

            BY BERNIE MIKLASZ, Post-Dispatch Sports Columnist
            Thursday, April 28, 2011

            Finally, we have a little football. Finally, we have some relief. The NFL draft gets under way tonight in New York. The event will offer a three-day break from the tedium of the dumbest labor dispute in the history of sports.

            I never thought I'd say this, but I'm actually looking forward to seeing Mel Kiper Jr.'s hair.

            Please tell the lawyers to close their briefcases and get the heck out. Over the next three days, I don't want to hear about the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, lockouts, injunctions, Judge Nelson, DeMaurice Smith or billionaire NFL owners crying that the luxury sky box is falling.

            NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can stay for a few hours. Someone has to fill the job of announcing the names of the 32 first-round picks.

            Which brings us to the opening question of the draft:

            1. Will Goodell be heckled by the boisterous group of fans who gather inside the Radio City Music Hall each year to boo, hiss and cheer the draft proceedings? The owners and players have infuriated the public with a failure to make a deal on sharing $9 billion in annual revenue. This will be the fans' first chance to express themselves. And we'll be waiting to see if the NFL sees a decline in TV ratings for this year's draft.

            2. What will the Rams do in Round 1?

            Let's not make this more complicated than it is. All you have to do is look at the two drafts conducted by the partnership of GM Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo. They're practical. They don't throw curveballs in the early rounds.

            Need a quarterback? Take Sam Bradford, the obvious choice. Need to rebuild at offensive tackle? Draft Jason Smith in 2009 and Rodger Saffold in 2010. Spagnuolo needed an anchor for his defense; say hello to James Laurinaitis (2009). The Spags defense requires bigger, more physical cornerbacks. So in 2009 and 2010, the Rams used the third round to stock the corners with Bradley Fletcher and Jerome Murphy.

            The Rams need a No. 1 receiver, a potential game-breaker, a guy who can connect with Bradford to scorch defenses in the Josh McDaniels offense. If Alabama's Julio Jones inexplicably drops to the Rams' spot at No. 14, he'd be the obvious pick. And if the Rams passed on Jones, then owner Stan Kroenke might as well hire George Boone to run next year's draft.

            If Jones is gone by No. 14, the pragmatic Spags figures to go for the defensive lineman he likes best. The Rams need to reinforce the D-line, and several attractive options should be available, including Illinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget and Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Or perhaps North Carolina pass rusher Robert Quinn will slip through. The sudden and unexpected availability of Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara...
            -04-28-2011, 10:31 AM
          • r8rh8rmike
            Bernie: Loss Is Disturbing In Many Ways
            by r8rh8rmike
            Loss is disturbing in many ways

            Sports Columnist Bernie Miklasz

            From the moment Steve Spagnuolo was hired as the Rams' head coach to partner with new general manager Billy Devaney, I've preached patience. The new leaders were put in charge of cleaning up the NFL equivalent of a toxic spill. And it would take a lot of time, hard work and smart decisions to get it done.

            Those who thought the Rams had a chance to win between seven and nine games this season and contend for the playoffs were more delusional than optimistic.

            I didn't expect much, and I'm not asking for much.

            All I wanted to see, really, were signs of progress in 2009. And shouldn't this team be getting better, even if the gains are incremental and modest? Instead, the Rams are getting worse. Is there any justification for that?

            With Sunday's 27-17 loss to the visiting Seattle Seahawks, the Rams became the first St. Louis NFL team to post a 1-10 record after 11 games in a season. That covers 43 seasons of St. Louis NFL football, 28 with the Cardinals and 15 with the Rams.

            This was a winnable game. It was sitting there at 7-7 in the second quarter, and the Rams were only down by seven late in the third quarter. The Seahawks came into The Ed with a 3-7 record and didn't appear to be highly motivated. But as most opponents do, the Seahawks pounced on the Rams' mistakes and sloppy play and bullied the Rams with a physical rushing attack. Taking over, Seattle opened a 17-point lead before the Rams scored a so-what TD with 44 seconds remaining.

            The Rams had shown improvement by losing in overtime at Jacksonville, winning at Detroit, and taking the undefeated New Orleans Saints down to the wire with a chance to win. But the Rams didn't build on that brief spell of not-so-hideous football.

            Instead, they're regressing.

            And I don't think that's acceptable.

            "This game was a big step backward," Rams defensive end Chris Long said. "I think we've got a long way to go, so we can't afford to take these steps backward."

            Agreed. After the game, I asked Spagnuolo if he thought his Rams were slipping and getting worse. After saying he wouldn't cite injuries as an excuse, Spagnuolo sort of did just that.

            "The one thing we've got to remember, and I'm not going to use this as an excuse, so bear with me here," Spagnuolo said. "But we have gelled. Since the first time we played Seattle (in the season opener) until now, I believe it's a different football team.

            "But we're fighting some injuries right now at some key positions. So the dynamics of working together and getting better and better at certain things, maybe it takes a step back. But this is professional football and guys got to go in there and play....
            -11-30-2009, 04:39 PM