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Spagnuolo, Rams Expect More Than Just Average

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  • Spagnuolo, Rams Expect More Than Just Average

    By Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

    Oct. 23--Every Wednesday when the Rams' practice week begins, coach Steve Spagnuolo strikes up a theme during the morning team meeting. This Wednesday, following the day's practice, Spagnuolo dropped it on the media almost casually.
    "I told the guys this morning we're 3-3, which means we're an average football team," Spagnuolo told reporters. "We're trying to get better -- 3-3 says average. Let me help you out with the injuries here ..."
    That's it? Your team registers a big victory, defeating four-time defending AFC West champion San Diego. And you tell them they're average?
    "I don't know what point he was trying to get across to the team by saying that we're average," running back Steven Jackson said. "But I do take this from the speech: We've put together two wins in a row before and we came out and laid an egg. Don't go and look at Tampa Bay as a gimme game. Go about it with the same approach that you prepared for the Chargers and other teams that you've played."

    Slowly but surely, Spagnuolo is trying to change how this team views itself and change its expectations. To wit, he didn't say a lot to the team in the locker room after that 20-17 victory over the Chargers. He didn't glow and gush about their effort, their progress, and that afternoon's achievement. It was more along the lines of: We expected to win, now on to Tampa Bay.
    "I think that just shows that the expectations around here have been set high," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "Obviously there have been some struggles in the past but there's no reason why this team can't have high expectations. He's right, 3-3 is an average team. We had a chance to win those first two games but we didn't, so we've got to continually get better and continue to set the bar high for ourselves."
    "We do not want to be average," center Jason Brown said. "Even though they're a few people out there that even if we finished out the season 8-8 would say, 'Oh yeah, they're rebuilding.' And give us a pat on the back for doing that."
    Actually, 8-8 would be quite an achievement considering the team's 1-15 mark a year ago and 6-42 ledger over the past three seasons. But Spagnuolo is pushing this team. He doesn't want it to settle; he doesn't want it to feel satisfied. Not in late October.
    "What he's trying to say is that regardless of how many games we've won (or lost) in the past, we're 3-3 right now," wide receiver Danny Amendola said. "And that's average. We didn't strive to be average. We're striving to be better than average. We're striving to be a great football team. And in order to get that we're going to have to win more games."
    The Rams were in a similar situation two weeks ago heading into Detroit. They had posted a couple of impressive home victories, reaching the .500 mark for the season. The next hurdle was to prove they could win on the road.
    The result was the embarrassing Meltdown in Motown, a 44-6 loss to the Lions that had fans and observers wondering if the bubble had burst and the same old Rams had returned.
    Then came last week and another impressive home victory that again boosted the Rams' record to .500 for the season. Once again, the Rams will try to prove they can win on the road -- this time against the surprising Buccaneers (3-2) at Raymond James Stadium.

    It's not that Spagnuolo necessarily thinks the Rams started getting big heads after the earlier triumphs against Washington and Seattle. There were no visible signs that that was the case heading into Detroit. But apparently, he's taking no chances.
    "We came in here (after San Diego) and we got chewed out," Brown said. "It was very much deserved -- there were still points left out there on the football field. There are so many things that we can do to improve. ... It's a learning process."
    In a rare moment of introspection, Spagnuolo said Friday that he wasn't sure what to expect from this team on a weekly basis.
    "I don't have a good enough feel yet for this group," Spagnuolo said. "I'll be honest with you, some days I think we need to mature more. Some days I sit there, I watch and say, 'We're there. We're getting there.' It's kind of an up-and-down thing.
    "I think that's probably typical of every team, but we are a young football team in a lot of areas, so there is a quick growth process here. But those excuses are out the window now. We've got six games under our belt. It's time to go play football."
    And try to win on the road for the first time this season, and just the second time in 11 tries during Spagnuolo's tenure.

  • #2
    Re: Spagnuolo, Rams Expect More Than Just Average

    That's good to create that winning mentality. I just wish that when people write articles they could somehow do it without mentioning that the Rams only won 6 games in the last 3 seasons. And that loss to Detroit has a nickname now I guess. I'm sure someone will use Meltdown in Motown in the future for a sporting event that has more significance than a regular season game between the Rams and Lions.


    • #3
      Re: Spagnuolo, Rams Expect More Than Just Average

      I thought this was an pretty interesting read. For everything that Spags has done here I'm ever so slightly surprised by Jackson's comment. But at least he's taking the right thing out of it. He called you average because the 2010 Rams HAVE been average(in record). Not in potential to be great or average in talent, but in almost giving games away they're winning...laying the egg in Detroit. Above average teams won't do that very often. Go prove to Spags and the fans that this team is more than average. Personally, I'm glad to hear that our coach is never satisfied with 1 win and is constantly looking towards the next game.


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      • 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, 07:23 PM
      • MauiRam
        Rams try self-analysis to stem their troubles ..
        by MauiRam
        By Jim Thomas Tuesday, October 4, 2011

        As the Rams' bye week begins, coach Steve Spagnuolo and his staff are in the midst of self-scouting. During a normal game week the focus almost entirely is on that week's opponent. But this week, the staff will look at its team from within.

        "I can tell you the things I know we're going to look at," Spagnuolo said Monday. "Certainly protections. Certainly third down on both sides. Certainly the run fronts on offense. These are the things that just stick out. You guys (in the media) can probably list another five or six of them."

        Sure can. Red zone offense, red zone defense, dropped passes, run defense, first-down offense, kickoff returns, false starts, slow starts all come to mind. If the Rams really wanted to self-scout all of their problems, they might need three bye weeks to work through everything.

        "I've learned this over the years," Spagnuolo said. "You can't go searching for things that are not there. And you can't knee-jerk react to things that you find. Because in a lot of instances, it just comes back to fundamentals. I know that's not the glorious answer that you want, but a lot of times that's what it comes down to."

        If true, the Rams must be about as fundamentally flawed as you can get, because they are at or near the bottom of the league in many categories. They are tied for second to last in points scored (46) and in points allowed (113). They're last in rushing defense, last in average yards gained on first down, and in the bottom quartile (or last eight teams) in red-zone offense, kickoff returns, total offense and total defense.

        So the Rams' 0-4 record isn't a fluke. But those expecting Spagnuolo and staff to reinvent the pigskin between now and the Green Bay game Oct. 16 will be disappointed. They aren't going to come out in a 3-4 defense, or switch to a run-and-shoot offense against the Packers. You simply can't make major scheme changes in a week or two.

        "I'll reiterate this," Spagnuolo said. "Both schemes — all three (counting special teams) — have been proven in this league at various places. So we believe in that. I know the players believe. What I do think we need to do is do it better. That's as simple as I can state it. And I believe in that.

        "Will we find a couple of wrinkles? Yeah. But you do that all the time. If we were 4-0, we'd find a couple of scheme wrinkles. But at the core, we're not going to abandon what we do. We're just going to do it better."

        Nonetheless, the staff already has talked about tweaking things. Spagnuolo, for example, said they have discussed rolling out quarterback Sam Bradford more to help the pass protection.

        "We could do that," Spagnuolo said. "Because Sam does throw the ball well on the run."

        And they've talked...
        -10-04-2011, 01:42 AM
      • MauiRam
        No time like now for Spagnuolo to get a win ..
        by MauiRam
        BY BRYAN BURWELL, September 27, 2011 12:30 am

        There will be plenty of time over the course of this NFL football season to dwell on the subjective topics like roster depth, draft-choice decisions and the relative value of the large and expensive men who have been hired by Rams general manager Billy Devaney to protect his franchise quarterback.

        But in the short term as the winless Rams try to fight their way out of this 0-3 hole and re-establish some faith that this really is their breakthrough season, there's really only one thing we need to concentrate on: head coach Steve Spagnuolo.

        Spagnuolo can supply all the answers to every question we have about his so-far disappointing football team, beginning with the preparation and results for Sunday's game against the visiting Washington Redskins. Now in his third season in charge, it's time for Spagnuolo to prove that he's right.

        Right about what?

        How about everything? He and Devaney are joined at the hip on everything, so all the personnel decisions that have been made by the GM — from drafting to free agent signings, from every roster decision big and small to every coach who has been hired and fired — have surely been made either with Spagnuolo in mind or with his implicit consent.

        They have cleared out the undesirables from the previous regime and gathered the sort of players who physically and mentally fit the head coach's wish list. So now it's no longer a matter for debate about whether you or I still believe he's the right man for the job.

        Those are all opinions.

        This season's won-loss record will be very plainly about proving that he can and will get the job done.

        These are his players, his coaches, his organization from top to bottom. So if this is his vision, he has to show that he can not only climb out of this 0-3 hole but stem the building perception that the Spagnuolo-Devaney era has hit the stall button and regressed rather than turning the corner toward becoming a consistent playoff-caliber franchise again.

        On Monday afternoon at Rams Park, Spagnuolo was offering no excuses for Sunday's horrid 37-7 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. "We've got a long way to go here," Spagnuolo told reporters. "We've got things we know we need to correct. Nobody's happy with the way we've played. We certainly all feel like we can play better. I did say to the team this morning that I'm confident when it's all said and done, this three-game swing right here will be something that we'll learn from and that will help us later. Those are three good football teams. I'd be very surprised if all three aren't in the playoffs. I don't have the crystal ball, but they're certainly all good enough in my opinion to be there. Maybe getting some of this battle tested work will help us down the road."

        He'd better hope so. But so far, what...
        -09-27-2011, 11:46 AM
      • 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, 12:32 PM
      • r8rh8rmike
        A New Rams PLan
        by r8rh8rmike
        A new Rams plan

        By Jim Thomas

        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.


        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, 04:11 PM