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The Rams were a feel-good story this season; next year there's no telling

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  • The Rams were a feel-good story this season; next year there's no telling

    The Rams were a feel-good story this season; next year there's no telling
    By DAN WOIKE
    JAN 07, 2018 | 9:00 AM

    While the Rams and the Atlanta Falcons were fighting for the chance to advance in the NFL playoffs, the once Los Angeles, currently Oakland and soon-to-be Las Vegas Raiders sent out a tweet that should've sent shivers down the spine of Sean McVay and everyone at the Coliseum on Saturday night.

    The Raiders had officially hired Jon Gruden — a reminder that one year after being one of the hot NFL teams on the rise, the Raiders had fallen so low, they canned their previous head coach in the guts of StubHub Center just a week ago.

    In the moments after the Rams' 26-13 defeat, reporters filed in and out of press conferences and the locker rooms, asking so many questions about the young team's growth.

    Certainly, even in defeat, they'd accomplished a lot.

    "I think you're seeing a lot of things that went in the right direction," Rams coach Sean McVay said on his postgame hunt for a silver lining. "We're able to look back on this year and take some positive examples of things we can draw upon moving forward."

    But even the youngest coach in modern NFL history knows that too many lessons learned like this get you fired in this league.

    While there are reasons to be excited about the Rams' future, no one was Saturday night. The players who play, the coaches who coach should know there's no league where things change faster than the NFL.

    After all, last year the Rams had the third worst record in the NFC. A coaching change and some shrewd personnel moves helped the team finish 2017 with the third best record in the conference.

    Things, they change quickly.

    "This team was good enough, really, to compete with anyone," veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth said.

    And next year's team? Who knows?

    The Oakland Raiders entered this season with a lot of people believing they were good enough, really, to compete with anyone. They weren't. The Dallas Cowboys thought they were good enough too. The suspension of Ezekiel Elliott, among other things, changed that thinking awfully quick.

    A wrong step or a bad fall, that can change everything too. The Miami Dolphins lost their quarterback in the summer, and with him, their chances for making the postseason were seriously injured as well. Same for the Green Bay Packers, who lost Aaron Rodgers because of a broken collarbone.

    In total, eight teams that made the playoffs last season didn't make them this year. And of those eight, three teams axed their coaches after 2017's failures.

    But Saturday wasn't the time to think about that. If players were going to dwell on anything other than loss on the field, it would be the hope this past season provides for the future.

    "Yeah for sure," Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald said. "…We don't quit. Everyone was still fighting, and we're trying to find a way to try and pull out a game and win no matter what — a big improvement from past years, a different type of mindset with this coaching staff and with these players in this locker room.

    "So, it's something great to build on."

    Very few people outside of the Rams organization — and maybe just a few inside of it — believed the Rams could contend for a championship this season.

    But here they were Saturday night with a chance to take a step in that direction. And like so many people on the mangled Coliseum turf, they fell right on their rump.

    After the game, even in the fog of defeat, McVay seemed ready for the next step in his offseason.

    "It's a great opportunity for me to look at myself critically and see are we really putting our offensive players in good situations to have success," he said. "…We didn't do enough and it starts with me."

    McVay will have to be better. Jared Goff will have to be better. The Rams have to be better — because so many other teams will be too.

    Maybe the San Francisco ***** will be next year's feel-good story. Maybe it'll be the Chicago Bears or the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. It's a lock it'll be someone.

    The NFL's greatest strength might be how quickly the standings can be reversed.

    McVay knows.

    After talking about the lessons his team could learn, he quickly veered back into his disappointment.

    "Anytime you come upon a game, you always have the expectation to try and win. And we felt very confident. We had a lot of respect for the Falcons but our anticipation and expectation was to try to win the football game," he said. "Certainly, I know we're disappointed, our players and coaches alike. We didn't [do] enough to get it done tonight."

    And in the NFL, there's no promise you'll get another chance tomorrow.


  • #2
    The aura and the vibe that surrounded the Rams and us fans during this season won't ever be replicated for a long, long time in my opinion. Coming off such a long drought, only to have such a Cinderella-story season was unique and bespoke and something that I don't foresee us going through again in the next 5-8 years. We're a legitimate contender now and there are new expectations. The team now knows what they can do, and so does the rest of the league.

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    • Nick
      Rams already start looking toward next season
      by Nick
      Rams already start looking toward next season
      By GARY KLEIN
      JAN 07, 2018 | 5:40 PM

      The Rams believe they are headed in the right direction as players on Sunday took exit physicals, met with position coaches and turned in team-issued tablet computers following an abrupt end to their season with a 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Saturday night.

      Players wandered in and out of the locker room Sunday at the Rams' Thousand Oaks training facility, piling the contents from their dressing stalls into large plastic trash bags to haul to their cars.

      The Rams' turnaround season had ended abruptly the night before. Coach Sean McVay and the players were still processing a 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in an NFC wild-card game.

      "Really thought we had a chance to make a run — and it ended prematurely," quarterback Jared Goff said. "But we're going to work hard this offseason.

      "We've got a good core nucleus of guys, and a really driven group, and I don't expect this to be the end for us by any means."

      Neither does McVay, at 31 the youngest coach in modern NFL history, who took a team that was 4-12 in 2016 and remade it into the NFC West champion and a playoff team for the first time since 2004.

      "This organization is going in the right direction," he said. "I think we've got a good foundation in place that we can build on, but by no means does that mean that you win games automatically next year."

      That thought was repeated by several players, who remained disappointed that they did not perform against the Falcons in the fashion that made them the NFL's highest-scoring team.

      But they sounded confident that more winning was ahead.

      "It's just a start," said receiver Robert Woods, one of several key free-agent signings before the season. "McVay changed the culture around here, players bought in and believe, and it's just the start of something great."

      Said running back Todd Gurley: "We put pieces together. … It's somewhere to build and start, for sure."

      Players on Sunday took exit physicals, met with position coaches and turned in team-issued tablet computers.

      They will have their final team meeting Monday.

      "We won't have the exact same group of guys back in that locker room [next season], but it was a special group of men that we got a chance to work with this year," McVay said. "There will be a lot of special people back, but I think it's more about just letting them know how much you appreciate the way they went about their business."

      Now that the season has ended, the business side of the Rams football operation will soon begin to kick into high gear.

      Linebacker Alec Ogletree signed a four-year, $42-million extension in October and will be in the...
      -01-08-2018, 03:58 AM
    • Nick
      McVay: “This Loss is On Me"
      by Nick
      McVay: “This Loss is On Me"
      Myles Simmons
      RAMS INSIDER

      CHICAGO — This was not the Rams night.

      This was a night where Los Angeles had only 214 yards of offense. Only 14 first downs. Only six points.

      A night where quarterback Jared Goff threw four interceptions, setting an ignominious single-game career high. Prior to this night, he’d only ever thrown at most two picks in a game as a pro.

      And this was also a night where head coach Sean McVay took responsibility for all of it.

      “I’ve got to be better for our football team, but this loss is on me,” McVay said postgame. “I didn’t do nearly a good enough job for us today and I trust that we’ll respond the right way.”

      This is something McVay has done for each of the Rams’ regular-season losses since he took over as head coach last year. But this was as self-critical as McVay has ever been — likely because this was as ineffective as the offense has been in his tenure.

      “I’ll tell you this, when I’m looking at it in terms of some of the intent, what we were trying to do with a lot of things, I know this — I did not put our guys in good spots and that’s something that I have to better within the framework of my role and what I can control,” McVay said.

      Indeed, this is the only time since the start of the 2017 season that Los Angeles has failed to score an offensive touchdown in a game. In fact, according to ESPN Stats and Info, this is only the second time in McVay’s 79 games as an offensive coordinator or head coach that his offense didn’t put the ball in the end zone.

      And that’s part of what makes the numbers look so odd for this particular contest.

      “I’d like to say no,” McVay replied when asked if he’d imagined there would be a game where his offense didn’t score a touchdown, “but certainly this is a humbling league and either you learn from it — you’d love to play consistently well week in and week out, but tonight was a humbling experience certainly for me as a coach and for our football team, but I do trust that we will respond the right way.”

      But even with McVay’s self-criticism, players didn’t simply let themselves off the hook — particularly Goff.

      “We definitely appreciate when he does that, but we need to be better and that’s the bottom line,” said Goff, who finished 20-of-44 passing for just 180 yards. “We are the ones on the field, we’re executing, need to make the plays, just need to do a lot of things better and we will.”

      McVay often notes that he’s so self-critical because it’s what he and the rest of the coaching staff asks the players to do. And based on cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman’s postgame comments, that approach seems to be working.

      “You just got to go home, look yourself in the mirror … and ask yourself, ‘Did I do everything that I [was] supposed to? Did I give all the effort that I was...
      -12-10-2018, 04:13 AM
    • Nick
      Sean McVay’s intensity gets Rams’ attention as offseason work begins
      by Nick
      Sean McVay’s intensity gets Rams’ attention as offseason work begins
      By RICH HAMMOND | [email protected] | Orange County Register
      PUBLISHED: April 10, 2017 at 4:32 pm | UPDATED: April 10, 2017 at 4:34 pm

      THOUSAND OAKS — It’s a tradition on almost every team. Show up to camp, collect your T-shirt with the catchy, coach-speak slogan on the back and attempt to minimize the eye-rolling.

      The intensity in new coach Sean McVay’s eyes and voice, though, made it impossible to scoff at the “We Not Me” message that Rams players, coaches and staff members wore on blue, cotton tees Monday as the team opened the first phase of its two-month offseason workout program at Cal Lutheran.

      “Everyone was at full attention,” McVay said. “Guys were locked in. They were engaged. They were ready to go. I think it was definitely the way we wanted it to come off, as a coaching staff. Right now, it’s about building relationships with these guys.”

      It’s time for a culture change. Previous coach Jeff Fisher largely took a laissez-faire attitude that basically told players to have fun and be loose, as long as they prepared and came ready to play on Sunday. That level of trust made Fisher popular among players, but it also produced a 31-45-1 record from 2012-16.

      It’s far too early to fete McVay, the youngest coach in NFL history when the Rams hired him in January, but one thing is already clear: McVay is no Fisher. McVay’s body language suggests perpetual intensity, and that seemed to come across to players during their first formal meeting with McVay on Monday.

      “I think there’s some really good, new energy here,” quarterback Jared Goff said. “Coach McVay and the rest of his staff have done a great job exuding that energy and really letting us feel it. I think it’s really a fresh start for a lot of people. I think it’s a really good feeling. Just freshness is the best way to describe it.”

      There’s plenty of work ahead. This phase of offseason work, which will continue for two weeks, will focus mostly on off-field strength and conditioning. Per NFL rules, practice-like simulations aren’t allowed until next month, but Monday represented an important moment for McVay and the Rams.

      For the first time, McVay could transition from handshakes and salutations to football talk. He could distribute playbooks and talk about offensive and defensive systems and possible position changes.

      Most of all, he could make a good first impression on the players, and vice versa. That seems to have been a success. These offseason workouts are optional, but McVay said all players attended Monday, just more than three months after they completed a dismal 4-12 season.

      “Everybody came with a fresh start, a different mindset,” defensive tackle Aaron Donald said. “We left with a real bad taste in our mouths last year; a horrible taste. I’m pretty sure everybody is ready,...
      -04-10-2017, 05:22 PM
    • viper
      Bonsignore: Rams are a legitimate playoff threat
      by viper
      By Vincent Bonsignore | [email protected] | Daily News

      PUBLISHED: October 23, 2017 at 12:16 pm | UPDATED: October 23, 2017 at 9:04 pm

      At the risk of getting ahead of ourselves, it’s time to get ahead of ourselves.

      That means it’s time to stop pretending or skirting or avoiding.

      Be it out of fear of jinxing, the other shoe falling or having been burned and hurt so many times before simply protecting yourself from getting your hearts ripped out and trampled upon again.

      It’s time to embrace and accept reality. And own it.

      The Rams are a legitimate playoff contender.

      There, that wasn’t so bad now was it? But why stop there?

      The Rams are a legitimate threat to make a serious postseason run, too.

      Boom. It’s out there.

      And really, what’s to argue at this point?

      Take a look at the rest of the NFC and tell me there’s a team that has all its bases covered like the Rams do right now.

      An offense that’s generally been humming behind second-year quarterback Jared Goff, an offensive line playing as well as any in the league, a deep, versatile group of wide receivers and pass targets and running back Todd Gurley, the favorite for Comeback Player of the Year honors and the Most Valuable Player award.

      They lead the league in scoring and are ninth in total yards. They are the sixth-best rushing team in the NFL and the 12th-best passing team. On both fronts, there is ample room to get even better.

      There might be better defenses in the NFL, but after stabilizing themselves after a shaky initial transition to Wade Phillips’ 3-4 defensive scheme, the Rams have surrendered just 39 points over the past 14 quarters and, by all data and metrics, seem to be getting even better while combining an underrated back-end pass defense with the big push being generated upfront by Aaron Donald and friends.

      That’s not all.

      The Rams special teams are as good as any in the NFL with punter Johnny Hekker, sure-footed kicker Greg Zuerlein and return and coverage units that have already scored touchdowns on a kickoff return and blocked punt, forced a critical fumbled punt and also picked up an important first down on a fake punt.

      At various times this year, the Rams have beaten opponents by outgunning them offensively, slamming the door shut defensively or generating points via special teams. Sometimes all in the same game.

      Few teams can say that. And fewer can confidently count on all three phases clicking on a game-to-game basis.

      The Rams can.

      Which means they are uniquely built to deal with whatever weather issues lay ahead. And they’re versatile and flexible enough that, if one part of their game is struggling, they can rely on multiple others to help steady the ship or, as they already have this year, flat out be the difference...
      -10-24-2017, 01:58 PM
    • Nick
      Bonsignore: Rams weren’t ready for all that happened when the Coliseum lights came on
      by Nick
      Bonsignore: Rams weren’t ready for all that happened when the Coliseum lights came on
      By VINCENT BONSIGNORE | [email protected] | Daily News
      PUBLISHED: January 6, 2018 at 9:40 pm | UPDATED: January 7, 2018 at 11:01 am
      LOS ANGELES — It was bound to get weird. That much was a given.

      A Saturday night in Los Angeles. The sun long set over the Pacific Ocean. A dark, cloudless sky ominously hovering above to create a sinister, menacing atmosphere.

      Snoop Dogg in the house. Larry David chilling in an VIP tent. A cameo appearance by Tone Loc, of all people.

      The Rams playing their first playoff game in Los Angeles since 1979. A nervous packed house at the Coliseum.

      L.A. after dark, y’all. Yeah, it was bound to get weird. And it didn’t take long before the bizarreness began to unfold.

      Or for the Rams to figure out it was going to take more than the electric atmosphere provided by the biggest and most engaged crowd of the season and all those trips down memory lane, as one former L.A. Rams great after another was paraded onto the field, to overcome all the weirdness.

      Not to mention the experienced opponent standing proudly across from them in the defending NFC Champion Atlanta Falcons.

      When the sun went down and the bright lights turned on and curtain lifted and the strangeness commenced the Rams, well, were nowhere to be found.

      Not in the way we grew used to in the remarkable turnaround season they provided us with this season, anyway.

      All of which came to an abrupt, screeching halt Saturday night in a bitterly disappointing 26-13 loss to the Atlanta Falcons in which the Rams never quite found their way out of the darkness.

      Todd Gurley rushed for more than 100 yards on just 14 carries but, oddly, never even seemed a factor.

      The normally spectacular Rams special teams uncharacteristically contributed two killer turnovers on punt returns, resulting in two first quarter scores for the Falcons and a hole the Rams could never quite dig out from under.

      Pharoh Cooper, the Rams Pro Bowl punt returner, muffed one punt and coughed up another.

      He’s been steady all year while emerging as a dynamic weapon in the Rams return game. On Saturday he looked like a wide eyed youngster.

      “I’m sure he’d like to have a couple of those plays back,” said Rams head coach Sean McVay.

      Jared Goff, so poised and efficient during his bounce back from suspected rookie bust to second-year Pro Bowler struggled to complete 24 of 45 passes for 259 yards and just one touchdown.

      McVay, who masterfully stayed a step ahead of the posse all years with his game planning and play calling, could never quite figure out how to consistently generate positive yardage on early downs. The result was far too many off schedule second and third situations in which the Rams had to gobble...
      -01-07-2018, 11:43 AM
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