You can take a team away from a city, but you can’t take the team away from an organization. The Rams may have ditched St. Louis for the sunny California lifestyle in L.A. but just because they moved doesn’t mean anything has changed other than their address. They are the same old dumpster fire of a team. This became abundantly clear on Monday night when the new LA Rams welcomed in the 2016 season by losing 28-0 to their division rivals, the San Francisco 49ers; a team that many people feel will challenge for the top pick in next year’s draft.
I am not going to lie. I was a little worried at first that the Rams, with their move out west, would suddenly become a good team. That they would finally live up to their yearly off-season hype and their players would finally take that next step. But it turns out that I was just being foolish. Because no matter how many miles you take a team, the organization is still run by the same people who have been running this organization into the ground over the last decade and led by the same coach who continues to defy logic and remain employed.
Los Angeles these are YOUR Rams. If you think this was just a bad game, well I have something to tell you. This is what you will see week to week with this organization. A team that commits absurd penalties, a team that believes they can win with a journey man at quarterback and a group of journey men at receiver, a team that can’t block for the best young running back in the league, a team that bills itself as having a dominant defensive line yet manages no sacks. All under the tutelage of Jeff Fisher, who doesn’t quite understand a football field is twice as long as it is wide yet feels the best way to run an offense is left to right on the field. Sure you may pull off an unbelievable win over the Denver Broncos or Seattle Seahawks like the Rams did last year, but in the same season you will also get destroyed by the Chicago Bears or fail to score more than 10 points in a game five times.
On Monday night the Rams had just as many punts as they did first downs (10). Case Keenum was under 100 yards passing for the majority of the night until a late drive boosted him up to whooping 130 yards. Todd Gurley, who was a top three pick among fantasy players this year, was held to 47 yards and 2.8 yards per carry. Of course he is hardly blame when he has to rely on an offensive line that has been perpetually porous and an offensive scheme that thinks going against 10 men in a box is normal. Oh and how about the new $10 million receiver for the Rams, Tavon Austin? He torched the 49ers defense for 15 yards on five touches; despite being targeted 12 times. (Insert shocking face emoji here). Mind you that Jeremey Kurley for the 49ers, a player signed just six days ago, caught 7 of his 11 targets for 61 yards with several catches that maintained 49ers drives.
Looking back I don’t know why I was worried the Rams would suddenly go from a frustratingly boring mediocre team to a contender. We in St. Louis have seen it each and every year under Fisher. The promise that they will get things fixed, cut down on penalties, and open up on offense. Only once the games start, we get the same old Rams.
I will admit I watched HBO’s Hard Knocks with the Rams this past summer because I wanted to see how they shaped the story. Of course television producers loved the coming back home angle. But I was interested in seeing what the organization was doing new. Do you know what my biggest takeaways from watching the show was? It was that William Hayes believes in mermaids but not dinosaurs, that #1 overall pick Jared Goff doesn’t know which direction the sun rises, and that Rams and Fisher haven’t changed at all.
Several moments stood out for me on the show. The first was when second year quarterback Sean Mannion challenged Goff, the #1 overall pick, to hit the cross-bar with a throw from about 30 yards out. Mannion offered up a $100 bet. Goff immediately declined. Mannion promptly said okay whatever, grabbed a ball and drilled the bar. This may seem like a simple little thing but being a part of a team I know that players are always making silly bets like that to do trick moves or shots. I am not saying Goff will not be a good player but it makes me doubt that when he won’t take a friendly bet like that. Was he too afraid to fail? What was the harm? Of course the bigger issue whether Goff will succeed eventually is the fact that he is saddled with being a part of the Rams organization. Why a team with no legit receivers and a coach that has NEVER been a quarterback guy, trade a wealth of draft picks for a quarterback that wasn’t even hands down the best guy in the draft? Just another Rams typical move.
And Goff is not off to a good start since he is the first player to be drafted first overall and not dress in week one of their season since the infamous JaMarcus Russell. Goff couldn’t even beat out Case Keenum, who managed a 34 quarterback rating on Monday, or even hold a clipboard as good as Sean Mannion. Quick side note on the Hard Knocks show. One of my favorite quotes was when they were trying to sell Goff as a quick learner and moving up the depth chart, the Rams qb coach (Chris Weinke) said “As Jared sees Case operate at a high level he is starting to raise his expectations and see how much better he can be.” Excuse me you just picked this guy first overall and he needs to raise his level to Case Keenum’s? Yeah, enough said.
Speaking of typical Rams moves, the second thing that caught my attention on the show was the episode where they decided to give Tavon Austin a contract extension. Austin, a diminutive receiver the Rams traded up to get in the draft three years ago, wanted A.J. Green and Julio Jones type numbers. The Rams official on the show actually said “he isn’t at that level but we’re close”. What!? Do you know what Green and Jones’ numbers are? Green has had at least 1,000 yards and three double-digit touchdown seasons in his five years in the league. Jones has three 1,000 yard seasons and finished with the second most receiving yards in NFL history with 1,871 yards in 2015. Oh and Austin, well he has never had more than 500 yards receiving in any of his three years in the NFL. In fact both Green and Jones have each had three individual seasons with more yards receiving than Austin’s career total of 1,146 yards.
So yes LA you have the NFL back in your city. But just because you have an NFL team it doesn’t mean you will get to see NFL quality football. Because to paraphrase my friend Chris Farley in Tommy Boy, you can take a piece of crap team, put it in a nice fancy box, and say we are bringing back the NFL to L.A. but in the end all they did was sell you an NFL quality piece of crap team.