Report: Spagnuolo, Devaney are out

January, 1, 2012
1/01/12
8:26
PM ET
ESPN's Chris Mortensen cites a St. Louis Rams team source as saying the organization plans to fire coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney.

The team has made no announcement, but this outcome was widely anticipated. The Rams now have a 10-38 record in three seasons under Spagnuolo. Unlike some other teams, notably the division-rival Seattle Seahawks, the Rams lacked the young depth to overcome a long list of injuries this season.

The cumulative weight of Spagnuolo's record and the team's personnel shortcomings made change appear imminent.

Successes enjoyed elsewhere in the division also worked against the Rams' current leadership.

Ken Whisenhunt has led the Arizona Cardinals to a .500 or better record four times in five seasons after taking over a franchise that had achieved laughingstock status. Pete Carroll has gotten the Seattle Seahawks to 7-9 twice while blowing up the roster and rebuilding with young talent. Jim Harbaugh has taken the San Francisco 49ers to a 13-3 record in his first season, producing the team's first playoff appearance in a decade.

The injuries St. Louis suffered this season bought some slack for Spagnuolo and Devaney, in my view. But finishing 0-6 in the division was unacceptable given what the Rams' rivals were working with at quarterback. St. Louis went 0-2 against John Skelton and 0-2 against Tarvaris Jackson. The Rams lucked into a victory at Cleveland when the Rams botched the snap on a chip-shot field goal.

There simply wasn't enough evidence things were headed in the right direction to warrant staying the course. Spagnuolo's defensive scheming was never in question. His game management came under fire at times, however, and the Rams struggled to win when games were close in fourth quarters. The 49ers' ability to fool the Rams with a fake field goal Sunday strengthened the impression that Spagnuolo could not make the difference in close games.

The Rams were 1-10 under Spagnuolo when tied or trailing by no more than seven points after three quarters. They were 4-5 when leading by 1-7 points after three quarters.

If the Rams were going to fire Devaney, they also were probably best off replacing Spagnuolo, in my view. Changing both positions allows the next leadership regime to start fresh together and on the same page. That gives the team a better chance to avoid infighting that can occur when a new GM inherits an established head coach.

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