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Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Rams' problems could be systemic

By Mike Sando
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

The Rams' problem areas span top to bottom. The team began its shakeup at the top by forcing out longtime executive Jay Zygmunt. At the bottom, the team levied a $25,000 fine against backup running back Antonio Pittman for missing practice Saturday, the day after his birthday.

Meanwhile, interim coach Jim Haslett wants everyone to know that a coach can't change an organization's culture midway through the season. That is undoubtedly true in some cases. It might be true in the Rams' case.

But the Rams lost Sunday to a team that can make case to the contrary. The 49ers, 2-5 under Mike Nolan to start the season, have posted a 4-4 record under Mike Singletary. The record is 4-3 since the bye week, when Singletary made a clean break from J.T. O'Sullivan to Shaun Hill at quarterback.

The Rams' problems run so deep that ownership might decide this is the time to start fresh with a new coaching staff and significant roster changes.

The Rams are an older team. Heading into Week 16, the Rams had the third-oldest 53-man roster in the league. Their starters were the third-oldest in the league. Older players can become jaded, making it harder for a coach to sell his philosophy.

The Rams have 15 players in their 30s, one off the league high, and nine starters in their 30s, tied for the league high.

Every team needs veterans, and some of the Rams' older players are assets, but I'll be interested in seeing how many are back for another season in St. Louis. New England led the league with 16 players in their 30s entering Week 16, but the Patriots have an established program. They also run a 3-4 defense, which often works best with veterans.

A quick look at Rams players in their 30s heading into Week 16: Trent Green, La'Roi Glover, Leonard Little, Cory Withrow, Orlando Pace, Corey Chavous, Jason Craft, Chris Draft, Dane Looker, Torry Holt, James Hall, Marc Bulger, Anthony Becht, Fakhir Brown and Todd Johnson.