Monday, January 2, 2012
One way to go for Rams under next coach
By Mike Sando
The firings of coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney from the St. Louis Rams have become official. Team owner Stan Kroenke issued a brief statement confirming what had been expected.
"No one individual is to blame for this disappointing season and we all must hold ourselves accountable," Kroenke said. "However, we believe it's in the best interest of the St. Louis Rams to make these changes as we continue our quest to build a team that consistently competes for playoffs and championships."
The Rams are now headed in a different direction following Steve Spagnuolo's three seasons (10-38 overall) in St. Louis.
The Rams finished 2-14 this season, which means they were likely to improve in the 2012 standings whether or not they made a coaching change.
Carolina went from 2-14 in 2010 to 6-10 this season after firing head coach John Fox. It's impossible to know whether the Panthers would have improved by as much or more by staying the course. They could not have gotten much worse.
Three teams went 4-12 in 2010. Cincinnati improved five games after keeping Marvin Lewis. Denver improved four games after firing Josh McDaniels. Buffalo improved two games after keeping Chan Gailey. How did coaching moves play into those changes? Again, it's tough to know.
Two teams went 5-11 in 2010. Cleveland lost ground in the standings by one game after hiring a new coach, Pat Shurmur. Arizona improved three games after keeping Ken Whisenhunt.
The Rams can easily justify the changes they are making by pointing to the bottom line. The team went 10-38 with Spagnuolo as its head coach. Nothing more needs to be said in justifying the move.
Kroenke has been with the Rams for years, but he is relatively new to the position of majority owner. The situation is perfect for him to set a new course with his own people. The team has a young franchise quarterback. Chris Long and James Laurinaitis give the next coach two young defensive players to build around. Robert Quinn could be another.
The team's salary-cap situation has improved. Most of the veterans signed to make a push in 2010 are easily expendable from a financial standpoint. The Rams are in position to become one of the NFL's younger teams with an offseason roster overhaul. They will have to acquire and develop starters throughout most of their offense. They need help at outside linebacker and throughout their secondary, depending to some degree on health-related issues.
In the accompanying video, ESPN's Adam Schefter points to Jeff Fisher as one potential candidate. That would make some sense, given Fisher's experience as a head coach. Spagnuolo was a first-timer. Hiring a more experienced coach would be one way to set a new course. Someone with credibility on a national level might initially help to win over skeptical Rams public.
The weight of 10-38 prevented the Rams from credibly pointing to a long list of injuries that obviously affected their chances in 2011. No one cares much why teams lose. They want winners. All parties understand that, making Kroenke's announcement no surprise to anyone.