A little over a year ago, I wrote a blog post about the new (again) Los Angeles Rams. In a nutshell, I advised that we Rams fans should temper our expectations regarding our team. We weren't getting a winner, we were getting a fixer-upper.
What a difference a year makes.
With its ninth win, the Rams have secured a winning record for the first time in 13 years. What happened?
Not that I mind, but seriously, as the Rams are in contention for a division crown (and at the very least, a playoff spot), what happened?
First... let's not bury the lead, and just get right to addressing the elephant in the room... JEFF FISHER IS THE WORST COACH IN ORGANIZED FOOTBALL!
The Rams had talent under Jeff Fisher, but struggled to be anything close to competitive. Wunderkind Sean McVay rolls in and with pretty much the same roster (ok, he got some receiver help), he turns the Rams' fortunes around. More importantly, he's saving Jared Goff's career (this can not be stressed enough).
McVay may be a football savant performing his sideline sorcery, but in retrospect, Jeff Fisher stunk up the joint. There is no two ways about it. Using the same ingredients, McVay is making a five-star meal, while Fisher made questionable roach coach cuisine.
He sort of ran the Tennessee Titans into the ground (and they are just now righting that ship), and one could argue he did the same in St. Louis.
If you're into conspiracy theories, then you're likely to believe that the Rams hired him explicitly for this reason. Burn the place down, which opens the door for a move to Los Angeles. A little far-fetched and I'm not buying it, but I've already stirred the pot, what's a couple more stirs.
Last year, the Rams did start 3-1 before the wheels fell off. This year, the Rams started 3-1 again, but as the Rams radio announce team stressed, "This year's 3-1 feels different." Yes. Yes, it does.
I don't want to beleaguer the point, because he's not really worth this much vitriol, but here's the last thought on Jeff Fisher being a bad coach. Let's say Sean McVay just has the magic touch to undo Fisher's damage with Goff, turning a potential bust into a potential MVP candidate; those two have displayed some good chemistry. But let us not forget Case Keenum, the starter on opening day 2016 and for the first half of that season.
Jeff Fisher made Case Keenum look like a has-been (some may argue he actually is, and Fisher couldn't mask it). However, the very next year (this one we're currently in), Keenum is leading the Minnesota Vikings into the playoffs. And he's not just game managing. He's playing so well, that they are keeping Teddy Bridgewater on the bench even though he is ready to return from injury.
Woe be any team in the future that hires Jeff Fisher as coach.
(that will be the last I say on this matter)
Second, the Rams got a lot of schedule help.
The Rams ended up with games against the very beatable AFC South (3-0 so far) and a surprisingly average NFC East (2-2). Racking up these wins, and some good quality wins to boot, helps builds the team's proverbial confidence. More importantly, winning allows the team to play with a certain consistency and winning mindset, which is obviously preferred over regularly playing desperately from behind.
Even in losses, lessons can be learned. Though they lost to really good Super Bowl contenders in Minnesota and Philadelphia (and the Eagles was a winnable game), they have been able to bounce back for the next game and get the win. That is a sign of improving mental toughness. Again, building confidence in each other, the coaches, and the system builds a culture of winning down the road.
Third, the NFC West collapsed around them.
In my previous piece, I wrote that the Rams still play in a division with teams that, within the last five years, either...
Seattle is banged up and losing starters fast. But with Russel Wilson playing, they always have a chance. I think they beat the Eagles with a bag of Doritos starting at right tackle (I saw that chop block, Cool Ranch, even if the ref didn't).
Arizona got real old, real quick, and racked up so many injuries, somebody better start burning some sage.
San Francisco... well... sort of turned into a dumpster fire (though they are saying it's a controlled burn).
The NFC West was begging for someone to step up and claim it, and the Rams said, "Don't mind if I do."
With all this said, it's apparent I must update The Definitive Word on the Rams. I would still suggest tempering expectations of the Rams a bit just in case this is just a flash in the pan. But I don't think that's the case here. Good things are happening in Los Angeles, way sooner that I had hoped, and the future seems bright. The turnaround has been a sight to behold and the Rams are playing entertaining football. What a difference, truly, a year makes.
All that's remaining now is to decided whose jersey I should buy.
Thanks for visiting. Love, Demosthenes Spiropoulos