As a lifelong fan, I feel entitled to ask the question, “How bad are the L.A. Rams?” The answer might be best understood by a look at the San Francisco 49ers. That once mighty franchise, winner of five Super Bowls, has won a total of two games all season. Or, put another way, they have zero wins against any team not named the Los Angeles Rams.
The 49ers 22-21 victory last weekend over the Rams at the L.A. Coliseum broke their franchise record thirteen game losing streak. But it was really more of a case of the Rams snatching defeat from the jaws of victory as they led 21-7 in the 4th quarter.
Not to pile on Jared Goff, Ram rookie quarterback and #1 selection in last year’s NFL draft, his quote after the game, however well intended, that rattled many fans. “I know I need to be better,” Goff said to reporters in a post-game interview. (Weren’t those Custer’s last words?)
There’s an old expression, “Half the battle to solving a problem is admitting there is a problem.” In the NFL, however, half the battle is having top quality players and top quality coaches, of which the Rams have too few and none respectively.
Unfortunately, the Rams have experience of late squandering 4th quarter leads. On November 20 against the Dolphins and also at the Coliseum, the Rams had a 10 point lead with six minutes to play. Proving that with them, no lead is safe, they managed to lose.
Against the 49ers, interceptions and an inept offense led to two Niner touchdowns and a two point conversion. Any hopes the Rams had of a game-winning field goal were dashed permanently with Goff’s last interception of the day, which sealed the loss and left the Rams with a dismal 4-11 record. (Mercifully, the last game of the year is against the Arizona Cardinals at the L.A. Coliseum.)
Since taking over the quarterback duties, young Goff is a “perfect” 0-6. If past is prologue, he’ll likely be 0-7 in the season finale against the Cardinals in Arizona. Goff has thrown 5 touchdowns this season but has 7 interceptions, a ratio that by average quarterback standards should be reversed if not better.
Goff is by no means the lone, or even, the main problem. The offensive line is so porous Goff is either sacked or running for his life. Against the 49ers he was sacked four times. There are so many weak spots on the team that to list them, especially at this late date in the season, would be futile.
Trying to be positive, perhaps the greatest individual achievement on the team this year came from punter, Johnny Hecker. (Some team and some season, when your punter is your MVP.)
Against the 49ers, Hecker punted eight times and established an NFL season records for punts placed inside opponents’ 20 yard. With four more against the Niners, Hecker’s season total so far is 50, four more than the previous record holder by Arizona’s punter Dave Zastudil in 2012. Whoopee!
Though there are far too few, but another bright spot is Kenny Britt, who became the Rams’ first receiver to amass 1000 yards receiving since 2007.
So where does that leave Ram fans for next year, given that it’s a little difficult to build a team around a punter. There will be a new coach, hopefully soon and maybe a new general manager. With the right head coach, many experts still feel Goff will someday be a franchise quarterback. (Others predict he will ultimately be more like Ryan Leaf than Tom Brady, harsh as that sounds.)
While Ram owner, Stan Kroenke is among the richest in the NFL, the league is so profitable, there’s almost no incentive to invest huge sums in personnel, at least strictly from a strictly business standpoint. Despite the boos last weekend at the Coliseum, 83,000+ showed up to the Ram-49er game. Actually, the Rams will turn a healthy profit in 2016, even in an unhealthy season.
The last time the Rams made the playoffs was in 2005. The NFL prides itself, unlike the NBA, for example, where pretty much the same teams make the playoffs every year, that turnover of NFL playoff teams, from year to year is exceptionally high. And statistics do tend to back up the theory.
The NFL playoffs consist of 12 teams, whereas 16 make it in the NBA and NHL. On average, five NFL teams not in the playoffs make it the following year.
So, for next year, theoretically and statistically, there’s hope. Having said that, the Rams, with so many deficiencies in so many areas, will definitely test that theory. Wouldn’t it be nice at least if the Rams ended the season with an upset win? A guy can dream, can’t he?
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth and firstname.lastname@example.org.