Here's a quick quiz, America of 2009, name a St Louis Ram not named "Steven Jackson." Take your time, we’ll wait.
The name recognition value of the franchise had hit a low ebb as the Rams' Ultimate Franchise Ranking fell to #114, and with it went the pride of the local fan. Not only were there few wins to brag about, there were few players on the roster to point at and pin your hopes for the future on.
For any Rams fan caught in enemy territory, a conversation about football prompted an immediate "fight or flight" response -- either get sucked into a self-defeating argument about how much better this bunch of no-names were than they appeared, or flee to tales of the Greatest Show glory days.
Of course, we and the other hard-core fans couldn't help but fight for the recognition of hard-working talents like James Laurinaitis and OJ Atogwe. And if we were feeling punchy, we could bring up the untapped potential of players like Chris Long or Donnie Avery. But it was all too obvious that our team had more holes than could be filled in a single offseason.
Fortunately, the Rams plugged the biggest hole on the roster: the Face of the Franchise.
Players: 65th overall (12th in NFL) … was 108th Overall (30th in NFL)
Coaches: 48th overall (12th in NFL) … was 71st Overall (21st in NFL)
Just a little bit of star power from Sam Bradford helps raise the public perception of the team, and by proxy, all the gutbucket players who might not otherwise ever be mentioned on SportsCenter, or reach the consciousness of the average fan. Most of this team didn’t change from last year’s, which rated in the gutter of player love, even though a good chunk of the team was putting forth honest effort. So while Joey Facebook might not be able to tell you his name, now he can tell you that “that guy on the Rams’ defense” is pretty underrated.
Most of the coaching staff didn't change over from 2009 to 2010. While it's nice to think that adding a few wins to his resume has helped bring some sexy back to Steve Spagnuolo, the timing of this poll leaves little doubt that the addition of former Patriots golden boy Josh McDaniels is providing a big boost here.
The Beer Factor
Affordability: 72 overall (12th in NFL) … was 89th Overall (22nd in NFL)
The NFL is a rich man’s game. Only three teams (all small market franchises) rate in the top twenty of the Affordability factor. Even ranking in the top third of the league puts the Rams below the national average among all professional teams.
As NFL teams go, though, freshly-cut ticket prices and cheap, cheap parking (thank you downtown defoliation!) make the Rams a relatively cheap date. Still, though, I wish someone would take up my idea from last year:
“Plenty of bars are making bank by selling cheaper beers for cheap prices, and distributors can't move enough Stag, PBR, or Miller High Life into the south city coolers. Why not adopt the same practice at the stadium? Even if there was only one $5 beer man in the stadium, he would be a huge hit.”
Title Track: 37th Overall (11th in NFL … was 12th)
The Rams’ ranking here hasn’t changed. We’re one year further removed from the Greatest Show era, but also have some major foundation pieces hopefully in place to allow a ramp up toward a new era of contention, and potentially a new Super Bowl run. With Bradford continuing his precocious growth rate, Spagnuolo establishing a new defensive identity, and Josh McDaniels' ability to take apart opposing defenses, it's suddenly easy to see how the pieces could all fit together.
And this is the keystone to restoring the pride of the fan: a legitimate reason to hope.