Steve Spagnuolo rushed through his Monday afternoon press conference, leaving the podium after three questions and leaving several topics unasked, hanging in the air. He is sticking to the "missed tackle" message from his post-game conference, placing the blame squarely on his players on defense. He even offered a little nugget for the stat crowd, citing 180+ yards that came after missed tackles on only eleven plays.
He's bending the truth a little bit here, as technically you have to at least be in position to lay hands on someone to "miss" a tackle. DeMarco Murray didn't have so much as a fingertip on him on his 1st quarter 91-yard touchdown run.
But we'll concede the point that the Rams players could certainly be tackling better, and executing better. But are players going all out for Spags this year, as they did in years past? Or is there a virus of apathy and doubt spreading through the locker room? Exactly the kind of question that should have been asked in the pressroom, but wasn't.
Enter D'Marco Farr and the crew of the Fast Lane, who had a chance to grill the coach during a radio interview on 101sports.com. They broached the topic of "effort" early and often in the interview, specifically as it relates to tackling, practice habits, and the coaches' responsibility to maintain that effort. In fact, Farr made a point of leading off the interview with it:
Farr: We know how the season's going, we've heard every question, we've heard every answer. Do you think your guys are giving it all they have?
Spagnuolo: I do. I've never questioned that, D'Marco. Now we go through some ups and downs but I truly believe, in the middle of these football games, they're giving it everything they've got.
Just a few minutes later, though, Steven Jackson offered an implicit criticism of his teammates' effort that doesn't quite jibe with the coach's words.
Karraker: Do you see any light at the end of the tunnel?
Jackson: It's not going to be easy. And this is a situation where, as coaches and as players... now you have to look for guys who are willing to fight. Who's going to go out there and give you 60 hard minutes of football, regardless of the scoreboard, regardless of the situation on the season? You want to put out there the best eleven players, guys who are going to give their all out.
It's a painful thing for Jackson to have to address this year, after as many of these battles as he's already been through. You can hear the fatigue in his voice as he gives the same answer he had to give in 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009. This team was supposed to be finally loaded up around him with added talent on top of the core of hungry players that had been developed over the last few years. He and the Rams weren't supposed to have to worry about keeping guys motivated this season. But clearly, it's a huge problem at this point.
Getting back to Spagnuolo, the radio crew also directly addressed another burning topic left unasked in the pressroom: his job security.
Karraker: Do you concern yourself, coach, with your job security at this stage?
Spagnuolo: I can't do that, Randy. I mean that would be detrimental to what we're trying to do here.... I just put my nose to the grindstone, let the good Lord take care of the rest.
Of course, the question of job security isn't Spagnuolo's to answer. That is being decided (or has already been decided) in Stan Kroenke's tightly guarded boardroom. It might be a surprise to see this matter settled before the season is out, though. At this point, though, it might be a much bigger surprise to see this front office and coaching staff return intact for 2012.