Ultimately, the particulars of this game will matter far less than this:
Rams will fire coach Steve Spagnuolo and GM Billy Devaney, per team source.
The first hatchet to fall in post-game action fell just hours after the St Louis Rams had finished adding a few cosmetic late scores to make a 34-27 finish over the San Francisco 49ers look a lot more competitive than perhaps it was. The Niners gave Rams-killer Frank Gore most of the day off, and still managed to rack up an arms-length 20-7 halftime lead. As the final 30 minutes ticked away, the Rams sideline came to a belated realization: Hey, maybe we should go for broke.
Suddenly, Spagnuolo and Josh McDaniels had Kellen Clemens and the offense swaggering all over the field, a half-comical "Don't let me get into my zone" moment. Clemens found Lloyd in the end zone on a beautiful deep fade, the Rams converted an onside kick then got Lloyd deep in the end zone again to draw a first-and-goal penalty that was actually converted into a score, thanks to Cadillac Williams.
The few thousand fans left in the building were finally getting a season's worth of entertainment. Too bad for next year's season ticket sales that none of these key players are necessarily coming back next year.
- Devaney is out.
- Spagnuolo is out.
- McDaniels will twist in the wind until Stan Kroenke gets his front office sorted out, or until he's hired away by Scott Pioli.
- Wherever McDaniels goes, Brandon Lloyd will follow.
- Cadillac Williams is an unrestricted free agent, as is Kellen Clemens.
- Even special teams coach Tom McMahon, who got his unit to execute a final perfect onside kick opportunity to keep his team in the game, is likely to fall victim to the vagaries of the next regime. (Failing to notice or cover a camoflaged Michael Crabtree on a 49ers fake-punt-thruned-touchdown won't look good on the resume.)
As usual, the carryover of this team's identity falls on just a few players: Steven Jackson, James Laurinaitis, and Chris Long. Oh, and whatever is left of Sam Bradford's psyche after a ruinous sophomore season has completely depleted his Q Score. (Don't try calling Charter's customer service this week: they're all Photoshopping David Freese's face into their next ad pitch.)
These three players, and perhaps defensive coordinator Ken Flajole, are now the building blocks of the franchise. One day into 2012, and it's feeling a lot like 2009 all over again.