Former Minnesota coach Brad Childress has been the early front-runner of imagined candidates. After all, he is a close friend of Steve Spagnuolo and a high branch in the Mike Holmgren WCO coaching tree. But NFL.com's Jason LaCanfora throws a wrench in the works:
JasonLaCanfora Coordinator musical chairs - still hear Mike McCoy to KC to replace Weis, Josh McDaniels to Rams if Pat Shurmur new HC in CLE as many expect
Bomb. Shell. And it blows the notion of offensive continuity out of the water.
Hiring former Denver Broncos coach Josh McDaniels as coordinator could send the Rams down a path of coordinator instability similar to the one San Francisco followed (against its will) after drafting Alex Smith first overall in 2005;
Bradford is better than Smith, so let's not get carried away with comparisons if the Rams do change systems early in Bradford's career;
-- Mike Sando, ESPN.com
With that in mind, I reached out to Bryan Douglass, a fellow Fanball alum and owner of deep knowledge on the Denver Broncos, for a perspective on McDaniels that I bet few Rams fans have heard. His response was so thorough that I am breaking it up into two posts. Here is part one of our interview:
The NFL has a sacred place in many of our hearts, a Sunday ritual attended to as faithfully as any church service. The game itself is as compelling and as well-watched as any televised program today, and even a deep economic recession has little affected attendance numbers. (Source: Forbes.com) Frankly, we love the game and we expect those who shepherd it to be reasonable-minded men interested in keeping the flock healthy and whole.
And that's what makes the contrarian stance of the owners, led by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, so difficult to understand.
Doug Farrar, writer for the Shutdown Corner on Yahoo, as well as Football Outsiders, sat in on an NFL Players Association conference call, and captured some unbelievable things in his Twitter timeline. Said Farrar as an introduction: "It's clear from this NFLPA conference call that the league's and the players' takes on player safety are very far apart." However, it isn't just the players that are on the so-called playing field of this business negotiation... now Goodell is openly going after their families, directly attacking the players' ability to be providers.
If the CBA negotiation process breaks down completely, and the players find themselves locked out of their jobs, they'll be unemployed -- with the corresponding loss of health insurance and other benefits that are commensurate with full-time employment.
FO_DougFarrar Scott Fujita, CLE player rep, says on conf. call- player wives have asked if they should induce labor before lockout health insurance lapses
FO_DougFarrar Again -- this is a NINE BILLION DOLLAR PER YEAR organization in which the wives of the players wonder if births of kids will be covered.
FO_DougFarrar Fujita asked Goodell about those player wives worried about insurance, and Goodell said, "well, you'll want to get this done, won't you?"
If the CBA negotiation process breaks down completely, and we find our Sundays hijacked and the growth of our Rams stunted, remember this moment. Maybe this bit of inhumanity, this bit of irrationality, this pure lack of reason was the line in the sand that couldn't be crossed.
Bryan Kehl: From the Giants' waivers to Rams starter at WLB.
Many Rams draft boards are going to put weakside linebacker high on their list of priorities. How bad is this need? Let’s put on our research caps and find out.
Firstly, by definition the “weak side” linebacker lines up on defense alongside Laurinaitis, facing the side of the offensive line that is unprotected by a tight end. The linebacker that lines up opposite the TE is called the “strong side” LB. However, this assumes an offense is lining up in a 1-TE formation; if the offense lines up four wide, the defense will want to sub these guys off the field and bring in additional cover DBs.
Before we debate the needs of the Rams at linebacker, particularly on the weakside, it’s important to understand how the Rams populated that position in 2010. Thanks to the stats at ProFootballFocus, we can do just that. Full analysis (and some helpful infographics) after the break:
I don’t usually start to get too excited about specific players until the Senior Bowl (January 29th), and the NFL Combine (Feb 23rd), particularly those that project to land somewhere after the first round. But that doesn’t mean that we can’t talk broader draft strategy, areas of need, and start slotting in types of players to fill those needs.
I had a conversation with @nfldraftscout of New Era Scouting last week about a few potential targets … expect this to be just the start of a fun offseason of debate and discussion as the Rams begin reinforcing and building onto their most successful season in years.
Need: an upgrade at RB
Perhaps not the top need on this team, but Steven Jackson’s Pro Bowl berth aside, he is getting dangerously close to the precipice. With 389 “looks,” the 2nd highest total in the game (combined carries (330) and targets (59) in the passing game), Jackson was one of the few backs in the league to receive “bellcow” work. The good news is that his back held up, and that after fighting through a groin injury, appeared to be at full speed late in the season. The bad news is that his yards per play continued a troubling downward trend. And if this trend continues unabated, I have to heartily disagree with the Post-Dispatch Roudtable’s consensus that #39 has “3 more Pro Bowl seasons” left in the tank.
2008: 4.1 yards per carry / 4.9 yards per play
2009: 4.4 yards per carry / 4.6 yards per play
2010: 3.8 yards per carry / 4.3 yards per play
Surprisingly, considering Jackson’s hands and playmaking ability, the well-acknowledged shortage of WR talent wearing horns, and the predilection of most west-coast offenses, the Rams ranked 30 of 32 teams in percentage of passing targets to their RBs. To my mind, this is an easy and obvious area of improvement, both schematically and by adding new talent to the rotation. Keep Jackson fresh, offer a legitimate change of pace, and the productivity of the offense as a whole improves from the inside.
Question for New Era Scouting: I'm hoping the Rams find a young rotational RB with hands, in the LeSean McCoy / Jahvid Best mold. Any candidates?
nfldraftscout @RamsHerd Could definitely look at Shane Vereen in round three, but he's not as shifty. Good hands though.
Above average speed, can get to the corner...Very stout build... Versatile player who can contribute in a number of ways...
Gets a lot of comparisons to Ray Rice for his size and style of play...
Good hands out of the backfield... Runs excellent routes, has run plays out of the slot before.
Still rather small for an NFL back... Decent in pass protection, but is usually running routes on passing downs...
Likely slated to be a change-of-pace back in the NFL, will not be a workhorse.
As a college recruit, Vereen was rated a 4-star prospect by Rivals, and ranked just above Florida’s Chris Rainey among all-purpose backs. And at Cal Berkeley, he prospered in a program known for producing NFL RB talent, including Marshawn Lynch, Justin Forsett and Jahvid Best, whom the Rams barely missed out on last season.
Vereen’s scouting report casts him as perhaps an ideal counterpart to Jackson -- young and talented and tough enough to earn reps from multiple spots on the field, but not a true “threat” to take over his starting role in the coming year, which is an important factor in team chemistry. Jackson’s leadership and his obvious competitive drive are still a huge part of this team. When he embraced the new GM and the new coaching staff without hesitation, the rest of the team followed suit. While Bradford is the new face and hope of the franchise, Jackson is still its beating heart. The goal here is to supplement him, not to replace him, and not to plant his successor right under his nose as Jackson himself was once planted under Marshall Faulk.
MaryKayCabot ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported that according to NFL executives, Rams OC Pat Shurmur is emerging as the frontrunner for the Browns top job.
FtblSickness Yep. BUT, 2 things on which I trust Holmgren: QB's and coaches. RT @AaronAloysius: @FtblSickness "Meh" appears to be consensus on Shurmur.
Sam Bradford is almost a shoo-in for the NFL's offensive rookie of the year award (vote now! vote often!), having thrown and completed the most passes in NFL rookie history, but it looks as though his success is having unexpected ripple effects. Despite fitful success in his two years here, the Rams' offensive improvement from last year to this is undeniable. And as much scorn as Shurmur gets for the "conservatism" of the offense -- blame that may be shared between the offensive coordinator and his head coach -- the offense he tailored helped Sam Bradford make the most of a scrappy bunch of underdogs and unlikelies at receiver, and helped the Rams to a six-win improvement in the standings. And that improvement apparently makes Shurmur something of a hot commodity around the NFL.
On Friday, Shurmur interviewed for the head coaching position in Cleveland, a football city absolutely defined by "scrappy bunch of underdogs and unlikelies," and one with a bright young quarterback of its own. And from all reports, his interview was very impressive.
For Billy Devaney, hiring the combination of Spagnuolo, Shurmur and Ken Flajole as first-time head coach, offensive and defensive coordinators was a big commitment to growing together as a team. It was also, as commenter CoachConnors once put it, "a massive experiment in simultaneous learning curves."
While Shurmur is still young as an offensive coordinator, he showed his potential with brilliant gameplans in Week 12 vs Denver and Week 16 vs San Francisco. But is he ready to be a head coach in the NFL? As the Rams showed with Spagnuolo, two years and some success as a coordinator is about all it takes these days to be a candidate, especially if you're committed to a youth movement. And for Browns' GM Mike Holmgren, Shurmur represents a short reach into his own coaching tree, as well as a young and presumably "moldable" guy that won't mind Holmgren's guiding hand.
Now if Shurmur gets the position, the Rams and Bradford will be facing a new experiment -- a second offensive coordinator and potentially a second offensive philosophy in two years. However, Spagnuolo could reach into this same coaching tree and shake out a guy who he has a close connection with in Brad Childress. (Remember, Spagnuolo specifically sought out Chilly's counsel when the Rams were debating the Randy Moss acquisition.)
Offensive continuity is a critical factor in the growth and development of young quarterbacks, lest we grow and develop a new Alex Smith. However, losing Shurmur might not be the biggest risk to this continuity. The biggest fear factor for the Rams has to be a lockout. If the NFL owners and players association fails to come together on a CBA this offseason, Bradford would be isolated from his new coach, from his new playbook, until the lockout ended. And Bradford would be unable to take the necessary next step of getting deeper into his offense, his reads, his progressions.
"Impossible is just a big word thrown around by small men who find it easier to live in the world they've been given than to explore the power they have to change it. Impossible is not a fact. It's an opinion. Impossible is not a declaration. It's a dare. Impossible is potential. Impossible is temporary. Impossible is nothing."
-- Muhammed Ali, seconded by Pete Carroll
There's a school of thought out there, and Tony Dungy is the biggest proponent of it, that you don't have to do anything special to win in the playoffs. That "raising your game" is a myth. (I have a strong suspicion that Coach Spagnuolo leans in the same direction.) But yesterday's improbable, incredible upset victory by Marshawn Lynch and the Seahawks, the nine-loss team that flat out beat the Rams to gain entry to this exclusive set of extra games, pretty much blows that theory out of the water.
The Seahawks pulled out all the stops on offense, even with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback, in Week 17. Even with their obvious limitations with Whitehurst, they took a big shot early and caught the Rams' flat-footed, building a lead that they never sacrificed. It fired up the sideline, the crowd, and gave the team a burst of momentum that never fully dissipated, despite the Rams' stifling effort on defense over the next three quarters.
Beating the Rams is one thing, but taking down the reigning Super Bowl champs is another, and doing it with this beat-up Seattle unit is a third thing all together. But it all boils down to the same thing -- taking your shots, finding weaknesses and attacking them, getting momentum on your side, and delivering more punches than your opponent can handle. Over and over again, regardless of your personnel, your recent history, or the expectations of the dozens of cameras and millions of fans that are watching.
The Seahawks wrung incredible performances from a hobbled Matt Hasselbeck and his banged-up offensive line. They harassed Drew Brees all game long, never letting up despite giving up 36 points, and were rewarded with a crucial 4th quarter interception. And they may have gotten the greatest playoff running play ever from Marshawn Lynch, an incredible ankle-breaking tackle-defying 67-yard marathon that signified the realization of the impossible.
Who in their right mind would want to play the Seattle Seahawks now? They've already had a wildly successful season and are the only team in the picture with absolutely nothing to lose as they move forward in the playoffs. It's almost like they've already won their Super Bowl and are now just playing for the sheer joy of it. No pressure, no worries. The Seahawks will be playing fast and loose knowing every step they take from now on was totally unanticipated by anyone outside of a few crazy fans and a couple of local sports personalites just a week ago.
Momentum is the key in playoff football. Each team tries to push the other toward the season-ending abyss, and it takes incredible fortitude and confidence to get up and push back, once you've been knocked down. There's no such thing as "protecting a lead" in the playoffs; you're simply allowing the other team to get back up. If you aren't willing to attack for 60 minutes, to push and shove and kick the other team off the edge, then you deserve your ticket home.
And after their milquetoast gameplan on offense in Week 17, Spagnuolo and the Rams most definitely deserved their ticket home.
ottoman89 @RamsHerd @evilslash13 To me, Spagnuolo treated the Seattle game like a learning experience, rather than giving it his all. Is that crazy?
Honestly, the worst thing that could have happened to Sam Bradford and the Rams would have been to somehow pull out a win over Seattle. It would have validated their coaches' ass-backwards gameplan, and they would have gotten absolutely smoked by the Saints in front of the home crowd.
If this was to be a learning experience, hopefully Spagnuolo was watching carefully yesterday. Hopefully Pete Carroll's team just brought that lesson home with yesterday's "impossible" win.
If Sam Bradford is going to turn his obvious talent into a championship legacy, he can't be held back by a philosophy of fear. He can't be held down by a coaching staff that can't -- or won't -- raise their game when the situation demands.
To steal ideas from one person is plagiarism. To steal from many is research.
The regular season built to a roar, then finished with a whimper. In less than a week, though, the myriad possibilities that the Rams of 2011 could take as they continue to rebuild have taken over our conversation as Rams fans. And in many ways, that conversation is as exciting as talking about the season itself. Some thoughts on the first week of the offseason.
The Rams’ #1 need is at wide receiver... but who will be there at #14?
The two leading receivers entering the draft are AJ Green (Georgia) and Julio Jones (Alabama). As the college season went on, they may have jostled with each other for the top spot, but both appeared to separate from the pack as the best available options. However, draft guru Mike Mayock says that there may be as many as five first-round talents in this year’s crop of wideouts. The only catch? All five are juniors.
Of course, the question is, who comes out? By this point, everyone with an eye toward the draft (or who has sat in front of ESPN in the past week) knows that Stanford QB Andrew Luck, the consensus #1 talent available, has decided to return for his senior year rather than become slightly richer than Sam Bradford.
Luck’s decision upsets the order at the top of the draft, and moves each obvious talent one rung up (and further away from the Rams at #14). But it could also reflect severe uncertainty among underclassmen, regarding the chances to actually play a full NFL season in 2011. Why come out now, with the unknown specter of a rookie wage scale looming, and the possibility of not working with your new coaches for months?
Assuming that there is WR talent in the draft...
With an unsettled mess in the quarterback ranks, teams may shy away as they did from Jimmy Clausen and Colt McCoy last year. In that case, it’s almost a certainty that two premier edge talents in Green and Jones go early. Would it be insane to draft a third WR by the 14th pick? Well, at the very least it isn’t unprecedented, but recent history says that you’re entering a crapshoot.
Since the 1982 strike, there have been eight drafts that featured at least three WRs drafted by pick 14. And in nearly every one of those years you had a collosal bust: Troy Williamson and big Mike Williams in 2005 (though Williams may be redeeming himself now); Reggie Williams in 2004; Peter Warrick (the first WR picked) in 2000; Troy Edwards in 1999; Michael Westbrook and JJ Stokes in 1995; Alvin Harper in 1991.
1988’s receiver class was the only one of the bunch that stands out, with Tim Brown, Sterling Sharpe and Michael Irvin among the top 11 players drafted. Is this that kind of draft? And should that color the way we perceive second-tier talents like Pittsburgh’s Jonathan Baldwin, Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd or Maryland’s Torrey Smith?
Here at RamsHerd, we are officially geeking out about the draft, and with fellow writer Ottoman89 coming on board to contribute, expect a ton of content in the next few months to discuss questions like these, talk about player we love (and those we hate), and try our hand at shaping the next year’s Rams.