Tag: jeff fisher

So long for just a while, Nick Foles

Sooner or later, it had to happen. The St. Louis Rams passing offense ranked near the bottom of the league. Jeff Fisher kept saying they would fix things. They would work on things. Well, you can’t work on crap.

NFL: Preseason-Indianapolis Colts at St. Louis Rams
Mandatory Credit: Scott Kane-USA TODAY Sports

After a terrible effort where he made Jay Cutler look like Tom Brady by comparison, Nick Foles has lost his job as starting quarterback. The only thing he has right now is financial security. Two thirds of his preseason minted three year/26 million dollar extension is guaranteed. He will be a high paid clipboard holding scout team running quarterback for a few weeks. Foles earned that spot.

People weren’t too excited to see Case Keenum get the keys because they think he is a Foles clone. Well, until I see Keenum, a former Houston Texan, overthrow or all together misfire eight different throws in a single game, he is an upgrade over The Philly kid. If Keenum can connect on a ten yard pass or hit a deep route, he’s golden. If he doesn’t find a way to miss the gigantic body of Jared Cook on a wide open play, Keenum will be okay against the not what it once was Baltimore Ravens defense.

Maybe Foles should start against division rivals only. His best games in 2015 were against Seattle, Arizona and San Francisco. He had quarterback passing ratings of 115.8, 126.9 and 101.9 against those guys. In those games, he threw five touchdowns and zero interceptions. Did he make a special sandwich the night before? Wake up on the right side of the bed. Get shave. Have a good cup of coffee. Hit up Mom’s Deli before the game. There’s no telling, but in the other games he was average at best and terrible often. He threw two touchdowns and slung six picks. He had a 23.8 rating against the Green Bay Packers when sensational running back Todd Gurley was carrying him and the offense on his not so broad shoulders. He had a 68 PR against the Minnesota Vikings and a 53 rating against the Bears. Foles could mess up a wet dream.

He’s done. For now. I don’t think we will see Foles for three weeks at least. The Rams can’t afford to completely quit on him. Keenum has to prove himself.  Behind him, it’s Sean Mannion, their recent quarterback draftee. They traded the oft injured Sam Bradford(who hurt his shoulder again and was concussed Sunday) for Foles, a Chip Kelly prodigy who apparently his good arm up East. This guy is bad. Stinky bad. He’s not hurt like Sam, but he might as well be missing something.

It comes down to making throws my friends. Your receivers may drop a few and kill a couple drives but a good quarterback has to be able to overcome his receivers mediocre lot in life and find a way to connect. For nine pitiful games, Foles showed zero consistency. He was the Rams ineptitude over the Jeff Fisher regime. Not good enough. Not even close.

Can Keenum produce better results? He can’t do any worse. The receivers will publicly rally around Foles while quietly celebrating the change. This is a money game. Receivers want to get paid. They can’t do that trying to impersonate Shaq. Keenum may not be Aaron Rodgers but he will be something different. For now that’s good enough.

 

 

Why St. Louis fans should care about the Rams

If you care about football in St. Louis, you should care about the Rams. It’s as simple as that as the Rams have their second home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers today. There’s an old saying that I can’t let go as I creep up in age. Don’t let something that you can’t control affect you. The situation with the Rams and how the team arrived at this fork in the road is not a fault on the fans and that is why they shouldn’t give up just yet.

For the past 10 years, while losing teams and miserable times mounted around the Edward Jones Dome and Rams park, they showed up to watch something begin again. Unlike most fan bases of losing teams, the Rams fans never gave up and whatever owner Stan Kroenke “didn’t” say, the attendance was respectable. Watching this Rams team play football the past decade is the equivalent to watching a car suddenly lose power steering and go screaming off a cliff, rolling down the nearside hill hitting every bump on the way down. It hasn’t been easy.

Yes, the owner has something to do with that. Kroenke makes Harrison Ford on a talk show seem chatty. He doesn’t say a word but he sure does speak volumes with headlines. He pushes pawns all across the board, wages the future of his football team on a dream lot in California, and doesn’t say a word to fans. He helped bring the team here and waited for his opportunity to snag ownership of them back. He’s never fully invested in this team in St. Louis. If Stan played poker, he’d make even more money. His poker face is a 24/7 gauntlet. Don’t even try to read it. I’ll sum it up. It reads, “I don’t care about you.”

That doesn’t mean stay away from the games downtown. Do St. Louis a favor and SHOW UP. Cheer for your team. Show them that you care. That is the best and only way to hurt Stan’s plan. Show that the city is a viable place for NFL football. Pack the dome. Light up the city on Sunday mornings and afternoons. Don’t let the hard work of stadium task force leaders Dave Peacock and Bob Blitz die in vain. Create a frenzy and see what happens. If the team does leave, at least you can say you did something about it. You did your best. As a football fan pleading for its team to remain in St. Louis, it’s the only thing you can do.

The Rams team is a young group once again. A bunch of young men trying to create something special out of improbable parts. Their quarterback, Nick Foles, is a transplant from Philadelphia, looking to start anew. Their running back corps consists of a few bodies. The receiving core is a group of men still trying to find their true potential and seeing their 4th or 5th different quarterback throw passes towards them. The defense is the white snake of this plaza. Powered by defensive end Robert Quinn, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and linebacker James Laurinaitis. Their front seven is among the best in football, a feared group of tacklers that dares opposing teams to run the ball.

Yes, the secondary isn’t exemplary and the offensive line will need patch work throughout the season. With a new offensive coordinator comes hope of a more exciting system but also the dreaded Jeff Fisher override. Will the passing game be opened up? Will Tavon Austin and Brian Quick be turned loose? Or will the Rams die via check down boredom? All of that is up in the air.

Here’s what is known. There are 16 games to play, and eight of them are at home. The fans need to show their pride one more time. Stand up for not only the Rams but the prospect of NFL action in St. Louis in general. Instead of grunting about Stan and his evil ways from your chair in St. Louis county, get down there and mix it up with the fans. Tailgate, barbecue, scream, shout and cheer. This young team will be empowered by it. This fanbase will seem stronger than ever. The city of St. Louis may just fly on it.

It’s all we can do. Show up, make our presence known and see what happens. It all starts today.

The Rams Raw Talent Defines 2013

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Another year in the books and another year of watching another team not named the Rams in the playoffs.  It is perfectly civil to be disappointed with the Rams for finishing 7-9 and at least in record alone, finishing worst than last season.   Just do me a favor and don’t be ashamed or disgusted.   Sure, these Rams are young, dumb and full of attitude and aggression.  That spilled out over Sunday’s finale in Seattle, as the NFC champ Seahawks took our little dudes to school in a place where very few opposing teams leave with head held high.  The Rams got whopped 27-9 and got a lesson in where they are at in the current rebuilding mode.   I’ll break down what I saw and what happens going forward.

Listening around Twitter and other internet sites, certain minds would have it that the Rams were supposed to play the upset card and win the NFC West this season.   I personally picked them to go 9-7 and when Sam Bradford went down, I would have bet on a 5-11 finish.   In the end, Kellen Clemens stepped in, Jeff Fisher and Brian Schottenheimer revamped the offensive game plan and Zac Stacy solidified the Rams rushing attack enough to steal games from the Colts, Bears and Saints to win 7 games.

In a disappointing season, look at the bright sides.  The Rams were 3-4 when Bradford went down in towards the end of week 7, and we went 4-3 down the stretch instead of tanking completely.  Clemens played well and should return as the backup if another team doesn’t scoop him up.  Stacy rushed as good as any RB in the league over the last 9 games and defensive end Robert Quinn well, he basically dismantled opposing linemen and made them look like Pop Warner victims.   7-9 is nothing to celebrate but it is highly important that Rams fans put that record into perspective.

When Fisher took over for the Rams before the 2012 season, the home team had gone 15-65 in the previous 5 seasons.  We were horrible, except for the miraculous soft scheduled 2010 where we went 7-9 and nearly made it into the playoffs.   When Steve Spagnuolo and Billy Devaney left Rams Park, the building may as well been on fire.  Fisher and new general manager Les Snead took custody of an NFL franchise corpse.  After 15 wins in 5 seasons, Fisher has led this team to 14 wins in 2 seasons.  Please, pretty please with sugar on top, don’t forget about that as you drown yourself in depression this week as the New Year brings the well known phrase “maybe next year” to our minds.

The Rams aren’t built to win divisions or Super Bowls right now.  We are built to improve.   Get better.   Reach higher every season.   After going 2-14 two years ago, trust me, I am not asking the Rams to overtake the 49ers and Seahawks(who faced off for the NFC championship in January) any time soon.   It was dismal to see our team play 1-5 against the division this year, but keep in mind those last three games came without our starting QB and on the road.    When we faced San Francisco the first time, the offense was mired in a pass heavy attack without a real running back at the helm.   The one win we managed, against Arizona at home, came directly from our defense’s ability to break down Carson Palmer and that slowly forming Cardinals attack.

Sports is hard to follow without putting things into perspective.  One Rams fan told me last night I sounded like a Cubs fan when defending the Rams season.   I could have quickly uttered the word “Titanic” and put done with it but I broke it down again instead.   The Rams are rebuilding under Jeff Fisher.  That is a fact and can’t be forgotten.  His regime is exiting just its second season with this rebuilt vehicle.

The stupid penalties in the first 8 games and especially on Sunday in Seattle, come from a raw young talented team.   There is no excuse to make a tackle after the opposing player gets 15 yards on you and pump your chest because you made a good tackle and prevented him from  getting the other 55 yards and a score.  Those things will be smoothed out or the players involved will be reassigned to practice squads in Earth City where if you beat your chest, comparisons to gamblers at Ameristar Casino are made.

This is Sam Bradford’s team.  Let me say that loud and clear.   Clemens was fine and did his job but let’s not coin him the answer.  He won 4 games with the Rams and Bradford won 3 but that is where the pros end.  Clemens benefited from a new system and a fresh legged running back.  Schotty and Fisher had Bradford throwing the ball 38, 55, 48 and 41 times in the first 4 weeks of the season.   Clemens threw the ball over 35 times once in his 9 starts and that came against SF on the road in a blowout.  Bradford didn’t have Stacy for most of the first 6 weeks.  He had Darryl Richardson and barely an attack to give him any chance on the passing attack.   Bradford threw 14 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions with opposing defense aiming in on him.  3 of the 4 INT were tipped.  Sam played very well in the second half of last season after the playbook was switched up and the Red Zone efficiency magically improved.   He continued that assault this season, moving an offense that wasn’t ready to thrive yet.  Imagine if Sam is around when Tavon Austin is fully utilized and mobile with Stacy on the ground as well?  That’s 2014 looking at you.

Be mad.  Go ahead.  It’s appropriate.   Say you won’t show up to games next year.  Beg the team to use their #2 or #3 draft pick on college quarterback Jameis Winston.  All is relative these days to the usual outcry of fans and neither statement is stupid.   The Rams finishing 7-9 isn’t eye popping great but put into perspective of their rebuilding mode and looking at the loss of Bradford nearly halfway through, the season wasn’t a total loss and nearly could have better.

Imagine if we don’t flop the entire first quarter in Atlanta and get a win there.   What if we don’t cough up that game to Seattle at home with the win a yard away with seconds left?  What if we don’t give that game to the Titans at home?   Same as last year, where we lost close games to Tampa and Detroit and let a win in San Francisco get away.   The Rams revamped their offense halfway into last season, just like this year, so hopefully there is one solidified plan that can go throughout 2014.

Sure, the division play won’t get any easier.  Arizona played well enough for a playoff spot but got denied and the 49ers and Seahawks will chase The Lombardi trophy again.  The Rams will have to earn every single win they get in the West, but they will be better tasked to do so next year.  After a draft where the Rams could trade down and double their top picks and free agency, the Rams will start 2014 with a set offense and hopefully an improved secondary.    Some of the youthful arrogance will wear off the younger players.   Alec Ogletree will only get better.   Chris Long will continue to manhandle quarterbacks.   Brian Quick, Austin, Chris Givens, Stedman Bailey and Jared Cook will settle in.  The Rams double boot combo of Greg Zuerlein and Johnny Hecker will be back.  Stacy and Cunningham will be ready to shoulder the running load and may mix in some hyper speed with Richardson in the mix.  “Earth, Wind and Fire” Part 2?

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Oh, I didn’t forget Robert Quinn.  That would be like forgetting about Zeus in the talk of immortal Gods.  With apologies to Stacy, the player to watch all season was this mad dog defensive end who won’t leave the mind of every tackle who had to bend their fingers back and twist their wrists trying to stop him.  Quinn got 19 sacks on the season and that came with getting held, strangled and double teamed by every single team.   If he had gotten a couple more calls, you could have easily seen 20 if not 25 sacks from Quinn, the parting gift #13 pick from Spags and Devaney before they left.  Quinn forced 7 fumbles and recovered 2.   He was adept at stopping the run.   He disrupted offenses every play.   He has played all but 1 game in his first three seasons, gathering up 34.5 sacks.  The North Carolina man child is doing very well and deserves the Defensive Player of the Year.  Need proof?  Ask quarterbacks and/or offensive linemen if they’d rather deal with throwing towards Richard Sherman or holding off Quinn.   That answer should be easy.

All in all, I am proud of what the Rams accomplished in 2013, when looked at over all 16 games and when taking into account the setbacks.  It wasn’t always pretty and could have been better, but having seen what the fanbase dealt with from 2007-2011, I will take it.   And I am especially excited for what should come in 2014 and beyond.

Photo Credits(Respectively)-fansided.com, bleacherreport.com
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Dan Buffa is the co-creator, administrator and writer for the movie website, http://www.film-addict.com. He also writes for the local blog United Cardinal Bloggers in addition to Arch City Sports.  He also writes for his personal blog, http://www.doseofbuffa.com.   He is a STL born and raised writer with a need to inform and the ability to pound out 1,000-1,500 word pieces with ease.  When he isn’t writing or drinking coffee, he is spending time with his wife and two year old son in South City.  Follow him at @buffa82 on Twitter and reach him for thoughts, comments and general feedback at buffa82@gmail.com.

Rams Struggling to Finish

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Trust me Rams fans, the picture isn’t as dark as it looks with the team sitting at 3-6 after today’s loss to the Tennessee Titans at home.   In a game that the Rams dominated for at least 2 quarters, they simply didn’t get enough from certain players on their team and the defense allowed slumping running back Chris Johnson to rediscover his dominant running days from 3 years ago.   Things just got away from our team again.  It happened last week against Seattle and again this week.   We have a problem finishing.   I do refer to the fans and the team in  my blogs as “we” a lot.  We watch as they play and slump our shoulders when they fail and raise our arms as high as they do when they succeed, thus bringing to the table the slogan, “WE”.  Today, a few things went well for the home team and a few others did not.   Look, losing your starting quarterback in the middle of a football season that was showing improvement is back breaking for nearly every team in the NFL, so the Rams are merely surviving until 2014.  This season will get ugly, but I am here to you it doesn’t have to be if the Rams make some changes.   Let’s break it down.

Kellen Clemens fared better than last week but I am sorry this guy still doesn’t stand out as a man who can win games for this team.  He completed better than 50 percent this week and threw a touchdown pass and didn’t throw a pick, but is there a stat for overthrowing receivers or simply making horrible decisions?   Clemens isn’t terrible but he isn’t good either.  He is like a burger at a bar and grill known for its pizza and wings.  Editable but not desirable.   Late in the game, Clemens did commit a horrible fumble and a play which led to the go ahead winning touchdown for the Titans.   Clemens gets a little too amped up out there and seems to rush his decisions.   That comes from being a backup most of your career.  Thrust into the spotlight, you don’t know what to do.   Clemens is your clipboard guy who can come in and mop up a game or make one decent throw per drive.  He isn’t a person who can take every series and pull out a win.  With him behind center, I don’t see a lot of wins for this team and it could be a 4-12 like finish if he remains the starter.  Some players are what their football card tells you.  His history explains it.  A backup who doesn’t do well in the starting role.  Get him out Jeff Fisher.  You can only have an obsession with one quarterback on this team and your other guy is more deserving.

Hello Zac Stacy, the new most valuable player on this Rams defense and secret weapon 5th round draft pick from April that people were talking about all year until he finally got the main tailback slot.  Once people saw that Darryl Richardson was nothing more than a temporary flash worthy of a few carries, Stacy was given the ball and here is what he has done since getting a bulk of the carries.

Week 5(Jaguars)-14 carries, 78 yards

Week 6(Panthers)-17 carries, 51 cards and 4 receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown(his weakest stats but still a score and a presence)

Week 7(Seahawks)-Stacy’s breakout game on National Television, 26 carries for 134 yards against the tough Seahawks defense

Week 8(Titants)-27 carries for 127 yards and 2 touchdowns

Slowly but surely, the rookie running back out of Vanderbilt is turning into a formidable player and playmaker on this offense.  He is exactly what Fisher and offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer wanted after Steven Jackson left.  A younger, beastly, low to the ground pound back who will wear down defenses.   Stacy is 5 foot 8 and 216 pounds and doesn’t stop running until the whistle blows.  Stacy is a grinder and that is a good thing for a team that couldn’t run the ball for its life in the first four weeks of the season and scored its first rushing touchdowns today.   The only cruel thing is Stacy’s work twice has gone to waste behind average quarterback play and idiotic fumbles like Benny Cunningham’s on the Rams game opening drive.

The defense was soft against the run yet put pressure on Jake Locker.  With Robert Quinn and his 10 sacks garnering an extra set of eyes, other players like Kendall Langford and William Hayes put Locker on the ground.  This team is nearing 30 sacks and we are entering the 10th week.  A pass rushing attack that couldn’t find traction early on is becoming a dominant force in a defense that shows up yet always springs a leak.  Cortland Finnegan collected an interception that went to the wayside because the Leg missed a 40 yard field goal in a dome where he never misses.  Get off Greg Zuerlein’s back for missing a 50 yard ball against the Seahawks, but a 40 yard shot has to be made.   It wouldn’t play a huge role in the final score but seeing the kid miss ordinary leg boots is a warning sign.

At this point, you may ask who this Rams team can beat.  The answer will be close to zero because of the current quarterback’s limited skill set and the offensive coordinator who doesn’t change schemes fast enough.  Schotty Jr. either pounds the ball and calls careless passing plays or overthrows his way to failure.  He promised a more wide open offensive approach and it was sporadic with Bradford and missing completely with Clemens.  All we count on is the continued running success of Zac Stacy, a rookie whose production is astounding because the defense is prepared to stop him and making Clemens beat them through the air.  2013 may go down as the season that we would look back on and wonder what would have happened if Bradford didn’t trip and fall on his own knee.  Next week, we head to Indianapolis, where Andrew Luck, Robert Mathis and company will either be angry about losing to the Texans or still trying to put a clamp on their up and down season.   After that, the Rams get a bye week to mend their wounds and collect a few thoughts before returning with the Bears at home.  Jay Cutler may not play that game but does it really matter at this point who opposes Clemens?  The 49ers and Cards host us next and they are followed by the Saints, Bucs and a season finale in Seattle on December 29th.  I don’t see a clear winnable game.  The Bucs nearly upended the Seahawks today before collapsing late and the Cards are capable of beating us on their own turf.  The other games would have to include miracles for us to come out on top.  So, 3-13 or 4-12 it is.

In the NFL, effort is nice to see and competing is great but if you lose every week respect goes out the door.  If Jeff Fisher can’t make a change at QB and insert a young hungry arm in Austin Davis, a man who was turned away at the end of training game, or even give Brady Quinn a shot, what does he expect to happen from Clemens?  Improvement would only exist at the root of insanity, Mr. Fisher.  We like your style but won’t hesitate to call you crazy if you let this team sink along with the efforts of Robert Quinn and Zac Stacy.

Also, cool down on Tavon Austin.  Yes, he was supposed to light the Dome on fire and empower us after the Rams selected him with the 8th pick in the draft, but look at what he is doing and what Stacy is doing.  That’s the NFL for you.  It’s full of surprises and production comes in its own time.  This isn’t year three with Austin.   He is slowly progressing.  Sure, he has fumbled three times, started only 2 games, and only has 207 yards and 2 touchdowns but he is about ready to break through on the return game.  Austin is a rookie people.  He needs time.  This goes to the same crowd forming a lynch mob in front of every IHOP looking for Matt Adams’ missing bat in October.   Rookies will struggle and fail a lot before becoming good and then ascending to greatness.   Give Austin time.  He is being thrown to right now by a weak arm and has spent the entire season in a dull offense.  He will make plays.  Just give him time.  This isn’t New England or Denver.  In Rams park, they are working with dial up and not broadband speed.

That’s all for now.  I will be coming back this week with a first look and impression of the 2013-2014 St. Louis Blues.   Sure, they are 7-2-2 but showing some cracks.  More to come this week.

Thanks for staying to the end,

Dan L. Buffa

@buffa82 on Twitter