After one miserable evening, the people of Los Angeles remember why the Rams left for St. Louis years ago: they suck, and nobody cares. In what has been hyped as the “homecoming” of one of the NFL’s least storied franchises, from the forced Rams-centric introduction to Madden 2017, HBO’s Hard Knocks following Jeff Fisher and his crumbling staff, and even the pukeworthy use of The OC‘s theme song for game promos, this was supposed to be the start of a rekindled fire for LA football. Instead, Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead harvested the fruits of their labors: watching Case Keenum and a shell of what was a rapidly progressing Rams defense collapse against the second soon-to-be-failed Chip Kelly experiment.
So, what happened? Horrible roster (mis)management and the continued ineptitude of Jeff Fisher. In a league in which coaches, players, management, and even cities are changed and discarded on a whim, somehow the mustached man on the LA sidelines has enjoyed unrivaled job security without any rational justification. In 22 seasons, Fisher, once considered a defensive mastermind, has made the postseason just six times, winning one conference championship on the backs of a historic offensive trio of Tennessee Titans: QB Steve McNair (RIP), WR Derrick Mason, and running back Eddie George. The Titans were an expansion franchise, viewed as a somewhat hopeless endeavor that Fisher, through his imagined skill and roster management, guided a single yard from a Super Bowl title.
So when he was fired following several miserable seasons, languishing at the bottom of the AFC South as Peyton Manning haunted Fisher’s dreams, many NFL franchises viewed Fisher as the NFL’s Harambe: a hero shot down unnecessarily in his prime. Fisher was a hot commodity, signing with the Rams after being given partial roster control and forming a strong relationship with GM Les Snead. The Rams focused on their defense, attempting to model the dominant forces of Seattle and San Francisco through the draft. By the 2015 season, the Rams had assembled a defense featuring 8 first round picks with all pro-caliber performers Chris Long, Aaron Donald, Robert Quinn, Janoris Jenkins, James Laurinaitis, Alec Ogletree, and Charles Hayes, forming one of the most formidable units in the league.
But, in typical Fisher fashion, the train came off the tracks this offseason. Perhaps feeling the pressure of LA’s bright lights and short attention span, the Rams sold their soul, and future, in 2016. First, they let veteran leaders Chris Long and James Laurinaitis walk in petty salary negotiations that resulted in both signing elsewhere for a fraction of their former cost. Next, they let the Giants swoop in and sign Jenkins, perhaps the most talented pure cover corner in the NFC, without any sort of compensation. If you’re going to let a budding star and ballhawk of your secondary walk, why not trade him in 2015? Mind boggling.
The defense, at least judging by the 28 points scored by what was thought to be a completely hapless 49ers attack during the first year of Chip Kelly’s radically transformed system, is a clusterfuck of epic proportions. But, as is the Fisher way in his time with the Rams, the reason the defense looks unstoppable in practice is quite simple, and sinister if you’re a Rams fan: the offense is the worst I have ever seen in professional football. Case Keenum makes RGIII look like Joe Montana. The pathetic limp noodle he calls an arm is so weak even the most elementary bubble screen is painful to watch. Keenum’s reads are so slow to progress you’d swear he took a Xanax or two before each series. He is criminally awful.
And yet, even after mortgaging their lives on the trade to acquire the top pick in this year’s draft to select a quarterback everyone claimed was a reach, that quarterback is in sweats during game day. Jared Goff, the #1 overall pick, the first since 2007 not to start week one, held a clipboard and watched the Rams record five total first downs prior to garbage time. There was a moment in which Keenum had fumbled after his own guard bumped into him when the Rams seriously threatened having more turnovers than first downs in the first half. It was, for lack of a more pleasant term, a three-hour offensive abortion.
So, here we are again, Jeff. His hand-selected quarterback not only cannot beat out the worst quarterback in the league to start, but is stuck behind Sean Mannion as his back up. Haven’t heard of Sean Mannion? Didn’t think so. Fisher has again lingered endlessly as the flames of his self-ignited dumpster fire engulf yet another franchise. The Rams are completely hopeless, stranded in the NFL’s best overall division. Imagine what the Cardinals and Seahawks will do to this team after Blaine Gabbert and the 4-12 49ers shut them out 28-0? It is time to move on from both Snead and Fisher, mercifully ending a tenure that has transformed from promising to disastrous in the course of months.
Don’t worry, Rams fans — you still have Goff. The last #1 pick to not start Week One? Jamarcus Russell. That went well, right?.
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