The Rams don't have great expectations in 2010. Can we all agree four wins is a reasonable goal? Good. Then these five things must happen.
I guess the part of my brain that stores sports crap forgot just how tragic the 2009 St. Louis Rams were.
Ending up second to last in defense (31st in the NFL) only looks anti-apocalyptic when you realize that the Rams were dead last in (32nd) in offense. I promise you that it doesn't take Bill Walsh shouting down from on high to realize that the 2009 Rams weren't just bad... they were historically bad.
Hell, their Football-Reference page is sponsored by euthanasia.
Miraculously, this group of 'players' was able to eek out one win last season. With a straight face, SBN STL editors pitched an idea for the Rams to get to four wins in 2010. [We did! But at least we've come off that .500 season! -ed.] Remember when Marshall Faulk and Kurt Warner used to take off their jocks and four wins would fall out?
Yeah. Me neither. That was so, so long ago.
Even though I believe personally that the Rams are set up for two-three wins in 2010, let's play nice and determine the five things that absolutely, positively must happen for the Rams to get to four wins in 2010. Alternately entitled "Good God, how did it come to this?"
1. Pass the damn ball... downfield.
Surprisingly, the Rams averaged over 33 pass attempts in the 2009 season and hit the mark over 57 percent of the time. On the surface, those numbers aren't so appalling that you'd immediately assume they were coming from a 1-15 team. But dig deeper and you see that combined, QB's from the Rams were only gaining 185 yards per game, and a paltry 9.5 yards per completion
Maybe the better question is just how you manage 21 interceptions with a dink and dunk passing attack? Or how only one pass all season long broke for longer than 40 yards? The Rams aren't going to be anywhere close to good in the passing game this upcoming season. But in A.J. Feeley and Sam Bradford they do have two arms that can air it out and at least give the illusion that putting 11 in the box isn't a safe way to get a W for the other team. Even if the completion percentages stay the same, the Rams offensive staff has to develop a deep threat.
Again, we're going for four wins here, people. Just let Avery and Gilyard run a couple of fly routes and say a prayer.
2. Tackle like men.
Of all the embarrassments that come with being a Rams fan these days, the worst might be that the biggest defensive hindrance for this team the past three seasons hasn't been personnel packages or schemes, but rather tackling like a pack of Bieber fans.
Frank Gore looks like a greased pig. Justin Forsett morphed into Marcus Allen. Chris Johnson? Forget about it. Running backs, wide outs, punt returners- they're all practically fist fighting on the sideline to get the ball and pad the stats against the Rams. And it's no surprise. It's like the neighborhood game when you play against kids four years younger. It isn't a matter of winning or losing, but how much you can embarrass the other side.
Wrap up. Make somebody pay. Tackle. It's got to be good for the odd win here or there, right?
3. Get Lucky.
John Wooden or some other old dude said you make your own luck.
You get lucky. For whatever reason, the Rams have been the hardest-luck sad sacks in the NFL for the past three years. From injuries at inopportune times to fumbles that land right in the lap of opposing defenders, the Rams just don't get a break. Ever.
It's time to start praying to whoever you pray to or walking an old lady across the street for some karmic payback—everybody needs to pitch in. Then MAYBE something will break for the Rams that wasn't expected.
4. Win 2 out of the first 5.
If we look at the 2010 schedule for the Rams and try to pick the four games that they can win, most, if not all of them, come in weeks one through five.
Arizona opens up the schedule with (presumably) the very shaky Matt Leinart still recovering from his (literal) off-season hangover. Then there's a trip to Oakland, who figures to be improved—but who was also very, very unpredictable. Washington, Seattle and Detroit round out that first quarter-plus of the season. Depending on how Tampa fares early on, these are the teams that the Rams can beat in 2010.
Detroit is a must. Oakland most likely is too. Count one against AZ and now we've got to break that losing streak to Seattle or hope Donovan McNabb isn't the rousing success in Washington that ESPN's NFL Live desperately wants him to be. (Just imagine their joy when they get more than the yellow practice jersey pic they currently use for 23 out of the 30 minutes every night!)
I'm choosing to be positive and think the Rams might, just might, be able to pull this off if they come on strong early.
Or they'll pee their pants in Oakland. I won't lie, that crowd scares me, too.
5. Coach better.
Steve Spagnuolo might be a good NFL head coach. He might also be worse that Scott Linehan. (Who I'm still disappointed didn't warm to my nickname for him—"Cheese Pizza." Why? So boring and plain in what should be an exciting job. But no, he just stuck with the cheese.)
What we do know is that Spags told us to trust him when he retained the same O and D coordinators that ranked pretty much last in their fields in 2009.
Ok. We've accepted that. But you guys have to show much better coaching in 2010 now that you've got a year under your belts. No more challenges without confirmation from the video replay coordinators. No more vanilla game plans that don't take any chances, even though the only way to compete with elite teams is to gamble wildly. No more protecting a-holes that ruin team morale...cough, Richie Incognito, cough...
Bring your A-game in 2010.
So there you are. Five keys to four wins in 2010. Are you feeling confident all these things can break for the Rams to get them to that holy grail... of .250?
Kleenex should be the title sponsor of the Rams.