I love how NFL teams are always building to this mythical future where stability reigns and the playoffs are a birthright. We hear it all the time from teams like the Rams or the Bucs or the Jags after they barely miss the playoffs... at least this thing is going in the right direction!
Then, as it always does, the next season turns into a crapshoot and new batch of wanna-be's and almost-there's emerge with the same lame talking points.
The only direction that matters? Right now. And while the Seahawks have embraced this philosophy and given their fans a minimum of 2 weeks of extra football joy... the Rams are busing firing the only equipment manager they've ever known.
But hey, somebody's got to take the fall.
Frankly, I thought I'd be over it by now. I'd have moved on to watching the BCS games and the NFL playoffs and would have been satisfied knowing the team I root for was +6 in the win column for 2010. But then we found out that Seattle was sandbagging through their regular season. And then the 49ers hired the hottest coaching prospect available. And suddenly that imminent first place finish and playoff home game in 2012 (lockout not withstanding) seems to be a little more out of reach than it was a mere two Sundays ago.
The Rams had an unbelievable opportunity to turn a moribund franchise into a playoff contender in 2010-11. Hell, there is no reason they couldn't have beaten the Saints at home in the Wild Card round themselves. But instead, they got exposed by the Hawks in Week 17, and now we're stuck listening to all these people claim progress, when in reality progress is another synonym for ‘not good enough'.
The NFL is cruel, cruel place. Players are cut on a whim with little to no repercussions to the team. Men are drug off the field weekly with injuries that will haunt them much longer than the 4-6 weeks they don't pad up. And with this evil mistress gives you a break, you have to take it. In fact, you've got to take it and beat the ever loving crap out of it and look for another one. Those that don't take the breaks? Well, they look for new coaches and start the cycle all over again.
Will the Rams be good in 2012?
I hope so. I'd expect they'd be at least .500 with some pretty modest improvements and an above-average draft. Maybe even 10 wins good if they could really land a couple of sleeper picks and sign a marquee free agent.
But is it guaranteed?
No. Hell no it isn't. The division isn't going to be nearly as inept in 2011 as it was in 2010. The non-conference schedule is taking the Rams to two of the toughest divisions in the NFL. And to top it all off, SJ39 and Sammy Bradford didn't miss a game in a league where only Peyton Manning shows up every week.
And if there is regression? Say the Rams go 4-12 (5-13?), then what? Does Coach Spags go on the hot seat? Are the Rams looking over their shoulders? Does it become a four and done for this program that was heading in the right direction?
Yeah, it probably does.
And we're back to square one.
Opportunity tapped the STL Rams in 2010. They didn't answer.