Not only did the St. Louis Rams lose the division and a playoff spot in Sunday's spanking in Seattle, but they also left fans with some questions that don't have easy answers.
If you're looking for the column that tells you that 7-9 is a huge improvement, exceeded the wildest expectations of most fans, and that the loss at Seattle is a building experience that the St. Louis Rams can use to create momentum for 2011 — move along. This won't be for you.
If you believe that the 16-6 beat-down the Rams suffered at the hands of a team that lost nine games by an average of over 15 points opened up a whole new set of questions that we're not going to get answers to anytime soon?
Well, buckle up.
1. Does Sam Bradford really have "it"?
Chris Collinsworth told America that Bradford did moments before the opening kick Sunday night, but In games against the Raiders, Bucs, Saints and Seahawks Bradford didn't really show the kind of jaw-dropping grit that makes opponents do everything they can to keep the ball out of THAT guy's hands.
For instance, after Bradford's fourth quarter interception, the Hawks passed three straight times and gave the ball back to the Rams with only 15 seconds expiring from the clock. They weren't overly concerned that giving the ball back to Bradford was going to be a big mistake. They had been getting hands on balls all night and sure enough, that next drive didn't produce points.
Bradford is a good quarterback. But where is the signature win where we can all point to and go - LOOK!? I don't think there's one on his resume. And not to say that he can't be that guy, because he can. But when you're the highest paid player on your team and in the top three of the entire NFL you've got to do more than keep it close. You've got to finish some games people didn't expect.
Bradford will win the Rookie of the Year award. He doesn't scare opponents yet.
2. How close is Jason Smith to being officially a bust? THIIIIISSSS close.
Dude got worked on prime time. He's been ousted from the left tackle spot and can't really be relied on from the right side for anything but getting shoved back into the pocket. He has a history of concussions in a position that bangs heads on every single play. He's the second overall draft pick and the second highest-paid player on the Rams, among the top 10 in the entire NFL.
It's a mess for Jason Smith.
I remember a story about how Smith had a lawn-mowing business when he was like 10. People lauded the fact that he was always a hard worker. Well this off-season Mr. Smith had better hearken back to the days when he was grinding for every buck... because you can't win with a tackle like 09-10 Jason Smith.
3. Is Pat Shurmur mute? If not, does he care to explain?
I'm really trying hard to think of one time when this guy was interviewed. And really, until this Sunday night game, I don't know if he's been shown on TV at any point. Yet week in and week out we all wonder just what Pat was thinking when he called whatever game we just got done watching. It's a pretty circuitous exercise. Complain about the play calling, get more bad play calling, complain about the play calling...
Pat—once you got to four wins it was house money, brother. Let it loose. Get saucy. Try something different. 30 passes into the game on Sunday night, Bradford had thrown 26 for less than 10 yards. Christine O'Donnell thinks you're being conservative.
Bradford supporters are going to claim that Shurmur's play calling is the biggest reason Bradford didn't have signature wins in 2010. And that's not an unwarranted criticism. 16 games up and 16 games down and I don't think Shurmur went wild in any of them. In fact, he barely went mild.
4. Steven Jackson—where did you go?
Maybe this is unfair, but sometimes your best players have to be your best players. SJ39 didn't have a bad game in Seattle. Didn't have a good game either. He was just kind of average.
Unlike Bradford, who's only known relative success in St. Louis, Jackson has been buried in the dung yard that has been the Rams for the past five seasons, just kind of wasting his career away. I would have bet big money that if one guy was not going to be denied his opportunity to finally make the playoffs as a starter, it would have been Steven Jackson.
The O-line wasn't money, but Jackson just seemed kind of, well, there.
The more I type the more questions I want answered.
Why is Mark Karney getting five touches in the last game of the season when he's gotten four over the previous 15? How did Danario Alexander show up big for the Rams all season long, but look so awful in the biggest game of his life? Couldn't someone have just gave Pete Carroll a quick kidney shot at some point when he was gleefully running up and down the sidelines?
I wish there was something I could say here that would make a difference.
But I can't. The Rams had the opportunity to win the NFC West, host a beatable Saints team at the EJD on Saturday, give a microcosm of respect to their division and give us something to get really excited about for next Saturday. Because let's face it—I wasn't ready for the season to end. I wanted to make stupid bets and plan a party and hope against hope that the Rams could make some sort of miracle run like they did in 2000.
Instead, it's over.
And the questions have just begun.