NEW ORLEANS LA - DECEMBER 12: Head coach Steve Spagnuolo of the St. Louis Rams watches the game against the New Orleans Saints at the Louisiana Superdome on December 12 2010 in New Orleans Louisiana. (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Rams had a comeback campaign in 2010, but 2011 has gotten off to a rocky start. Their longest-tenured employee was sacked without reason, the defensive captain was bagged for cash, and the new OC won't talk to the QB? Doesn't sound good to me.
7-9 is a hell of a lot better than 1-15.
7-9 is a hell of a lot better than any of us expected this time last year, given the uncertainty that Sam Bradford's shoulder presented to a St. Louis Rams franchise in peril and in desperate need of a savior.
But 7-9 isn't worthy of a playoff spot, even in the meager NFC West. It isn't a winning record. It is what it is... another losing season. Albeit a losing season that felt like progress.
So after the disappointment of the Sunday Night showdown with the Seattle Seahawks dissipated, it was pretty fair to expect the 2011 off-season to be filled with progress. A slow banging of the war drum that crescendoed with a Rams team ready to make a serious run at a playoff spot and a division title.
Yet, moving into March, I don't know if the overall Rams vibe is merely not good, or probable cause for panic.
1. Coach Spagnuolo decides to terminate the services of Todd Hewitt. Not normally national news when an equipment manager gets fired, but when the guy works for the same team for 44 years and doesn't even get a proper feting upon his exit? Well, even the USA Today decided to chime in on the crappiness of this maneuver.
2. The Rams play hardball in their negotiations with deposed Denver head coach Josh McDaniels for their offensive coordinator position. Eventually they land their man, but for some strange reason he and his franchise QB decide that the precious few weeks they'd have together before a probable lockout would be best utilized with radio silence.
3. Feeling lucky, the Rams press their luck by releasing OJ Atogwe before paying him a roster bonus due this week of more than eight million dollars. Many feel as if the defensive captain will return to the Rams eventually, but strong interest from the Redskins indicates that the market might just be right for Atogwe to cash in as a free agent elsewhere.
None of these moves in and of itself is the biggest deal in the world. You can argue that the Atogwe deal might be a significant blow to a blossoming defense, but in the Rams' defense, he has been up and down and eight million dollars is eight million dollars.
The bigger takeaway is that that the Rams don't seem to have taken the momentum that a seven-win season provided; that they have, in fact, regressed in some intangible way.
Maybe I'm reading too much into the overall vibe. Perhaps Todd Hewitt is a butthole and Josh McDaniels knows exactly how to coach Bradford to his maximum potential. I guess that OJ could come back and the Rams will have saved eight million dollars they can use elsewhere in free agency.
The behind-the-scenes machinations of any business are paramount to its success. But if the public indicators are omens in any way?
Well, me might just have to bust out the Ken Norton Jr earlier than we expected.