"I'm not real happy with how we ran the ball, I'm not real happy with how we stopped the run." - St. Louis Rams Head Coach Steve Spagnuolo.
"I thought the first group did a great job." Titans Head Coach Mike Munchak
The Rams and Titans clashed during Week 2 of the NFL preseason and one head coach was audibly and visibly disappointed with his team after the win. The other was fairly enthusiastic.
Steve Spagnuolo lambasted his run defense, chided receivers for dropped passes and fretted about Steven Jackson's anemic 2011 debut. Mike Munchak was pleased on how new QB Matt Hassleback moved the ball, how his backup backfield is shaping up with Chris Johnson still holding out and how his kicker Rob Bironas atoned for a pitiful week 1.
Just so happens that the Rams won.
For the past six seasons, observers and fans of the Rams know the post-game drill. Hell, during the waning games of the Mike Martz era "Shot & Fix" became city-wide shorthand for just how many gaping deficiencies the team was honing at any given time. And while everything that Spags was gigging his team on after the game was technically true, there was one huge difference.
Again... the Rams happened to WIN.
It's not exactly a science, but you can glean much about where NFL teams are and where they're headed by what the coach is saying after a game. Coach Munchak knows he's in for an uphill battle with the Titans this season. His best player is holding out and has never taken a snap in his offense. His QB is about as reliable as drug dealer. And his defense is old enough to remember when Darren Oliver was a rookie. So his positive pontification after a loss is comfort food for a team that will be walking the fine line between 6-10 and 9-7 in 2011.
The Rams on the other hand? Well, Coach Spags's piss-poor attitude after a win is nothing but exceedingly good news for anyone invested in this organization. He's seeing a team that can bust through that glass ceiling of eight wins and play for something bigger in 2011. And halfway through the pre-season, he's stepping on the gas and letting seeing where this team can go.
Last week we all made a promise to keep this Rams team to ourselves. To couch our expectations for 2011 and just hope the Rams could get through a tough four-game set at 2-2 and stay in the hunt for the NFC West by the time October came around.
But the more times we see Sam Bradford read a blitz, step up in the pocket and fire a 15-yard frozen rope to a streaking Mike Sims-Walker or the more times we see Cadillac Williams bust up the gut for a eight-yard rip, well, the harder it is to not think that the Rams saw their weaknesses in 2010, addressed them, and are moving forward in rapid fashion.
Remember, this isn't baseball. It takes about 3 years to go from 1-15 to 10+ wins. It just so happens that this is Spags's third year and the Rams were 1-15 two seasons ago. The NFL makes sure you can go from worst to first better than any other professional league.
Maybe you don't think the Rams are ready to win this season. That they're still too young and inexperienced. But by the words coming out of their head coach's mouth this weekend, he begs to differ.
The Rams suddenly look like they're a contender.
But for what is still to be determined.