Earlier this week, we the people decided who we want to lead us into the near future from the Presidential Palace. Regardless of whether we as individuals supported the eventual winner or not, ultimately it was decided that a radical change was necessary at the top.
After years of what people felt was a whole lot of wheel-spinning and not enough tangible, positive end results, it was clear that the fear of “more of the same” shook many to their core and was the impetus for taking a different path.
I wonder if those in charge of choosing a leader to guide the LA Rams feel empowered to similarly shake things up in the land of 7-9.
WEEK 9 HERO: Even though it came against San Francisco’s Pop Warner-esque defense, give Drew Brees credit for not allowing the Saints to play down to the competition. Coming off a big home win versus Seattle the week prior, this could have been one of those tricky spots we’ve seen plenty of times before where a typically not-so-physical Saints team goes on the road and disappoints against an inferior opponent.
Instead, Brees and company rolled up 323 total yards, including a fine 28/39, 3TD, 0INT performance from what will one day be the NFL’s all-time passing yardage leader. New Orleans coasted to a 41-23 win and now are suddenly participants in a muddled NFC playoff picture half-way through the league year. Oh, and he’s on pace for 5,000+ yards and more than 40 touchdowns. Not bad, eh?
If the Saints are able to stay in playoff contention throughout the course of the season, Brees will earn serious consideration as the NFL’s MVP and possibly win it. It’s a surprising turn of events considering how lost Brees’ team looked early in the season and still does on defense occasionally, but the 37-year-old has once again placed the entire team on his back and is carrying it as far as his unwavering will allows.
WEEK 9 ZERO: Can we talk about the Rams? Let’s talk about the Rams.
Sure, this week’s ZERO is Case Keenum. Against a Carolina defense that has been vulnerable to the pass all season, Keenum averaged just 6.43 yards per throw on 46 attempts in what turned out be Los Angeles’ 4th straight loss. He looked bad and earned this award with another sub-par performance.
However, the problems of this team don’t start or end with Case Keenum. He’s a backup quarterback giving them backup-level play. Their deficiencies originate from much higher in team headquarters.
Those that watched HBO’s ‘Hard Knocks’ tv series this summer witnessed a Rams team with coaches that were far more interested in emasculating their players than teaching them techniques that would forward their ability to successfully compete on a football field. Is it any wonder the results yielded every single year by this team falls short of expectations in relation to their abundance of good, young talent?
After watching the staff embarrass itself on the show in team meetings, is anyone surprised the head coach- who signs off on the way the players are spoken to and treated buy these “assistant coaches”- is just a handful of losses away from being having the most L’s in the history of the NFL?
Quick example of Jeff Fisher’s method of operation: remember when the head coach called Goff on draft day to tell him he was being drafted by the Rams? Fisher asked Goff “Do you hear that? Everybody here loves you, Jared.” He was referring to loud applause from the employees in the draft room. But what Goff couldn’t see at that moment was something we could when the show aired- Fisher looking back at the team employees and visually cueing and prompting the room to clap just before he said those words to Goff.
It was fake. Contrived. Disingenuous. No one there was reacting on their own because they knew Fisher was blowing meaningless words up Goff’s jorts and were just waiting for it to be over. They’d heard the same b.s. a thousand times before.
If the reason the Rams are truly waiting to play Jared Goff is because they want to wait until they are out of playoff contention, think about what kind of message that sends to the players and fans. First of all, anyone in power there who has a mindset that allows for thoughts that begin with “Whenever we get eliminated, let’s see if this and this works out better” is already suffering from a losing mentality from the jump. If Rams brass doesn’t believe in the Rams, why should anybody else?
If you’re a Rams player and you know the team is talented but is in dire need of a jump start at the quarterback position, how do you NOT allow negative thoughts to creep into your head, knowing the first overall pick in the draft is being shackled to the bench by the head coach?
Every year I expect the Rams to contend for the division based on the sheer talent collective on that roster. They are spending little money on the quarterback position, fortifying the rest of the roster and managing to at least go toe-to-toe with their NFC West rivals.
Yet, every year things fall apart for them. Why? Because the head coach is slicker than black ice, is untrustworthy and the assistants are ineffective teachers at best or a band of rotten human beings at worst.
Something needs to change for the Rams to play up to their abilities. The quarterback for sure, but more importantly the leadership.
INTERIOR DEFENSIVE LINE
WEEK 9 HERO: Bouncing back from last week’s ZERO award, Steve McLendon channeled his anger into a dominant performance for the Jets in a losing effort at Miami. McLendon had 3 solo tackles, 1 assist, 1 tackle for loss and a forced fumble in a game that got ultimately away from New York.
It’s nice to see McLendon put forth a truly professional effort in light of the alleged shenanigans perpetrated by a couple of his uber-talented linemates, Mo Wilkerson and Sheldon Richardson. While those two are allegedly late to or even skipping team meetings during the week, McLendon is giving top effort to the team and greatly outplaying his $3.5M APY salary.
Expect New York to jettison Richardson in the offseason, partly because the team is getting a fantastic contribution from McLendon as a supplement to Wilkerson (when he feels like it) and budding young star Leonard Williams. Having reliable veteran depth like McLendon will soften the blow of losing a troublesome talent like Richardson, and the tenor in the locker room should improve.
WEEK 9 ZERO: Though he is having a banner 10th season in the NFL, Brandon Mebane failed to crack the box score on 30 snaps versus the Tennessee Titans, a team tailor-made to bring out his best traits. San Diego went on to give up 35 points to the Titans, but still found a way to win the game.
Regardless, it’s a disappointing effort from Mebane on a team that is playing better than most anticipated and could very well contend for a back-end playoff spot in the topsy-turvy AFC. To do that, however, they’ll need more of a positive contribution from Brandon Mebane in the second half of the season.
Justin is a contributor to Fansided’s Seattle-centric website EmeraldCitySwagger.com and a life-long Seahawks fan- which was a mostly harrowing experience growing up in Northeast Ohio. You can follow him for thoughts on salary cap information, butchered clock management and the NFL in general@OhioHawk4372.