Saturday, January 30, 2010

The importance of scoring for the Rams in 2010

At the risk of sounding like that 'Real Man of Genius' known as Mr. former sports commentator, the game of Football is about scoring points. Scoring more points will help you to win more games. Coach Dick Vermeil said something very similar to this to our 1999 Rams before kick-off in Super Bowl XXXIV. The importance of this saying cannot be overstated for a team that scored less than 11 points per game in 2009.

The Rams are the worst team in professional football for one reason and one reason only: We fielded one of the worst offenses the NFL has ever seen in 2009. We can make our statement even more pointed than that: We had the worst, most inept passing attack in league history. Our running attack was pretty decent, although 3rd and short situations were brutal in 2009. Our offense featured poor pass protection, even worse quarterback play, and thinnest core of injury prone receivers I have ever seen.

Do I have numbers to back that up? Oh fuck yes I do. How about some of these statistical facts:
  1. The Rams were dead last in the NFL in terms of scoring; #32 out of 32 teams averaging less than 11 points per game.
  2. The Rams were #29 out of 32 in terms of total yardage. We got 274.9 per game.
  3. Just 167.9 of those 274.9 yards came through the air. This gave us a total combined yardage of 2,686.4 for the season. Inexplicably, this was sufficient to put as at #28 in the NFL.
  4. The Rams ranked #20 in the league in rushing. We averaged 111.5 yards per game on the ground for a total of 1,784 for the season. As we all know, the lion's share of that yardage was gained by Steven Jackson through great blood, sweat and tears. He got 94.4 of those yards per game for a season total of 1,416 yards.
The most difficult claim to sustain is that we (the Rams) featured one of the most inept passing attacks of all times when 4 teams were worse than us in 2009. When the Raiders, Bills, Jets and Browns all passed for less yardage than we did, how can I claim we were worse?
  1. The Raiders finished lower than we did (159.8 yards per game) because they stuck with a fabulous Mel Kiper Jr pick named JaMarcus Russell for far too long. Once Gradkowski became the starting quarterback, they began to look good. The Raiders would have finished much higher than we did had Steve stayed healthy.
  2. The Bills passing attack died because they finally gave up on Trent Edwards, which I believe was a bit of a mistake. They were using one of our cast-offs by the end of the season.
  3. The Jets finished with fewer passing yards that we did because they were an even more obstinate run-first team than we were, and they were breaking in a rookie Quarterback. I am certain that the Jets are happy they spent 2009 breaking in Sanchez. They have a bright future now.
  4. As per usual, the Browns could not make up their mind whether they wanted to go with Quinn or Anderson, and they have an even worse offensive thinker than we do in the form of the Man-genius.
The Rams started three different QBs in sporadic patterns during 2009, primarily due to injury. There was no continuity in our offense from game to game, or from play to play. I cringed each time we one our quarterbacks dropped back in the pocket. I did not anticipate good things when this happened. I had a sense of impending doom each time one of our QBs dropped back to throw in 2009. Our passing game offered no credible threat, and our running attack suffered for it.

Speaking of our ponderous running game, we need to ditch the run-first mentality we have adopted. I know that run-first was mostly adopted out of necessity. We had just 1 wide receiver last season, and no franchise QB. What else can you do in this situation? We need to get out of this situation as soon as possible. As is so often observed on the NFL Network, it is now a pass-first league. You don't run to setup the pass. You pass to setup the run, just as Ed O'Shaughnessy, Sid Gilman, Don Coryell, Ernie Zampese, and Mike Martz have always said. The Colts, who are currently favored to win SB 44, rank dead-last (#32 our 32) in rushing. You know Lombardi is spinning in his grave, but that doesn't make his approach to football any less out-dated.

Make no mistake: The 2010 campaign is all about scoring more points. Improving our scoring prowess means everything. The focal point of this improvement must be the passing game. We need to ditch the ponderous run-first attack we are using now, and start throwing the football as the Rams always have during their glory epochs.

Conduct the following thought experiment if you like: Tack 10 points on to the Rams' point totals for each game played in 2009, and count how many games we would have won and lost. For those who won't try this little exercise, I'll give you the results. The Rams would have been 7-8-1. We would have averaged just under 21 points per game given those results. We would have scored a few more points than the 49ers who averaged 20.6 points per game and went 8-8. 8-8 is not a glorious of playoff bound record, but it sure looks pretty good if you finished 1-15 in 2009. A 7 game turn around would be pretty damn good in 2010.

We need a full offensive rebuild in 2010. Step one in this process means unloading Pat Shurmer and the West Coast Offense This is the difference that will make the difference.