Thursday, July 1, 2010

Andy Benoit's assessment is pretty bleak...

And rightfully so.

For those who keep tabs on the New York Times, you may have noted a rare assessment of the St. Louis Rams there. As a former fan, I was curious. What could make the New York Times interested in this team?

It was part of a garden variety off-season exercise in assessing the talent levels of teams around the league. Nothing more, and nothing less. Benoit worked on this piece. He didn't toss it off in record time, without consideration.

It would be good if the myopic Ram-homers of St. Louis would read and consider this piece carefully. They are far too quick to interpret accurate assessment as an attack. They are far too quick to disregard serious treatment of serious problems. They just want to be happy now... that it is the off season. Illusions help this present moment, but they will make the season more painful to false expectations.

The edge of the scalpel is found in paragraph four. It goes like this:

We never see Disney movies about a bad team that stays bad – it’s just not great entertainment. Maybe that’s why, for the third straight year, the Rams are scheduled for zero nationally televised games. Can the Rams improve in 2010? Of course. It’d be hard not to, considering 2-14 would technically be an improvement. But the Rams aren’t going to improve enough to vie for a playoff spot. They simply don’t have the talent. The young offensive line has no depth. None of the wide receivers or tight ends would start on a typical N.F.L. team. Steven Jackson has to carry the entire run game. Defensively, there’s an absence of pass-rushers. And the secondary will start three backups on opening day and be only slightly worse off than the linebacking corps.
I added emphasis to the most critical words in the piece. The most benighted of Ram fans--who are few in number--seem to think Sam Bradford is going to launch rockets this season. It may not be 1999 all-over-again, but 2010 will be something special. The linchpin of this delusion is a relentless denial of problems with the offensive line, and an upbeat view of the receiver corp. Like Devaney, these myopic fans say, "Gheez, I thought our receivers were pretty good."

Problem is that nobody else does. No D.C. in the league has any fear of the Rams' receivers, nor should they. At this point, none of the Rams receivers has been able to make them pay for this lack of respect. Ergo sum, we must presume the lack of respect is fully warranted.

I read a piece, not so long ago, in which Mardy Gilyard declared his hopes to make an impact on special teams first, and then hopefully become a starter. I was surprised by the limited nature of his goals. My response was more like "Kid, you're going to start on Day 1, before Sam Bradford does, and you'll be the #1 receiver from day one also." Let's face it: It's Gilyard or the Rams got nothing. Donnie Avery is too much of a ball-dropper to be #1. We'll see what Laurent does.

Can you give the name of another football team where a 4th round draft pick is the presumptive #1 receiver on the squad? Some may point at Pierre Garçon last season, but that is illegit. Nobody expected Pierre Garçon to be the #1 receiver on the Colts squad in 2009. Frankly, it never happened either. Both Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark were preferred by Manning. Pierre Garçon was #3 in their scheme.

No folks, we are looking at a situation in St. Louis that is almost without president. A guy drafted in the 4th round is seen by insiders as being the likely #1 receiver straight away, from day-one. Roll that over in your mind 7 to 10 times and consider the implications well.

Poor Sam...

A few vociferous kids on the net loudly proclaim their cheer and their love of Sam. These are the few and the proud, the vociferous. They are vociferous for a reason; they feel they need to be. I see a few people who conform to Sam Wyche's mania proclamations, but not many.

For most, there is a sorrow that the Rams misused an ultra-valuable pick to ruin a good kids career. Poor Sam. This isn't a dis of Sam so much as it is a regret of what is going to happen to him.

My one quibble with Benoit's writting is his line "The line has no depth". That speaks volumes if you know what has been happening for the past three years in St. Louis. It's been one damn injury after another, and it is continuing this season. Saying the team has no depth is like saying the team has no line, because at one point or another several, if not all starters will be out. He also skirts the issue of quality problems.

The Rams have one man who has proven he can play on the offensive line: Jason Brown. They have two more guys with talent: Jason Smith and Rodger Saffold. Those who both have plenty to prove. The Rams need two new guards, period. Smith has not proven he is durable and reliable. Saffold is a rookie, and he had a nasty back injury last year. Goldberg will be moving right back to Tackle soon enough, leaving a hole at Right Guard.

Poor Sam. Poor, poor Sam. I feel terrible for the kid. It's very depressing. I wish I had his talent. I hate to see him squandered by bad management.