Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Shurmur needs a dose of Jacob's Ladder


Well, my Rams got their 7th win of the 2010 season against San Francisco 49ers this past weekend. As a special added bonus, we knocked the 49ers out of the playoff picture (if you can believe that). As double bonus, we sunk their battleship. The 49ers responded by firing Coach Mike Singletary, a questionable move that does not strike at the heart of their problems.

Let’s not be too full of malicious glee, because we still have a lot of work to do.

Great improvements but…

During the draft, I completely scoffed at all notions of the Rams pulling turn a turn-around and making the playoffs. Many sanguine Ram fans declared that a Miami/Atlanta type turn-around was possible. I scoffed at that, declaring that we were a lot further away from victory than Miami in 2008 or Atlanta in 2007. I was just hoping we could win a game. Forget about the playoffs.

At the beginning of this season, I scoffed at the notion that we were “poised for a great leap forward.” I felt we had made nowhere near the amount of progress we needed to see a “great leap forward.” We had a highly suspect and unproven offensive line, a surgically repaired rookie quarterback, no receivers and a few upgrades to our decent defense. That’s not enough, or so I thought.

Well we have made a hell of a lot of progress; surprising and unexpected progress. Most experts are calling the Rams the greatest surprise story of the year. We have a 6 game turn around in hand, with the possibility of a 7th and a playoff spot. Winning the NFC West means going from worst to first inside our division. In a certain sort of way, this can be considered a great leap forward.

Let’s not be too full of ourselves. There is still a hell of a lot of home improvement we need to make before we can start talking about a Super Bowl run.

We’re still not playing good football

The Rams of 2010 are drastically better than the Rams of 2009. As I have observed many times, the Rams offense of 2009 looked like keystone cops at a Chinese fire drill. The defense was a work in progress that didn’t start to look sharp until the end of the season. Improvement was evident through the season defensively, but we still only fielded half a football team. The Rams of 2010 look more like a complete team, with both offense and defensive sides contributing to victory. This is the reason for the six additional victories we have had so far, and the highly competitive games we have lost.

With that said, we still aren’t playing good football. At the moment, we cannot compete with the likes of the Eagles, Falcons and Saints for supremacy in the NFC. We don’t have much chance of beating the Saints when and if they come to visit us in the playoff tournament. Granted, we never expected to be in the tournament in the first place, so we have a moral victory in hand. I am sure you and I will want and expect a lot more next season.

What do we have to do to get there?

In a nut shell, these are the things that must happen in order for the Rams to improve:

1. We need a deadly receiver. As I mentioned in a past blog, I am not speaking of a Pro-Bowl, or even All-Pro receiver. I am speaking of a historical figure who will blaze a path to the Hall of Fame and the Top 100 in NFL history. I am talking about a deadly threat that will give all the other 31 defensive coordinators in the NFL maddening nightmares before the game. I am talking about a game-changing playmaker who turns the tide of battle when everything is going against us.

2. We need a pair of behemoth offensive guards. Two copies of Carl Nicks (#77 for the Saints) will do very nicely. If I can get one Larry Allen and one John Hannah, I will be happy to take that as well.

3. We need a franchise defensive tackle. Although the selection of Sam Bradford has turned out to be the correct one, it breaks my heart that we just passed on the best defensive lineman since Mean Joe Greene. Ndamukong Suh would have fit the need perfectly.

4. We need to get Pat Shurmur some aggression training courses. Perhaps a trip through Marine Corp boot camp and Infantry school will do it for him. He must hone his killer instinct, or he will become a dead Marine.

Why do I say this?

First, the need for receivers is pretty obvious. I don’t think any Ram fan will contest this point. We all know we are going to pretty well flush and clean our receiver corp next season. If I were running the show, the only two guys I would bring back for sure would be Danny Amendola and Danario Alexander. Every other man better row for his life or lose it.

Second, although we now have a great center and two rapidly improving young tackles, our guards are pretty terrible. Anyone who has watched the past three games knows that the offensive line has allowed pressure from the middle, and failed to open any sort of running holes in between the tackles. When Steven Jackson has gained yardage, it has been off-tackle. I have been one of the foremost detractors of our offensive line. They have turned out to be quite a bit better than I thought, but this is damning with faint praise. If we want to take steps in the playoffs, we need to make sure we have devastating offensive guards who drive-block and slide-block. How the 49ers’ three man defensive line managed to dominate our offensive line is utterly beyond me. What a disgrace! If you observe what they did, they constantly pinched in, going after the guard gap.

Third, anyone who watched the game against the 49ers saw the 49er offensive line gashing holes in the middle of our defensive line. This wasn’t the first time either. Teams such as Cardinals have been able to run between our tackles with shocking efficiency. All of this points the finger at our suspect defensive tackles. Fred Robbins is a very nice pass rusher, but he is not the equal of Williams brothers in Minnesota. Of course, we know Ndamukong Suh would have been the perfect candidate… Perhaps we can acquire Albert Haynesworth cheap next season.

Shurmur needs Jacob’s Ladder

Some have accused the Rams of calling a very conservative offensive game. I deny that. Rather, Shurmur is simply calling a stupid offensive game. We are passing more than we did last season, and we are looking more like a West Coast Offense, but Shurmur is not off the hook just yet.

Going to sleep offensively when you have a 9 point lead and chance to go up by 16 is stupid football. It’s not conservative, it’s stupid. It’s reminiscent of the worst aspects of Marty-ball. Some call this “playing it safe” and “playing conservative”. No, it’s being stupid. Call a spade a spade. This is stupid football. Shurmur is still calling a stupid football game offensively.

No lead is safe in this league, especially if you are playing a team like the Eagles in the Playoffs. When you have the lead, you attack to destroy and demolish. Fuck all that stupid shit about running up the score. You kill the enemy. When you have your opponent down on the carpet, you do not allow him to get up off the carpet. You put your pistol to his forehead and you pull the trigger. You blow his brains out. You burry your opponent. You finish your opponent.

Shurmur needs aggression training courses. He must hone his killer instinct. He has passed on several moments of truth when we could have killed our enemies and finished them good. How I wish I could give Shurmur a dose of Jacob’s Ladder before the game. For those of you who don’t remember the movie, Jacob’s Ladder was the code name for a hyper-aggression drug developed by the U.S. Military to motivate soldiers to extreme carnage in combat. A single dose would turn an ordinary home-town boy into an enraged psychopath, frothing at the mouth and ready to kill everything.

How I wish I could give Shurmur a dose of Jacob’s Ladder before the game against the Seahawks.