I heard several excuses during and after the Rams 34-17 loss to Atlanta in regards to the relative talent levels exhibited by the Rams and Falcons. “The poor Rams just don’t have enough talent, so they should just take their medicine and move on, and wait a couple of years…until they have more players…to win,” was the typical refrain.
And that’s a reasonable leap to make. The final years of the Jay Zygmunt/Scott Linehan regime left the Rams woefully thin, and they don’t have as many good players as many other teams. But why should that be an excuse?
Do the Buffalo Bills have as many good players as the Cincinnati Bengals? I would argue that they don’t. Yet the Bills hammered Cincinnati and put 49 points on the board on Sunday. The Minnesota Vikings have a defense that employs Jared Allen, Kevin and Pat Williams, Ray Edwards, E.J. Henderson and Antoine Winfield, yet the Packers…minus offensive starters Ryan Grant, Jermichael Finley and Mark Taucher…put 31 points on the Viking defense.
Do you know who Mike Wright, Jermaine Cunningham, Kyle Arrington and Devin McCourty are? That’s OK. They’re starters for the New England Patriots defense. By the way, the Patriots’ leading rushers in their win over Indianapolis were Benjarvis Green-Ellis and Danny Woodhead.
Despite what you might hear, the NFL is a league where coaching makes a big difference, for better or worse. Rick Venturi talks all the time about how this isn’t a league where you get five years to build a program and collect players any more. There’s a reason Steve Spagnuolo gets paid nearly $3 million a year. It’s not to wait for better talent, it’s to get the most out of the talent that he has.
Spagnuolo may well be doing that. If not for an ill-fated shovel pass with three and a half minutes left, the Rams would have had Atlanta in their sights throughout. The Rams have one of the highest paid offensive lines in the NFL, one of the highest paid running backs, and high draft picks Chris Long, James Lauranaitis, O.J. Atogwe, Ron Bartell and Bradley Fletcher on defense.
The Rams, like every team in the NFL, could use more good players. But the players they have need to allow fewer than 70 plays for less than 36 minutes in time of possession. The offense needs to convert better than 1-of-10 third down opportunities. People can talk all they want about how the Rams are undertalented. But we shouldn’t feel sorry for them. If the most talented team won every game, the Rams wouldn’t have beaten San Diego…and there would be no need for coaches.