I’m a guy that is patient…usually to a fault…with new coaches. My approach is that they usually take over a team because it’s bad, and they need time to implement their system and to get their players in place. That has been the case with Andy Murray with the Blues, and it is with Steve Spagnuolo with the Rams. All I ask for is incremental improvement, and my hope is that one day my team will benefit from that patience and have sustained success, like the Eagles, Colts, Red Wings and now Penguins have had.
Having said that, I sure have some concerns about Spagnuolo’s first season as the Rams head coach. I believe that the three main things a NFL head coach must implement are consistent effort, wins in the turnover battle, and discipline to avoid penalties. In short, to not have the team beat itself.
The 2008 Rams were at the bottom of the barrel in those categories. The team didn’t play hard for Scott Linehan before he was fired, were 23rd in the league in turnover margin at -5, and committed 97 penalties for 718 yards. Only ten teams committed more penalties than the ’08 Rams.
After Sunday’s 47-7 loss to Tennessee (if that sounds familiar, the ’08 club’s low point was a 47-3 loss to the Jets), in which the Rams committed ten penalties, they’ve been flagged 86 times this season, a pace for 106 penalties. It’s week thirteen, and the Rams committed ten penalties.
Continued repeat offenders Richie Incognito and Alex Barron, whom Rams fans have watched kill drives for years, were given “clean slates” by Spagnuolo. And both have been given multiple chances to atone under his regime. If you’re Barron and you miss a half against Jacksonville for lining up wrong, or if you’re Incognito and you get pulled for a while after one of your patented unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, why stop if you start the next week’s game?
Leaving out the -4 from Sunday’s game (I give the Rams a mulligan for Keith Null’s first NFL start), the Rams were -6 in the turnover ratio category, worse than 2008.
Even in the department that Spags is supposed to excel in, sacking the quarterback, the Rams are behind last year’s pace. The’08 squad had thirty sacks. This edition is on pace for 24.
And, obviously, in the most important category, wins, the Rams have fewer under Spagnuolo than they ever did in seasons under Rich Brooks, Dick Vermeil, Mike Martz, or Linehan. Even interim coaches Joe Vitt and Haslett had more wins.
I can deal with the losing. I’m hardened to that. But shouldn’t I be entitled to a little improvement?