Excluding the 2012 season, the St. Louis Rams had one of the worst stretches in NFL history dating back to the 2007 season. An embarrassing, gut-wrenching and horrendous 15-65 record over that span made the turf of the Edward Jones Dome the doormat of the league.
Even after a promising 2010 campaign led by then-rookie Sam Bradford, St. Louis reverted back to their losing ways in 2011 (2-14 record) after an injury riddled and an anemic offensive display.
That drop off in 2011 had fans uttering, they are just the “same old Rams.”
But not these Rams.
Not the Rams led by owner Stan Kroenke who cleaned the house of failed free agents, wasted draft picks, and wide-eyed first year head coaches who immensely underachieved.
The hiring of general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher not only provided a spark, but a complete culture change. They exceeded expectation in 2012 going 7-8-1 and 2-1-1 against the top dogs in their division. The overall record may not be impressive to the average fan, but it was a successful season for a team that endured an enormous overhaul in one year.
This will only leave Rams’ fans clamoring for more. No more teetering on the premises of a playoff birth, but actually clinching a spot in the postseason. This could very well happen next season with the talent the Rams have brought in through free agency last off-season, as well as the signing of dynamic tight end Jared Cook this off-season.
However, for a franchise that has gone through a gauntlet of hardships over recent years, building through the draft is the plan and blueprint to turn this team into a perennial contender.
But patience is the key.
While San Francisco and Seattle are jockeying for position to command dominance over the NFC West by signing productive veterans and big name targets, the Rams are saddling up for their youth movement. Besides the signing of Cook, who is 25, it is evident that St. Louis is leaving their past behind.
The highly anticipated move of Steven Jackson leaving the Rams comes to no surprise as he signed a three-year contract with the Atlanta Falcons. It remains to be seen if St. Louis will miss the production of their franchise rushing leader, but the move had to happen for financial reasons and to continue the team’s progression. Daryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, and Terrance Ganaway are there to fill the void of Jackson’s departure, or maybe even Eddie Lacy with their second first-round selection.
The exit of Danny Amendola also point towards the youth movement as he signed a mega deal with the New England Patriots. Amendola is technically in his prime at 27, but durability concerns accelerates his age. No longer the crutch to lean on, Amendola’s farewell could also increase Bradford’d field of view.
Now, I’m not saying the Rams won’t sign veteran free agents , because they did so last year inking Scott Wells and Cortland Finnegan. This go-around they are going after bigger and more high priced free agents. The Rams’ goal is to build through the draft, develop talent and reap the positive progressions.
St. Louis had the league’s youngest team in 2012 averaging to 25 years of age. They want to stick with the blueprint of cultivating from within, continuing to add fresh legs and avoid digging in the recycle bin of has beens and band-aid solution free agents.
Honestly, the Seahawks and 49ers can afford to make moves like this, they are already Super Bowl contenders. The Rams just have to stay the coarse. Before the 49ers reached NFC supremacy, they too endured seasons of struggles. But with success in multiple drafts, San Fran transformed into an all-pro team. Almost all of the 49ers 2012 draft picks didn’t see the field, they have talent waiting in the wings. Only LaMichael James saw an extended amount of action.
With two first-rounds picks this year and two next year in the first-round, the Rams youth movement has only begun. True, all the picks may not pan out, but you will have to believe in Kroenke, Fisher, Sneand and chief operating officer Kevin Demoff. You will have to have faith that the new leaders of this franchise is conjuring up a foolproof plan.