In the perceived case of the Los Angeles Rams versus Aaron Donald, there is no right or wrong. There is only winning…and winning fans.
To those that have “had it up to here” with the many Aaron Donald articles that don’t begin with the phrase, “RAMS SIGN,” my apologies. After reading one of Jake Ellenbogen’s latest, I felt compelled to respond. Jake, of DownTownRams.com, writes:
"“Okay, Aaron, you win. You have shown the Rams that you are for real in your demands for a new contract. However, now it’s time for you to re-appear in the spotlight and get to work.”"
His article’s purpose, glaring in its headlines, is that Aaron Donald has successfully made his point of wanting a raise. That the article scolds Donald like he’s a pampered child throwing a tantrum is not why I’m bothering to respond. A.D.’s a grown man and can handle it.
Jake’s interpretation further widens the division that exists within Rams nation. On the surface this doesn’t sound very critical. But judging from conversations like the one I had in a Rams group made up of thousands after his posted article, the small percentage of fans that think like Jake won’t change. This is disturbing because missing the big picture at the worst possible time allows another team to buy [L.A. turf] low.
Breaking down the gist of Jake Ellenbogen’s piece:
"Jake: You may have even said “Aaron Donald would never do something like that. He’s all about the team, he’s the ultimate teammate.” However, three years later, Donald is, in fact, holding out and it’s become quite a bit of an issue."
Correction. The issue, according to most Rams fans, is that the front office allowed this to go on so long. A professional sports organization usually plans ahead. Do they not? It’s not like Aaron Donald suddenly morphed into the “NFL’s most disruptive player” and one of the most feared overnight. He’s been good since a few months past his NFL draft date – great since year two. Did anyone from L.A. to St. Louis not see this coming?
"Jake: This holdout is drawing mainstream media attention, it’s causing crowds to pour into Rams training camp with “Pay the Man” signs and shirts as well as even chants."
Uh, no. Not paying Donald was attracting attention long before his holding out became official. Plus Los Angeles Rams fans remember their team’s history with its treatment of great players like Eric Dickerson. Naturally, they’re concerned.
"Jake: This may sound like I am dogging on Donald and while it might be true…"
"Jake: If this holdout didn’t hit fans before, the new depth chart showcasing a starting lineup without Donald really put the nail in the coffin."
Dude, c’mon. It’s not the end of the world. The Rams fans I know and love are loyal and down for their team no matter how big the pill they’re asked to swallow.
"Jake: That’s the one positive with Donald…You know it’s Donald, so you know he’s not going to come back out of shape."
No counterpoint needed here, really. Jake makes it for me but for his supporters I’ll continue.
Listen, I would understand if he played the receiver position and bringing more drama than he caused for opposing defenses. In Jake’s words, however, “it’s Donald.” In spite of all the praise and accolades this man’s gotten this past off-season, he’s working harder to improve. I have yet to come across a video posting or tweet of him making it rain in some nightclub. To my knowledge, the beautiful Jealynn Blakey, the love of his life, has not screamed of beatings. Nor have I been able to find accusations of performance-enhancing drug use connected to him. He is not only a generational type talent, he is a proven and established role model. These are the types of players you take care of. They arrive on our planet too few and far between these days.
Mr. Ellenbogen and his supporters are not without their points.
Jake makes his best argument suggesting cohesion is needed amongst teammates. But again, it’s Aaron Donald. Wade Phillips need only say, “See quarterback. Get quarterback,” for the defense to be okay.
One intelligent fan in the discussion I mentioned stated that Donald should’ve waited until the final year of his contract. In fact, the attitude of many is simply, “You signed the contract. Honor it.” Admittedly, even I’m torn here because my character make-up would do just that. But as one of many fans half-ignoring the business side, the bigger picture becomes huge. Bad business, after all, is bad advertising.
The big picture consists of smaller big pictures.
Suppose, in the near future, we are trying to get a key piece to fit our victory puzzle through free agency. Do you honestly believe the Los Angeles Rams are a competitively attractive NFL franchise for them to consider?
And is that old slogan, “image is everything,” really true? Too often, the answer is “Yes, of course!”
Ponder this: You have a team returning to their home only a year before after being gone over twenty years. You have another team moving into that first team’s market and fighting for fans. Now, in the era we live in, think twenty years ahead and ask yourself the following question:
“How many fans thirty and under has my team turned away and towards another from mismanagement alone?”