LA Rams authority/responsibility trouble means bigger problems ahead
By Bret Stuter
Are the LA Rams a well run organization today? That’s the pivotal question right now. You see, it may be the source of the problem. There is a technique when troubleshooting a bad organization. As an auditor of ‘what went wrong’, I can tell you from first-hand experience that the answer is typically right in front of you. Authority must accompany responsibility.
Or let’s be more focused. Does it make sense for head coach Sean McVay to call the offensive plays, designate the personnel packages, restrict the number of audibles that quarterback Jared Goff can call, and yet hold Goff solely and ultimately responsible for the offense?
Authority and responsibility. Authority is the power to change things. It’s the ability to call the plays on offense. Responsibility is the accountability if something goes wrong. If those two are not under the same hat, problems break out. Let’s put it another way. If someone else buys cheap ingredients, or materials, or tools, it’s not the fault of the chef, the carpenter, or the plumber if things do not turn out as planned.
The problem in an organization is typically not due to a bad person. It’s usually not a person who moves into a position to become ‘the problem’. If a person gets past the checkpoints or can become a problem, the process has broken down along the way. A broken process creates problems for an organization. A well established and maintained process fixes problems along the way.
Good leadership fixes a broken process. Bad leadership assigns the blame and then replaces the responsible party. The goal of both strategies is the same: To get better. Good leadership tries to create enough support in a system so that the person succeeds.
Bad leadership deflects faults to someone else. In management circles, it’s called playing the blame game, and it results in creating a bad culture in an organization. And the psychology of assigning blame indicates the inability to truly diagnose the problem.
This is the same offense where Sean McVay calls the plays, sends in the personnel packages, and Goff executes the play. So what if it’s a bad play? What if the play design throws the quarterback into the teeth of the defense? It’s Goff’s fault. If a receiver runs the wrong route, or if the linemen fail to block, it’s Goff’s fault. Even when it’s not Goff’s fault, the pattern of blaming Goff is too difficult to break.
Stats don’t lie, this time
Per SharpFootballStats, the LA Rams used the 11-personnel (3 WR sets) package 65 percent of the offensive snaps in 2020. 12-personnel (2 WR 2 TE sets) was used 29 percent of the time. Finally, 13-personnel (1 WR 3 TE sets) was used five percent of the time. And yet, when the Rams used the 12-personnel package against the New England Patriots, The Rams offense scored 24 points and dominated in that game.
We reviewed some of the NFL’s finest quarterbacks in their early years. In 69 games, Jared Goff turned the ball over 97 times. In his first 80 games, Russell Wilson turned the ball over 91 times. In his first 80 games, Peyton Manning turned the ball over 127 times. In his first 59 games, Drew Brees turned the ball over 77 times.
In the end, the Rams have every reason to expect Goff to tighten up on ball security. The ironic thing is that Goff did exactly that in 2020. You see, by the 11th game of the season, Jared Goff had turned the ball over 17 times. After being called out for turnovers publicly, he played six more games, two with a swollen and injured throwing-hand thumb, and only had three turnovers. 17 turnovers in 11 games before the public chastising. Three turnovers in six games after the public chastising. Goff made progress.
Winning isn’t easy, but it’s everything in the NFL
Winning is not easy in the NFL. However you believe Goff has contributed to the success or demise of the LA Rams, the overall team has been very successful. The Rams have only missed the playoffs once. Goff under McVay is 42-20 in the regular season and 3-3 in the postseason. Only five quarterbacks have won the NFC Championship Game since Jared Goff joined the NFL five years ago. Goff is one of the five.
The last five winners were Tampa Bay Buccaneer’s quarterback Tom Brady, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, LA Rams quarterback Jared Goff, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan.
Aaron Rodgers is not among them. Nor is Russell Wilson, nor Drew Brees. So why only the past five seasons? That’s as long as Jared Goff has been an active quarterback in the NFL. If the Rams and quarterback Jared Goff part ways, I truly will not be concerned for Jared Goff’s future. He will flourish with his new team and could prove to be one of the top-five quarterbacks in the NFL someday.
My concern is more with the LA Rams. Resetting the quarterback is no jumpstart to success. To do that, they’ll need a talented and successful veteran. The Rams cannot afford to sign one in free agency, and any potential trade partner will see the Rams’ current situation and know that they can play, and succeed, at playing hardball.
Nothing the Rams have done so far fixes anything. Can they repair the offense in time for the 2021 NFL season? Perhaps. It will require a blockbuster trade or backup QB John Wolford to truly step up this season. That seems like an unlikely outcome.
If the hope is that the Rams will trade for a veteran quarterback from another team, the Rams have done a very poor strategy so far of setting up to get one at an affordable price. Quite the contrary, the Rams have all but announced to the NFL that they are having a firesale on Goff, and are willing to pay top dollar for his replacement. That means trouble today. And if it fails to reignite the offense? Well then, that is where the bigger problems ahead kick it.