Ram Man or Rams Fan?: How to Fix the Los Angeles Rams – Part 1
Well, Ram fans, you got a lot coming your way.
And I don’t mean fans of Ram Man of “He-Man and the Masters of the Universe” fame, I’m talking about fans of the newly minted Los Angeles Rams. Wait, you haven’t heard of Ram Man? Well, perhaps this fantastic commercial from the 1980’s will help:
So there’s two things that you’ve probably learned from watching that commercial. Number 1, Ram Man is an idiot and likely wouldn’t make it through the NFL concussion protocol. Number 2, toys kinda sucked in the 80’s. And coming from first hand experience, I can attest to the fact that toys in the 80’s basically consisted of smashing pieces of plastic together until you got bored, or being perpetually angry about not being able to match colors on a plastic cube.
And notice that the name of the company that made the Rubik’s Cube was “Ideal”. Really? “Ideal” for what? “Ideal” for those who enjoyed a slow decent into insanity as you wasted all your time meaninglessly trying to match colors on a piece of plastic? Seriously, it basically sucked being a kid in the 1980’s. But you know what else I remember from the 80’s? The Los Angeles Rams football team. That’s right, not the St. Louis Rams, but the Los Angeles Rams.
You see, the Rams were in LA for a really long time (1946-1994 to be exact), so in 1994 when the Rams went to St. Louis, there were some serious “WTF” moments. Being a Cubs fan from Chicago, I hated the St. Louis Cardinals, so any St. Louis sports teams drew my ire by association. But since I was also a Bears fan, the rivalry was already set with the Packers (and there certainly was enough bad blood there to last a lifetime — I’m looking at you Brat Stop from Kenosha, WI), so the Rams never really caught my attention. That is, of course, until they became the “greatest show on turf” in 1999 behind the impressive play of Kurt Warner. And honestly, the St. Louis Rams ended up being a relatively successful organization, making 5 playoff appearances, winning 3 division championships, 2 conference championships and 1 Super Bowl in just 21 short years. And now we have a “WTF” moment all over again.
After the NFL owners voted 30-2 to approve the relocation of the St. Louis Rams, the Rams are moving back to Los Angeles.
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) January 15, 2016
Of course, to me at least, this wasn’t that big of a deal. It’s actually pretty surprising that Los Angeles didn’t have an NFL team for over two decades. And seeing as how the Rams spent close to 50 years in LA in the past, what’s a 21 year hiatus anyway?
So Los Angeleseans (and yes, I’m aware that this probably isn’t a real word), welcome back to the NFL! But before you all celebrate, perhaps you ought to have kicked the tires on this one first. Well, nothing you can do about buyers remorse now, so let’s see what we can do to improve your chances at getting a winning first season back in LA.
The Rams have been a mostly average team over the last couple years. After finally ditching a perpetually injured Sam Bradford, the Rams turned to a combination of Nick Foles and Case Keenum to bring them to a less than stellar 7-9 record in 2015. And when I say “less than stellar”, I’m also referring to the entire Rams passing game.
In 2015, the Rams ended up LAST in passing yards per game (175.3), with the second lowest completion percentage (57.7), and least passing TDs (11) leading to the worst total passer rating (74.1) in the NFL. Let’s not beat around the bush here, both Nick Foles and Cases Keenum were bad. But at least the Rams didn’t pay Keenum $26 million over three years to stink up the field. Nope, they saved that for Foles. In fact, although Foles stats, if looked at in a vacuum, seem to be merely “just bad”, it turns out they’re far worse, as 41.1% of his completions were actually “failed completions” (i.e. those that did not ultimately net a first down). So, in other words, he was padding his stats with 6 yard completions on 3rd and 10 a lot and he still sucked.
Although Football Outsiders ranked the Rams offense 29th in total offensive DVOA (an offense which provided the 4th least points per game (17.5) in 2015), it really wasn’t the entire offense that was bad. Taking an injured Todd Gurley in the first round of the 2015 NFL Draft turned out to be a terrific move, as the Rams ended up with the 7th most rushing yards per game (122.3), sixth highest yards per attempt (4.6) and sixth most rushing TDs (16) in the NFL during the regular season.
Gurley ended up with 1,106 yards and 10 TDs in just 13 games, as he missed the first two games of the season recovering from ACL surgery and the week 17 game with a mild case of turf toe. In fact, even without the full season, he led all rookies in rushing yards, yards per carry (4.8) and TDs. Gurley also ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards per game and finished behind only Doug Martin in 20-plus yard runs. And for his efforts, Gurley was named the Associated Press’ 2015 Offensive Rookie of the Year and received a bid to the Pro Bowl.
Todd Gurley Named AP Offensive Rookie of the Year
— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) February 7, 2016
Although Gurley was in a walking boot at the end of the season, he ended up playing in the Pro Bowl and has confirmed that he’s basically all systems go.
Rams RB Todd Gurley told me this morning that all is well with his foot. He plans to do offseason training at Exos Performance Center in LA.
— Nick Wagoner (@nwagoner) February 5, 2016
So that leaves us with the just the defense left to discuss. And, in all honesty, although the numbers weren’t great, they were decent, being ranked 7th by Football Outsiders in total defensive DVOA. They allowed the 13th least points per game (20.6) and had the 11th most sacks (41), ultimately leading to the 10th best turnover differential in the NFL (+5). Unfortunately, this was coupled with allowing the 10th most passing yards per game (254.1) and the 13th most rushing yards per game (113.8) in the NFL.
Clearly, although the defense was competent, there could be some improvement there as well.
Well, Ram fans, now that we know what we need, next time, we’ll be looking at how we can get there in Part 2 – The Fix!