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The Firing of Steve Spagnuolo

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​Things are bad for the Rams this season. I'm sure you didn't need me to tell you that, but there it is anyway. They were thought to be the class of a very weak NFC West division coming in, but such has not been the case. Instead, the San Francisco 49ers have emerged as the sleeping power so many people thought they were under first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, and the Rams have gone 2-8. 

The offense is the worst in football; the secondary is shot. The quarterback is regressing; the O-line is shit. The team could field a second, likely more competitive squad just with the players they've had to put on injured reserve this season. Things are bad for the Rams. 

Which, of course, has led to plenty of media types, acting as the Voice of the Fans, to call for Steve Spagnuolo to be fired. Team sucks, coach is shown the door. It's the way things work in professional sports. 

Unfortunately, I'm not sure firing Spags wouldn't do more harm than good to the team. 

There's a question that has to be asked here, a question about how you balance two things. How do you balance the current crapitude of the team, which has plenty to do with the coaching staff, against the potential longer-term harm done by a coaching change? 

What a new coach would mean for the Rams is fairly obvious: another rebuild. Maybe not a full rebuild, mind you, as they do already have some very nice pieces in place, but new coaches always bring in a new staff, and a new philosophy to boot. A new coach winning in his first season, the way Harbaugh is in San Francisco, is a fairly unusual situation. 

Really, though, my biggest concern in any potential coaching change would be for Sam Bradford. Bradford learned a new offense in his first season in the NFL, and did so remarkably well. He then had to turn around and learn another, completely different, offense his second year. It's not going so well, to be honest. At the time of Josh McDaniels' hiring, there was some concern over Sam learning a new offense for the second season in a row, but those concerns were mostly overridden by the admiration for Bradford himself. Unfortunately, it now looks as if those concerns about him playing in his third offense in as many years were more right than most of us wanted to believe. 

If Spagnuolo is shown the door, Josh McDaniels will head out right behind him. The Rams certainly aren't going to hand McD the head coaching position after witnessing the disaster he presided over in Denver, not to mention the fact it's his vaunted offense which is currently dead last in the league in scoring. So out goes McDaniels. In comes a new offensive coordinator, with a third offense for Bradford to try and learn. At least he would have a full offseason to try and get it down, I suppose. But eventually, trying to install a new offense every year of Sam's career is just going to send him down the Alex Smith path, and that's not at all the path anyone wants to see Bradford on. The Rams have invested too much in Sam Bradford to send him down that path. 

Beyond Bradford, the rest of the team would have to learn new terminology and system as well. The defensive line, perhaps the only unit on this Rams team which has clearly performed well enough to win consistently, is built entirely on Spagnuolo's vision for a D-line. So what happens if the next coach and defensive coordinator don't have the same vision? The team's biggest strength could very well be neutralized. 

The other option, of course, would be to tailor the coaching search to the personnel already in place. But going out and finding a coach who specifically wants to run a team in the way your team is already built seems more than a little self-defeating to me. It isn't working now, so you want to find a guy with the same vision? 

There are plenty of ways teams can get stuck in losing cycles. Bad drafts, franchise-altering injuries, ownership issues, things like that. The coaching carousel is one of the most insidious and dangerous. You think you're doing the right thing, that the next coaching change will be the one to turn things around. You think things are bad now and you have to make a move, to change something and get the team back on track; it's just a matter of finding the right guy to do it. But each move just puts the team right back at square one and starts the process all over again. New coach comes in, tries to build a winner, the results don't come, and you make another change. Same story over and over, when the real issue isn't the wrong coach; it's the interrupted process. 

Inertia is a dangerous thing as well. Bad coaching isn't going to get better, and perhaps the problem really is this coaching staff. If so, then prolonging the inevitable certainly isn't a desirable action. But which is worse: to move too early and risk setting the franchise back again, or to move too late and waste yet another season before admitting a change really does need to be made? I don't honestly have an answer, but it's an incredibly important question all the same. 

I also don't know if Steve Spagnuolo has it in him to be a good head coach. There's plenty of evidence to say he doesn't, in fact. But for the sake of the team -- and for the sake of Sam Bradford in particular -- I hope Stan Kroenke and the rest of the Rams braintrust think long and hard before they go starting the process all over again from square one. 

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10 comments
A Guest,
A Guest,

Good article I never thought about Sam having to learn 3 different setups.

Parker West
Parker West

I have always been amazed how the NFL recycles coaches. Screw up one place, take a OC or DC job elsewhere and be mediocre, then become a head coach elsewhere all over again. Josh McDaniel destroyed the Broncos waiving the best parts, then adding weak players to take their place, yet he gets a chance to ruin Sam Bradford in St. Louis. New England had two OC's in row, one went to destroy the Notre Dame Irish, the other (McD) the Broncos. Could it be that Tom Brady is the reason that New England is a decent offense in spite of Charlie or Josh? Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher get run out of Tampa and Tennessee respectively and guess who are the hottest coaching prospects in football right now, yup those two. UCLA would love to grab either, and the Indy Colts can't wait to dump Jim Caldwell for Jeff Fisher, yah I know, in two years Jim Caldwell will be the #1 prospect for any openings. Jack Del Rio just got canned and his name has also been tied to his Alma Matre UCLA, and of course Denver replaced McD with another castoff, John Fox. See you can't lose, you cannot do such a bad job that your name doesn't pop right up all over again.

Mark Magas
Mark Magas

Sit Bradford and Jackson for the rest of the season. The key players on the defense as well . No reason to risk our best assets on a season when no one is watching anymore.

Fred L
Fred L

When I first read this story I agreed with Aaron. Than came yesterday's game against the Cardinals. More terrible coaching decisions, bad game management, inexplicable failures to go for a yard on 4th down. At the end, Spags handed the game away with that punt. "I thought we would stop them and get the ball back", huh? What game was he watching for the previous 57 minutes??I hate to see Sam being forced to learn ANOTHER offensive system but there's no hope with the present staff. Spags is a good man but he's way out of his depth. And Stan, please fire Devaney while you're at it. Before the draft.

handsome jimmy
handsome jimmy

You folks are forgetting one thing...the season ticket/PSL holders like me. Retaining Spags for another season will be the final nail in the coffin to the actual paying fans. If Spags/Deveney are not fired the day after the season ends, who will be left to buy tickets and PSLs?

The 'cheap-ass sit at home and watch the game on TV fans' opinion doesn't really matter.

jdub
jdub

Josh Mcdaniel is terrible.  He needs to go.  I suffered through the Tony Banks era and this could even be harder to watch.

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Lsell
Lsell

Agreed. No major coaching change now and next year. I've never been a Ram's fan but being from OKC, I am a huge Sam Bradford fan. It is painful to watch this team. There are so many things wrong with this team, it is difficult in my mind to blame the coaches for most of it. Here is the major question in my mind, ".... has the HC or the OC lost the locker room????". If not, keep them for another year.Lowery OKC

Chiefbob34
Chiefbob34

I know that many think that Coach Spagnuolo should go. I, for one do not. There are times when you do see that spark in the players. And the defense is good and getting better. The author makes some really good points in the article about starting all over again with a new head coach and what that brings with it. I do think that Coach Spagnuolo is the Coach for the Rams. He showed what can happen last year with a tremendously improved team. And please...let's not forget all the injuries this year. I know Coach Spagnuolo is never going to use that for an excuse. All teams have injuries, but hardly ever to this extent. Also, let's not forget about the Saints game where the Rams looked like everyone wants them to. Give Coach Spagnuolo one more year to get this fixed and then maybe thoughts may need to change. I bleed Ram blue and gold and I want them to win as much as anyone, but firing Coach Spagnuolo is not the answer in my opinion.

Rcgarcia19
Rcgarcia19

To say that someone opinion doesn't matter is a bit harsh. I don't have season tickets because I live in California, and I've been a Rams fan since '77. If you don't think your season tickets are providing enough entertainment then don't buy them. And maybe the Rams need some fans who believe in them and won't quit on them during the hard times.

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