‘Hard Knocks’ a reality for LA Rams

Jeff Fisher sits besides quarterback Jared Goff, the No. 1 selection in the 2016 NFL Draft. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson is somewhere smiling. The Los Angeles Rams pulled the trigger on the Jeff Fisher era, finally giving the veteran coach the boot. But was it enough to stop the team’s ineptitude bleeding?

Right about now, the Rams have a lousy product on the football field. Getting rid of Fisher, who just  tied Dan Reeves with more losses than any coach in the history of the NFL, is just the first step.

They’ve got some correctable issues to overcome. A putrid offense. A once respected defense being shredded week after week. The franchise quarterback of the future who couldn’t get on the football field until midway of the season is still trying to find his way.

And once he does, the team’s offensive capabilities flutter. After just being roasted by the Atlanta Falcons, 42-14, at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Los Angeles Rams cemented their 10th straight season with a losing record. This is not exactly the kind of pro football picture that Southern California sports fans had in mind when the Rams decided to make Los Angeles home again.

They expected more. So far, what Rams fans are getting is less. A whole lot less.

The NFL is certainly not getting the right bang for their buck after clearing the way for the former Anaheim and St. Louis tenant holders to fill the void of the Los Angeles market. A treading water football team cannot be what Rams owner Stan Kroenke had in mind when he convinced 30 of 32 NFL owners to vote in favor of his $1.8 billion stadium proposal in Inglewood, California.

The weight of being the No.1 overall draft pick lays on the shoulders of Jared Goff. Photo by Dennis j. Freeman

That’s not to mention the $550 million relocation fee Kroenke and the franchise had to pay to move the team from the cold winters of the Midwest. Man, that’s a lot of dough to cough up watch running back Todd Gurley go from top of the offensive rookie class in 2015 to a bumbling, stumbling imposter in 2016.

You want to talk about faking the funk, the Rams has always had a vaunted defense under Fisher.This year is no different. The Rams are ranked No. 10 in total defense in 2016. But you wouldn’t know it by the way the Rams’ “D” has played the last three games against New England, New Orleans and Atlanta.

OK. Giving up 26 points to Tom Brady and the Patriots is nothing to really to hang your head about. But allowing 49 being dropped on you by the ragged Saints, and surrendering another 42 at home to Matt Ryan and the Falcons is another story. Then there is the matter of rookie quarterback Jared Goff and his introduction into the National Football League.

You might call it the lost season for Goff and the Rams. The Rams got rid of six draft picks to take Goff at the top of the 2016 NFL Draft with the No. 1 overall selection. So far, the return has come back with insufficient funds.  

After four games, Goff is still winless as a starter as the season winds to a rapid close. His tendency to turn the ball over has been nothing to sneeze about.

Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders on site to celebrate the team's selection in the 2016 NFL Draft in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com
Los Angeles Rams cheerleaders on site to celebrate the team’s selection in the 2016 NFL Draft in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman/News4usonline.com

But he is a rookie, and the growth process for Goff to get better and better is unlimited. The Rams have time on their hand to allow Goff to grow. The fans might be another matter. This is Los Angeles. This city expects winners from its sports teams, whether it’s USC, UCLA, the Los Angeles Lakers, Los Angeles Kings and Los Angeles Clippers.

With the Rams, Southern California received an Orange County retread that has a lot of miles on it. Organizationally, the team seems to be fundamentally sound. It’s just that they haven’t figured out a way to make that kind of statement on the football field. Yet.

But they had better hurry up. One way to lose fans in a hurry in this market is to keep losing and keep getting blown out at home. People have too many other things to occupy their time here. The Oakland Raiders (Los Angeles Raiders at that time) found that out when their last rental stay here evolved into a losing proposition for both the city and the franchise.

Fans embraced the Silver and Black when they were winning football games. Once the Raiders started losing games in declining fashion, though, it got ugly in a hurry. In their first four seasons, the Raiders went 8-1, 12-4, 11-5, 12-4, and had the Coliseum rocking on Sundays.

Attendance began plateauing out the last four seasons for the Raiders as they finished third, fourth, second and third in respective years in the AFC West Division. The Rams don’t want that excitement to fizzle out before the real party gets started when the teams move to its Inglewood home in 2019.

Rams defensive tackle Doug Worthington makes it happen for students during the team's Play 60 Field Day in Inglewood,California. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman
Rams defensive tackle Doug Worthington makes it happen for students during the team’s Play 60 Field Day in Inglewood,California. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

The real question then becomes with Fisher gone who will be the guy to lead them in their new facility a couple of years from now? The Rams should have made the decision to dump Fisher long before they even hit the 110 Freeway. Fisher have been an incompetent head coach throughout his career, and the Rams figured that was going to change?

They thought wrong. It was a bad move. It was a bad look to have Fisher leads this team. Period. The only level Fisher took the Rams to was mediocrity. In 22 years as a head coach, Fisher posted a 173-165 record.       

Therein lies the problem. Los Angeles don’t do average. The LA fan base want the boom and bam for their entertainment value. They want the flash. This is Hollywood. The fans here want Amy Adams or Natalie Portman performances. They expect the spectacular to happen on just about every play. Just ask the Lakers.

After winning back-to-back NBA titles in 2019 and 2010, the Lakers have gone through some lean years since.

When the amazing stopped happening, so did interest in the ballclub. With a bunch of new faces this season, the Lakers have been able to re-cast themselves as the hip LA basketball team as they compete with the Clippers for city loyalty. This is the dilemma the Rams face.  

The hype that surrounded the announcement that the Rams were moving into a permanent home in Inglewood is still here, but has been somewhat muted. When HBO’s “Hard Knocks” came knocking on the door of the Rams to promote the team’s transfer from one city to another, the buzz was a welcoming applause for SoCal sports fans.

The synergy was high. The enthusiasm became unmasked. The void of not having an NFL ballclub in Los Angeles after a 21-year absence, had finally been filled.  Now comes the hard part: winning. And while they’re winning, the Rams might want to throw in a dash of Denzel Washington or Leonardo DiCaprio type of players to keep the fans in their seats.     

Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1118 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (San Diego Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). As a professional journalist, Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a graduate of Howard University.