By Manish Pandya
The frantic media narrative about the Los Angeles Rams in this nonsensical 24-hour “noise” cycle era will leave you exhausted. Every event is blown out of proportion and every day the sky is falling or a mountain has been climbed.
Now that the Los Angeles Rams were slaughtered 28-0 by the lowly San Francisco 49ers on Monday Night Football to open the season, it's a good time to take a breath and drown out the incessant banter. Let’s take stock of a few obvious truths that a more objective observer might have been able to see before the season began. In short, we need to re-calibrate and set expectations at a reasonable level.
1. The Rams were never likely to make the playoffs.
What happens when most of a 7-9 football team comes back, with unproved younger players replacing the loss of a few key veterans and increased pressure of a move to a new city? Something pretty close to the same level of success, if not less.
And nothing we saw in preseason from the Rams suggested anything had dramatically changed for the better. In fact, though it’s debatable how much emphasis should ever be placed on preseason games, even the Rams defense performed below expectations. Considering they are the undisputed strength of the squad, that was particularly disappointing.
Playing in the NFC West division that features the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, two teams clearly better than the Rams, and a fairly tough schedule on top of that, the odds of the Rams making the playoffs should have been understood to be extremely low.
2. The Rams offense in particular was going to be ugly.
One had to be a little delusional if you were impressed by what you saw of the Rams on offense in preseason. While an inordinate amount of coverage focused on the slow start and mistakes made by Rams top pick QB Jared Goff during preseason, a much larger and more significant truth was being ignored.
This Rams offense, with the exception of young stud running back Todd Gurley, is simply not that talented. More specifically, they have problems on the offense line and arguably the worst receiving corps in the NFL. None of that changes despite who plays the quarterback position.
And speaking of quarterback play, the heavy emphasis on Goff’s struggles also led to a startlingly slanted media narrative about how good Case Keenum or Sean Mannion actually looked, and an overly optimistic projection about the potential of either to suddenly turn this into a potent offense. The Rams were the worst passing team in the NFL last year and you were hoping an infusion of rookies playing with established journeymen quarterbacks was going to dramatically change that? Not likely.
Combine this with Jeff Fisher’s notoriously conservative play-calling and low-octane offensive vision, and it’s hard to understand why a rational observer would expect something exciting this season from the O.
Now it’s perhaps forgivable that some overly zealous fans and media members dreamed that Gurley, who barely played, would somehow heroically save the day once the regularly season started. But perhaps Monday night was a good time to wake up from such fantasies.
Teams will stack the box against Gurley until the Rams prove they can consistently throw the ball down the field. While the Rams undoubtedly will accomplish this better at times than they did in Week 1, expect it to be a constant issue all season long.
3. The time to judge the Jared Goff experiment is a long way off.
One of the most unusual media trends of the preseason was the amount of vitriol tossed at quarterback Jared Goff by the national and local media. Did the seemingly squeaky clean Goff commit some crime that I’m unaware of? Perhaps many are still resentful because they were in love with Carson Wentz?
Whatever it may be, it does appear many in the media are gleefully united in prematurely labeling this 21-year-old rookie a “bust” on the strength of a few sub-par preseason games and some exaggerated reports of struggles in practice. (In workouts attended by this reporter, Goff surely had some consistency issues but also clearly outshined starter Case Keenum at times. But you didn’t hear much about that, did you?)
Further, with rookie QBs Carson Wentz and Dak Prescott having solid opening week performances the media’s panic-stricken buyer’s remorse narrative is at all-time high.
Let’s all calm this down a little.
Taking nothing way from either Wentz or Prescott, both of whom indeed have picked up some things quicker than Goff has, providing a little context is appropriate. First, both are actually older and more physically developed than Goff, who is still growing.
Additionally, let’s remember Wentz played against the Cleveland Browns, so let’s wait a minute before making him Rookie of the Year. As for Prescott, who has consistently looked better than all rookie QBs thus far, he plays behind arguably the best offensive line in the NFL.
At the least, does anyone doubt that both guys have better offenses around them than the one the Rams would surround Goff with? Did you see what was out there on Monday night?
Most importantly, this is ridiculously early to project the fate of any of these guys! This silly desire for instant results makes people forget history.
Cam Newton was horrible in preseason. Peyton Manning had a terrible rookie year. Aaron Rodgers didn’t play for several years. RG III and Vince Young had great rookie seasons and struggled after.
So let’s wait and see how Goff develops over the next couple of years before lazily concluding anything. When he eventually plays, struggles should frankly be expected, especially with this offense. And through this process, fans should remain skeptical of the “news” that seeks to drag your attention from one faux headline to the next.
Remember, this is much of the same gaggle of media that confidently cited “sources” and reported before the Draft that NFL GMs had almost uniformly agreed that Wentz was better (proven false), that the Rams were sure to take Wentz (wrong again), and that Browns were in love with Wentz before that (Cleveland in fact traded the pick when they realized they couldn’t get Goff and had little interest in Wentz).
Progress over the long haul is what fans should be looking for, not the daily reports by a hyperventilating media that insists they “know” the potential of a young player so quickly.