When people utter the name Joe McAtee, several things come to mind--Defender Of Truth, Justice, and The American Way, tireless advocate for making Taco Tuesday a national holiday...every Tuesday...Twitter Icon, inventor of the three ring binder, and writer savant for the SB Nation St. Louis Rams site Turf Show Times.
As the Writer Savant for TFT, he took my mediocre questions and made them look pretty damn good with his answers. So, let's give Joe a warm Daily Norseman SKOL, and enjoy this week's edition of 5 Good Questions. I reciprocated in kind, and when my answers to his questions are posted over at TFT, we'll cross post them to the main page.
1) The last time the Vikings met the Rams, in week one of last year, the quarterback for your team was supposed to be Sam Bradford, but he had just suffered another season ending knee injury. In the off season, the Rams moved on from Bradford, trading him to Philly for Nick Foles and some picks. I live here in St. Louis, and the pulse of the fan at the time was that it was a great trade for the Rams. Fast forward to today, and the Rams are, statistically anyways, the worst passing offense in the NFL. Are Rams fans happy with Foles, or happier that Bradford is gone, and what's been the major issue with throwing the ball this year?
Well, I think you have to separate the play issue from the availability issue for Bradford. I don't think it's fair to compare Nick Foles' statistics to Bradfords' only because Bradford wasn't on the field for the Rams in the last year and a half. That, to me, is what justified the trade for the Rams in that they had to move on. The lack of reliability was affecting how they built the team around the position. Moving on was the sensible move for the Rams and for Bradford.
As for Foles, I think he's in a tough position. He doesn't have reliable weapons on the outside or as possession-first options. His primary tight end, Jared Cook, has been about as undependable as one could imagine, much to the ire of Rams fans. Kenny Britt and Stedman Bailey are just barely above Adam Thielen production-wise. Brian Quick has two receptions. It's too much to ask of Foles to come in and put up 300-yard, 3-TD games.
The trade on its face allows the Rams, though, to move on from those fantasies and carve out a new identity that isn't reliant on a Sam Bradford-shaped figment of Rams fans' imaginations. That they've seemingly done so with Todd Gurley in less than half a season is justification enough for the trade.
2) Like the Vikings with Stefon Diggs, the Rams have an electrifying rookie on offense in RB Todd Gurley. Gurley, who missed the first two games, and had essentially a cameo in the third, has blown up since, rushing for 146, 159, 128, and 133 yards over the last four games. It's no coincidence that the Rams are 3-1 in those games. This game coming up has been called a 'passing of the torch' game, from Adrian Peterson to Gurley as the Best Running Back In Football. Is that fair to Gurley or too much to put on him this early in his career, even though numbers suggest he's already an elite back in the NFL?
I'd say it's definitely too early, but Gurley's shown the capability to have earned an opportunity to have that torched passed over the next season and a half.
The skill set's certainly there. The pedigree fits. But Adrian Peterson is now in his 9th season in the league and has three playoff seasons under his belt. Handing over the torch after just four games is a disservice to Peterson's career and a call for ignoring what should be a welcoming period for Gurley as he not only acclimates to the NFL but does so with a surrounding cast that only serves to make that welcoming period even more difficult.
3. So, your defensive line, and your defense in general, is one of the best units in the NFL. If you're an offensive coordinator, is there any one defensive lineman you have to scheme to stop, or is it a pick your poison kind of Sophie's Choice? That said, you still need to game plan, and every defense has an Achilles Heel. If you were an opposing OC, how would you attack the Rams, and is there any one player the Vikings might be able to exploit, either on the front seven or in the secondary?
Yeah, as I tried to explain on the podcast, the Rams have too much up front buttressed by too many blitz packages from Def. Coordinator Gregg Williams (ED. Note: FUCK THAT GUY!!) to try to isolate anyone. You want to stifle the inside pressure from DTs Aaron Donald and Michael Brockers? The edge rushes say hi. Looking to shut down the Rams' four-deep defensive end position? Here comes a random cornerback or safety on the blitz. Looking to stop the entire defensive line and blitz options and still run a cohesive offense? Yeah, good luck with that.
The bigger intent should always be to just negate the rush by passing the ball quickly and running the ball well. I've been surprised how easily opposing teams have gotten away from the run against St. Louis. It's a tall task to win a game of physicality against the Rams, but it's necessary if you want to get an edge. Otherwise, you're forced to play over the middle of the field over and over to avoid the Rams' shell defense on the sidelines and deep...and it's very difficult to stay disciplined with designed 5-yard plays for 60 minutes.
If the Vikings are going to do it though, a combination of Stefon Diggs and Adrian Peterson is the kind that on paper makes sense. It's also the kind of challenge the Rams' defense needs to validate its efforts the last two weeks.
4. You know, the Rams are, in a lot of ways, a lot like the Vikings. Not a lot of success recently, but starting to win. Really great defense, great running game with a stud running back, just an okay but competent passing game. Vikings fans love Mike Zimmer, and Rams fans are...what, exactly, with Jeff Fisher though? He had a lot of success with the Titans, but he hasn't had a winning record since 2009, and the Rams progress has been real stop and start since he's been in St. Louis. What do the fans think of him and GM Jeff Snead? Are they long term answers, or do they need tow in this year to save their jobs?
Yeah, I think the problem is that all the potential in the world isn't going to satisfy fans if it doesn't come with wins. The Rams haven't had a winning season since 2003, and there's a weird malaise the base is dealing with. Some fans are just shell-shocked into complacency, thankful just to not have to endure the 2006-11 seasons again where four of those years saw the Rams win less than 4 games. That leaves Jeff Fisher with a really odd supporting contingency for a head coach that hasn't produced a winning season/playoff appearance in his three years with the team despite a cornucopia that most NFL teams would die for.
And yet...here we are. Optimistic. A winning record in November. Hopeful. Todd Gurley. That defense. I dunno, man. I don't think Fisher or Snead are going anywhere, but it's a weird level of job security for a pairing that hasn't really gotten the records at the end of the season to justify it.
5. Oh hey, one more similarity--stadium drama, yay! The Vikings just went through their stadium drama awhile back, and fortunately, they have a new facility being built that will open next season. The Rams are still trying to get an open air stadium approved to be built right on the river, just north of the Edward Jones Dome. I mean, at least I think they are. They say they are, but owner Stan Kroenke seems intent on building a stadium in Los Angeles and moving the Rams, even if a new stadium gets approved. Do you think 'the fix is in' regarding the Rams relocating, and will be gone even if a new stadium is approved in St. Louis? Will a new stadium be built in St Louis and another franchise moves here, or will the Rams stay? How does this whole thing play out?
So I tried to give the long condensed (don't try me- I swim in oxymorons, boi) answer on the pod, so here's the short condensed one: if Rams Owner Stan Kroenke wants to move the franchise with his capital and the land he owns in Cali, I don't see the league or fellow owners mounting enough of a resistance to keep him from doing so. Kroenke stands to make a billion or more just in switching markets with his team. I just don't believe the league and 31 of its partner owners punishing him financially anywhere near that amount, so from a business standpoint it's an easy decision.
The precedent it sets though should worry every NFL fan. St. Louis is in place to build a second brand new NFL stadium in less than 25 years...and that might still not be enough to keep its NFL franchise. In a top-20 market. That should put every fan base on notice whose team plays in a stadium that isn't "brand new" that there's little stopping a dedicated investor from coming in, buying a team and moving it to more lucrative waters as Kroenke has having just bought the team in 2010. And as for the city of St. Louis, I don't see how they could justify drawing on public dollars to build a second stadium in the last 25 years for a tenant to be named later...
It's an ugly situation, one made worse by Roger Goodell's feeble, myopic stewardship. The people of St. Louis and Los Angeles deserve better.
Thanks again to Joe for taking the time to give us some great insight on the game and the Rams. Here's to a good, clean, injury free game Sunday...even if that cheating bastard Gregg Williams is the defensive coordinator for the Rams.