Tuesday, November 8, 2011

St. Louis Rams: Should They Bring Back the West Coast Offense?

The St. Louis Rams have lost all hope, currently sitting with a 1-7 record in what was suppose to be a season where they made a run at the NFC West title.

Their 31-21 victory over the Saints, which was their first and only win of the season that came after six consecutive losses, provided a temporary numbing effect across the fanbase that caused them to think that maybe the Rams just got off on the wrong foot in 2011.

However, their 19-13 overtime loss against the Arizona Cardinals, a game the Rams dominated in every aspect, put the sour smell back into the air.

At this point, with no playoff hopes to cling to and signs of great regression throughout the team, it's looking more and more like coach Steve Spagnuolo is making a death march with the guillotines waiting for him after the Week 17 finale against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

With the seemingly inevitable departure of Spagnuolo, it's more than likely offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels will be sent packing as well, especially since his offense is currently one of the worst in the NFL with an average of 12.5 points per game (31st) and 314.1 yards per game (23rd).

If McDaniels is gone, then that means quarterback Sam Bradford will be forced to learn his third different playbook in as many seasons.

Continuity is important for a young franchise quarterback. San Francisco's Alex Smith is a perfect example of how constant change can greatly hinder the development of a quarterback. Smith went through five different coordinators in his first five seasons and was considered a colossal bust as a No. 1 overall pick until now.

The Rams cannot expect Bradford to reach his potential if he is bombarded with a new playbook every single year. He has to be able to enter 2012 with some sense for the playbook and some experience in the system.

He has had some struggles with the current Josh McDaniels offense, even if he does look sharp at times. He may be able to eventually grasp the finer points of the offense and excel, but then again, maybe he won't.

So if the Rams must change coaches once again, then why not bring back the same West Coast offense that Bradford excelled in as a rookie in 2010?

The 2010 offense, coordinated by Pat Shurmur at the time, is a very common system in the NFL that is used by teams such as the Philadelphia Eagles, the Cleveland Browns, the Green Bay Packers, the Atlanta Falcons, the Washington Redskins and the San Francisco 49ers.

If owner Stan Kroenke feels the need to rid the team of Spagnuolo and McDaniels, it is crucial that the Rams not only bring back the West Coast system, but make sure the new coaches alter the playbook to meet Bradford's needs, such as using the same terminology that he used in 2010.

It's also important that they revoke Bradford's freedom to call out blocks for the offensive line. Give that responsibility back to center Jason Brown and allow Bradford to just focus on the play without being mentally overwhelmed. Maybe when he's a six or seven year battle-tested veteran he can have complete control, but not now.

The most important thing is that Bradford enters 2012 with a system he already knows rather than being brought back to square-one for the third time in a row.

It looks like Philadelphia could fall short of the playoffs, so if they are foolish enough to fire Andy Reid then he would make an excellent head coach for the Rams. The Rams' 2010 offense basically came directly from Reid's offense, so it would be a smooth transition.

If not Reid, then there are plenty of other coaches out there who rose through the ranks under teams running the West Coast offense.

Is it realistic to believe that widely hyped offensive players such as Rodger Saffold, Jason Smith, Jason Brown and even Bradford went from being rising stars to jokes within ten months, just "because"?

No, it's not realistic. It's a problem with the coaching and the scheming. It needs to be fixed, which can be done by bringing back the 2010 offense that Bradford excelled under. He may be great in McDaniels' system someday, but we know he can be great in the West Coast system as early as next season.

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