Expectations can make or break a team’s fanbase in the game of sports. Coming into a season, fans and analysts divide the chances up with the rest of the teams and basically set the parameters. Win this much and we will be happy. Lose this much and we will call you an absolute failure. Every team and its fanbase wants to win a championship, but having the right expectations is the proper way to appreciate a team’s play.
The NFL has it the roughest. They play 16 games before their playoff dreams are realized or denied. Unlike baseball, where there are 162 games to find your way, the NFL is brutally blunt. Unlike the NHL, where ties are commended and schedules are stretched out, the NFL has ties but they only hurt your chances at making the playoffs. Taking a look at the 2013 St. Louis Rams, one must understand what to expect from this team before examining the season end result.
Before the season started, I had the Rams finishing with an 8-8 record. In a perfect world, I stretched it to 9-7 but came back down as the opener began. This team finished 7-8-1 last season with a rough schedule. They left a few games up in the air and blew a couple as well. They were right there. My record was one marked with improvement. This team has lost 70 percent of its games the past 6 seasons so it was important to not get crazy. Our schedule this year wasn’t a piece of cake. We would have to earn every win and fight the whole way through. The Rams will never be a team(at least for the foreseeable future) that can not show up on Sunday and still find a way to steal a win. That being said, when Sam Bradford went down, those expectations made before the season HAD to be changed.
This is where a lot of fans are losing it these days. We lose a game on the road to a pretty good San Francisco team last weekend and all of a sudden we are complete losers. This came after The Rams found a way to spank Indianapolis at home(and hold Andrew Luck to 8 points). They beat up the Bears(also missing their starting QB, Jay Cutler) at home the week of Thanksgiving. So then people got crazy thinking again. Never mind the fact that backup quarterback Kellen Clemens was hiding behind a good running game and great defensive front. He was playing mistake free ball that included a possession passing game and the occasional big strike. Suddenly, a few weeks after having our worst fears met, the fans thought we could make the playoffs. You just can’t underestimate the comedy in sports.
You aren’t going to play great without your starting quarterback, especially this team built their lives around Bradford. You aren’t going to win games without your QB when your team commits the most penalties in the NFL(all season long). You aren’t going to walk into SF and steal a win. We beat them last year, right? Who cares, this is a brand new year and the 49ers were pissed they made it to the Super Bowl but also didn’t beat the Rams. For three quarters last Sunday, the Rams were in that game before having their defense break down and their running game stuffed. Losing to a 8-4 team isn’t embarrassing.
With the 2013 Rams, you have to have the the right expectations. In the NFL, you lose your QB and your chances of the playoffs are cut in half unless you are the Patriots. Look at Green Bay, and their struggles after Aaron Rodgers went down. Look at Chicago without Cutler. When Bradford was tackled near the end of the Carolina game, our season was finished and any chance of real success was flushed. It’s about probability in sports and your shot of doing something remarkable.
Ask me and this team has been impressive. They beat the Colts and Bears. Clemens also pulled out an upset over the Seahawks at home. We coughed up a late game to the Titans. We have been in EVERY game since Clemens took over. The last time the Rams were blown up, it was against San Francisco at home on a Thursday night game where everything went wrong. All I am saying here is appreciate what the Rams have managed to pull off since the loss of their QB. It’s not good to count your winnings when your record is 5-7, but all things considered, this hasn’t been a train wreck of a season. If you think it has, then your expectations weren’t adjusted when Bradford tore up his knee.
I am not going to sit here and blast fans for not showing up to the Ed Dome. With this losing franchise, the fans of St. Louis have done their part and supported their team. We have waited and waited for a well oiled machine to move in downtown. Jeff Fisher came in with Les Snead and has improved the personnel and the attitude of the team. The Rams aren’t laughable but far from serious contenders. They need a far better secondary. They need more consistently creative playcalling. They need to be better in the red zone. They need to be more consistent on defense. They can’t afford to have their receivers drop passes. However, taking into account the loss of Bradford, the season hasn’t been a total waste.
Sure, we will be talking about “next year” again soon, but that’s football. Cleaning up the Rams after Spags was like restoring a totaled car left at the bottom of the scrap heap. It was going to take time. Losing Bradford extended that process. There are other more sad franchises in the NFL. The Rams have the same record as the Pittsburgh Steelers and New York Giants. We could be 3-9 or possibly 2-10. The Rams aren’t dismal at least. If they pull an upset or two, we could finish 7-9 or possibly 8-8. We have beat the Saints at the dome before(2011). We can beat the Bucs. There’s a chance we can beat the Cards today in Arizona.
There have been bright spots. We have witnessed the emergence of Zac Stacy at running back, a man who has made us forget about Steven Jackson. Robert Quinn has turned into one of the fiercest defensive players in the NFL. Tavon Austin has shown flashes of greatness. Alec Ogletree has emerged as a raw yet supremely talented linebacker.
It’s okay to get frustrated with this Rams team. By now, that is natural. Just remember, it could be worse.
Thanks for reading.
Reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org for feedback or check me out on Twitter with my handle @buffa82.