Out with the old and in with the new is the saying at the beginning of January. And so it goes with the St. Louis Rams, as owner Stan Kroenke announced on Monday morning, January 2, that general manager Billy Devaney and head coach Steve Spagnuolo had been fired following a dismal 2-14 season that mercifully ended on Sunday.
Much has been said and written that ‘Spags’ is a really nice guy and also a dedicated leader of his team on the field. No argument there on either count. Unfortunately, the National Football League is a business, and head coaches are paid to win. That is something Spags didn’t do very well, compiling a record of 10-38 in his three years at the helm of the Rams.
Neither did Devaney help matters with a succession of poor draft choices and questionable free-agent selections in his four years as team GM. For every Chris Long, James Laurinatis or Sam Bradford picked by the Rams, young players with ability and a keen sense of competition, there were far too many flops who riddled the Rams in their selection process.
The truth is that dynamic coaches and savvy general managers find a way to get results and find a way to put a winning product on the field, regardless of injuries, bad luck, strength of schedule or what have you. As Kroenke and his associates determine the future course of the Rams, what they need to consider first and foremost is finding people who know how to get the job done.
Is the next coach an assistant on a perennial NFL contender? Will it be someone from New England or Pittsburgh or Baltimore, perhaps? Remember, though, Spagnuolo was an excellent defensive coordinator for the New York Giants when he accepted the head coaching position with the Rams.
Or will the Rams go the route of experience and hire a former NFL head coach who previously has seen glory days? It’s said that Jeff Fisher, who led the Tennessee Titans to the Super Bowl opposite the Rams in 1999, or Jon Gruden, who won the Super Bowl at the helm of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, may be interested.
As Kroenke assembles the next version of the St. Louis Rams, he needs to consider the intangible qualities of a winner as well as the usual capabilities that successful people intuitively seem to have. He needs to find someone out there who combines the trust, concern and likable demeanor of Spags with the maverick, no-holds-barred creativity of Mike Martz.
Most of all, he needs a new leadership team that will restore the confidence and enthusiasm of the loyal Rams fan base. And the sooner, the better.