The 2012 season of the St. Louis Rams is now officially in the record book. At 7-8-1, the Rams once again finished below the .500 threshold. Indeed, they haven’t finished a season above .500 since 2003, when the regime of head coach ‘Mad Mike’ Martz was still in force.
However, there appears to be much reason for optimism these days at Rams Park. New head coach Jeff Fisher has instilled a sense of pride and determination in Rams players that’s been missing for several years.
He’s done that, too, with the youngest team in the National Football League. After being hired early in 2012, Fisher and new general manager Les Snead worked in tandem to assemble a core of players they believed had the talent and drive to succeed in the tumultuous world of the NFL.
And it is tumultuous. One need only look at the results of New Year’s Eve, the day after the conclusion of the 2012 regular season, when seven head coaches were fired, including such veteran leaders as Lovie Smith of the Chicago Bears and Andy Reid of the Philadelphia Eagles. When bad teams get the top draft choices every year, owners and fans become impatient with endless years of losing.
This past year, new owner Stan Kroenke, Snead and Fisher made it clear that the Rams would invest their top draft choice positions in trades with other teams for multiple players. Thus, while the Rams traded their high rank in the NFL draft with the Washington Redskins so that the latter could select rookie quarterback sensation Robert Griffin III from Baylor, St. Louis snared several players in return.
For the first time in many, many seasons, the Rams benefited from excellent play by their young talent, such as rookies Janoris Jenkins, Chris Givens and Daryl Richardson. Other young performers, including Lance Kendricks, Danny Amendola and Austin Pettis showed their skill as well. That was particularly true of spectacular wide receiver Amdendola, a favorite target of third-year quarterback Sam Bradford.
Bradford remains a bit of a puzzle. At times he demonstrates definite leadership ability, and in fact had one of the NFL’s best ratings for fourth-quarter performance. Often, though, he seems to fall short of greatness, something backed up by the Rams’ rather mediocre numbers on offense this season.
What’s apparent with the past season, though, is how competitive the Rams have become under Fisher. Apart from the blowout loss to the New England Patriots in the London ‘home’ game and the disastrous results against the dissension-riddled New York Jets, also at home, the Rams engaged their opponents in fierce combat. What’s equally impressive is that the Rams had one of the toughest schedules in the league and, for the most part, rose to the challenge.
Fisher is a tough, no-nonsense type of coach who makes it clear that he is in charge of the team, not vice versa. The youthful Rams, as well as skillful veterans such as Steven Jackson, Chris Long, James Laurinaitis and Cortland Finnegan, responded enthusiastically to Fisher’s never-say-die attitude, and it showed on the field.
Now, a foundation of respectability and excitement has been laid for next season. Long-suffering Rams fans, both at the Edward Jones Dome and watching games on their TVs, were treated to an ambitious and enthusiastic team that proved resilient on defense, determined on offense and driven to perform their best by a savvy and stalwart coaching staff.
All in all, the 2012 season ended up in much more satisfying fashion for this edition of the Rams than any of its most recent predecessors. That makes looking forward to the 2013 season all the more delightful.
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