For the better part of the last decade the St. Louis Rams have been left looking forward to the next season before the current campaign even concludes. Unfortunately 2013 appears to be a repeat of that mentality, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact that Rams have found a way to spin things in the right direction this week leading up to their NFC West tilt with the Arizona Cardinals, and it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see them win the game in the desert.
Call it blind optimism or call it whatever you want, but the Rams were actually encouraged by their second loss of the season to the San Francisco 49ers in Week 13. According to KSDK’s Howard Balzer, linebacker James Laurinaitis said as much as he said:
“I think for everybody individually you’ve got to see the green arrow pointing up. You have got to look back at the end of the season and say, ‘Did I get better each and every game?’ I think right now in some of our young players you see that, and I think overall as a team we have got to see that.”
Though those comments seem to have a twinge of resignation in them with the reference to ‘the end of the season’ that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Even the Rams’ front office knew that this turnaround process wasn’t going to happen overnight. Results take time, and the team’s success last season was a bit of beginner’s luck if you will. That doesn’t mean the club isn’t heading in the right direction, however, as general manager pointed out to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch back in November saying:
“Year 2 in any type of regime change, I call it Grit Year. You term it that because you have to have the passion and perseverance for your long-term vision. Now long-term vision’s pretty simple: We want to be a team that wins consistently. We want to do that as rapidly as possible.”
The fact is Snead and the Rams approached this with a sense of realism that is rarely seen in today’s instant gratification world. But the grit he speaks of can be clearly seen in the words the players speak after the games. Laurinaitis went on to comment on the upcoming tilt with the Cardinals saying:
“I still believe now that we have to be 9-7. That has to be our mentality; a winning season. We can’t have it be under .500 or anything like that. We have to think 9-7. It doesn’t get any easier. We are going to Arizona now and those guys are playing really well, playing for a wild-card berth and it is going to be a huge game in Arizona. It won’t get any easier.”
And that type of putting in your time attitude instills a work ethic that is priceless to forging a winning organization for the long haul. The fact that the Rams still have another first round pick coming from the Washington Redskins in the 2014 NFL Draft will only aid their cause toward building a consistent winner.
It might not be easy for fans to discern out on the field, but this team’s potential is clearly shining brightly with a fifth round pick like Zac Stacy blossoming into a weekly workhorse in the backfield. Rookie linebacker Alec Ogletree has been an absolute gem from day one, and the highly touted Tavon Austin has started to come into his own as a dynamic playmaker.
Watch for this young talent to continue blossoming in the final quarter of the season as the Rams sprint to the finish. Their schedule is a daunting task for even a perennial contender, but the lessons learned will produce great results for this team sooner rather than later if you listen to Snead who said:
“If you look at all the teams that build something that lasts, even the 49ers under Bill Walsh, it’s usually somewhere in Year 3 they catch on and they get in their window.”
2014 will be the year of the Rams.