This time of year every team that failed to make the NFL Playoffs is trying to plan a path to change that fact for the 2014 season. It’s become a trend around the league in the modern era with teams flipping their respective division’s standings like it’s no big deal, and one contender for that designation next year will be the St. Louis Rams.
A piece at NFL.com by Gil Brandt discussed this stunning trend that was kept alive yet again by two squads in 2013, and he included the young Rams among his top candidates to pull off the feat next season. Among the flattery he tossed the franchise’s way, Brandt called the team:
“A very young squad that has drafted well, the Rams have the best personnel of any team with a losing record in 2013.”
That in and of itself says quite a bit about what the regime of head coach Jeff Fisher and general manager Les Snead have accomplished in two short years. Now granted, the cupboard wasn’t totally bare when they arrived, but many of their great young draft picks have yet to fully develop which could bode well for a huge 2014. In case you were interested about the teams that have come before the Rams and pulled this off, here’s a list:
2003: Carolina Panthers (7-9)/Kansas City Chiefs (8-8)
2004: Atlanta Falcons (5-11)/San Diego Chargers (4-12)
2005: Chicago Bears (5-11)/New York Giants (6-10)
2006: Philadelphia Eagles (6-10)/New Orleans Saints (3-13)/Baltimore Ravens (6-10)
2007: Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-12)
2008: Miami Dolphins (1-15)
2009: Saints (8-8)
2010: Chiefs (4-12)
2011: Houston Texans (6-10)
2012: Washington Redskins (5-11)
2013: Eagles (4-12)/Chiefs (2-14)
Clearly a lot can be done in just one year with this past season’s Chiefs pulling off the feat with the second-fewest wins after having just two and picking No. 1 overall in the NFL Draft. The fact that the Rams hold the No. 2 overall selection in tandem with the No. 12 overall pick certainly aids their cause as well looking ahead to next season, but the oversight in this argument is the division they play in: the cutthroat NFC West.
In any other division it would be easy to see why the Rams could vault to the top overnight, but with an improving Arizona Cardinals team, a consistently proven San Francisco 49ers squad and a budding juggernaut in the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis will have plenty of difficulty making a jump all the way to the top. Obviously a record in the division like they boasted in 2012 of 4-1-1 would go a lot farther than the 1-5 mark they had this past season toward making that happen, but it’s still a longshot at this point.
History is on their side heading into the 2014 season, but the Rams have plenty of work to do to be the squad that keeps this improbable run of worst-to-first teams going. Continuing to build consistency and have a cohesive unit will go a long way toward achieving that goal, and a few more impact additions via the draft certainly won’t hurt.