By Ryan Wonsowicz
I have no affiliation with the Los Angeles Rams. I’m a Chicago Bears fan, born and raised. However, I am a fan of football and I hate to see another team’s front office wreck its hopes of being competitive year in and year out. I’ve seen some awful GM’s in my time, such as Phil Emery (Bears), Ray Farmer (Browns), Jeff Ireland (Dolphins) and the notorious John Idzik (Jets). These men all hold one title that current Rams GM Les Snead does not: former. The slick and sly general manager has done little to improve a franchise that has not made the playoffs since 2004. His leash keeps extending dismal season after dismal season and I don’t know why. In this article, I will prove my point why owner Stan Kroenke should have cleaned house well before moving his team to a new city.
The then- St. Louis Rams had cleaned house following an embarrassing 2-14 season. After winning the Jeff Fisher sweepstakes on January 13, the Rams hired Les Snead to be their new GM on February 10 to complement their new coach. The Rams held the second pick in the 2012 NFL Draft. It was obvious to everyone that the two first selections would be QB Andrew Luck from Stanford and QB Robert Griffin from Baylor. With 2010 first overall pick Sam Bradford on the roster, the Rams decided to shop the pick. They found a trade partner in Washington, who gave up the #6 and #39 picks in 2012 along with their first round selections in 2013 and 2014 for the rights to the second pick. That pick ended up being Griffin, now known as one of the greatest busts in NFL history. The move made Snead look like a genius, but in reality it was a no-brain decision that even a toddler could have executed. In 2012, Snead made DT Michael Brockers from LSU his first pick as a professional GM. Brockers, still with the team today, has had a productive but unspectacular career, totaling 14.5 sacks and 115 tackles in 5.5 season. He has never made a Pro Bowl.
The Rams would finish 2012 7-8-1, third in the NFC West, and miss the playoffs.
In the 2013 NFL Draft, the Rams held the 13th and 22nd selection, which they both would end up trading. They traded the 22nd pick to Atlanta for the 30th pick and traded 13 to the Bills to move up to 8th overall. Sam Bradford was in dire need of a number one receiver, so they opted to take Tavon Austin from the University of West Virginia. Austin, who was the overall top receiver in this class, seemed like a good pick. However, even though he ran a blazing 4.34 40-yard dash, he only stood at 5’9’’. That is petit to say the least when other top wideouts normally range from 6’3’’ to 6’6’’. His height may have been his downfall, as he has not lived up to his lofty draft position. He has never eclipsed 500 yards receiving in a single season. This lack of excellence is not even due to injuries; he’s only missed 4 games so far in his career. His career Y/R is an awful 9.1 and he only has 11 receiving touchdowns. For comparison, DeAndre Hopkins, WR for the Texans who was drafted at the end of the first round in 2013, currently has 22 touchdowns and an impressive 14.2 Y/R. Austin isn’t a true wide receiver, but more of a gadget player. For example, in 2015, while he only had 473 yards receiving, he posted 434 yards on the ground. Still, Snead blew this pick by not seeing the potential in Hopkins. As a result, the Rams are still without a true #1 option in the passing game today.
As bad as he’s been, Snead has made a few good picks here and there. One of those picks was Alec Ogletree, the LB from Georgia Snead took with the 30th pick. It was a risky selection; Ogletree’s stock had fallen thanks to a DUI arrest in February. The Rams took a gamble, and it seemingly paid off. Ogletree is a role player on a defense with an impressive front seven. He has totaled 266 tackles and 3.5 sacks in his career thus far. He has applied pressure on opposing QBs, forcing 11 fumbles and recording 4 INTS in the 45 games he’s played.
The Rams would finish 2013 7-9, last in the NFC West, and miss the playoffs.
Thanks to the complete inefficiency of Robert Griffin III in Washington, St. Louis was gifted with the second overall pick in 2014. In a class full of future stars that included Pro-Bowl WR Odell Beckham, Pro-Bowl QBs Derek Carr and Teddy Bridgewater, and All-Pro LB Khalil Mack, Snead and the Rams opted to take…. Greg Robinson? Yep, Snead passed on the future stars to take the offensive lineman from Auburn. Granted, the Rams had a glaring need on the O-line, but Robinson has done nothing to justify his second overall billing. He’s started 37 games in his career, but constant foot injuries and confusion over the playbook are reason for many to question his abilities. According to Football Outsiders, Los Angeles’s offensive line ranks 23rd in adjusted line yardage. Also, LA’s line is creating room for only 3.27 rushing yards, 0.82 second level rushing yards, and has an adjusted sack rate of 6.5%. A lot of the blame has to fall on Robinson’s shoulders.
Snead was able to save face in this draft by taking a player he deserves credit for. With the Rams second pick in the first round(13th overall), Snead took DT Aaron Donald from Penn State University. I thought Donald was a solid player, but did not foresee his rise to stardom come so quickly. In his first season, Donald recorded 37 tackles and 9 sacks. For his efforts, he was named to the Pro Bowl. 2015 was even better, as he logged 11 sacks, 43 tackles, and 26 assists en route to another Pro Bowl nod and a spot on the First Team All-Pro team. I fully believe that because of Aaron Donald, Snead did not get fired after the 2014 season.
The Rams would finish 2014 6-10, last in the NFC West, and miss the playoffs.
The Rams finally gave up on the Sam Bradford experiment in early 2015. On March 10, St. Louis and Philadelphia swapped starting QBs, with the Rams getting Nick Foles. Before the preseason started, Snead gave Foles a two-year, $24.5 million-dollar extension. What a waste of money that turned out to be. Foles went on to have his worst statistical season as a starter. He finished dead last in the league in terms of QBR, where he posted a 32.4. In the 11 games he started, he had a 7:10 TD to INT ratio, passed for just over 2000 yards, and completed only 56.4% of his passes. He was benched in Week 11 in favor of Case Keenum. Los Angeles ended up releasing him after the failed season on July 26.
In the 2015 NFL Draft, the Rams held yet another top ten pick. With the 10th overall selection, the Rams shocked everyone by taking Georgia running back Todd Gurley. It was surprising because Gurley was coming off an ACL tear that occurred in November and most certainly would not be ready to start the season. However, Snead had faith in the former First Team All-SEC player, and his ambition seemed to pay off. Gurley exploded onto the scene in Week 4, where he rushed for 146 yards. It only got better from there, as Gurley ended up rushing for 1106 yards on 229 carries with 10 touchdowns. He had an 4.8 Y/A and an 85.1 YPG. He finished third in total rushing yards despite playing 12 games. At the end of the season, he was named to his first Pro Bowl and won the 2015 AP Offensive Rookie of the Year. Coming into Year 2, the hype was real surrounding Gurley. Everyone expected him to exceed his rookie numbers assuming he would play all 16 games. Alas, that has not been the case. Gurley has been a shell of himself in 2016. As of this writing, he only has 515 rushing yards through 9 games. His Y/A is currently 3.1, down 1.7 yards from last year. Also, he has only found pay dirt three times. Blame it on the rest of the offense if you want, but I think Gurley deserves a lot of the blame. He isn’t playing well, while other 2015 running backs like Melvin Gordon, David Johnson, and Jay Ajayi are on pace for career years. Gurley’s encore performance is another bad omen for Snead.
The Rams would finish 2015 7-9, third in the NFC West, and miss the playoffs.
After making the move back to the West Coast in January, Snead and the rechristened Los Angeles Rams decided to make a splash. He traded away the farm (1st round pick in 2016, two 2nd round picks in 2016, 3rd round pick in 2016, 1st round pick in 2017, and 3rd round pick in 2017) for the rights to the number one overall selection from the Titans. The Rams were in desperate need of a quarterback, but it was obvious to everyone that 2016 was not the year of the quarterback. There was no sure-fire franchise QB to be found in this class, unlike previous classes that featured Andrew Luck, Jameis Winston, and Marcus Mariota. The top quarterbacks in this class were Jared Goff from California and Carson Wentz from North Dakota State. Goff threw for just under 5000 yards at Cal, but only led the Golden Bears to an 8-5 record in his final season. He was also knocked for his small hands. On the other hand, Wentz was regarded as the more pro-ready prospect, but scouts questioned the competition he faced playing in the FCS.
When all was said and done, Snead pulled the trigger on Goff, opting to take the home state prospect. Wentz went second to Philadelphia. As training camp rolled around, concerns were arising over Goff’s initial understanding of the playbook. Then, the preseason arrived, and LA went into full out panic mode. Goff was a disaster. He completed 44.9% of his passes, threw two TDs, two INTS, and lost three fumbles. Goff started out as the third QB on the depth chart, behind Keenum and Sean Mannion. Snead took a giant risk and mortgaged his team’s future behind a player that simply looks lost in the NFL. Maybe Goff proves me wrong, but I envision another less than mediocre season from the Rams. If Kroenke knows what’s right for his fans and his new city, Snead and Fisher need to be axed following the 2016 season.
*All stats retrieved from Pro Football Reference, Football Outsiders, ESPN, and Fox Sports