The Los Angeles Rams have finally been put out of their misery with their 44-6 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. After a promising 3-1 start, the Rams lost 11 of their final 12 games. This final embarrassing blowout caps off a disastrous tailspin of a season.
As usual, Jared Goff was suffocated by blitzes, Todd Gurley couldn’t find any room to run, and undisciplined play once again hurt the Rams in the form of penalties and turnovers. Their 123 yards of offense is the lowest single game total of any team this season, and a very on-brand accolade for this team.
“The offense, defense, and special teams just didn’t get it done, so I told the guys in the locker room after the game that I was proud of them and everything we’ve been through is tough,” said interim head coach John Fassel. To his credit, Fassel experimented with a pair of trick plays Sunday afternoon, and why not with nothing to lose? Pharoh Cooper threw an interception off a crossing pattern that hung in the air too long. However, punter Johnny Hekker - old reliable for Los Angeles - completed a four yard pass on fourth down in the third quarter.
The Arizona Cardinals have been disappointing in their own right after appearing in last year’s NFC Championship game. Their defense was tremendous and Carson Palmer looked steady passing for three touchdowns, including a five yard completion to Larry Fitzgerald. The ageless wonder, Fitzgerald, finishes as the NFL’s leader in receptions (107) this season. The Cardinals went 7-8-1 this season.
Moving forward, the Rams will have a busy offseason starting with their head coach. After Jeff Fisher’s termination, several sources reported the team’s interest in a big-profile name to fill the vacancy. According to ESPN, Jim Harbaugh of Michigan, and formerly the San Francisco 49ers, has been named as a target, so has Sean Payton of the New Orleans Saints and Ron Rivera of the Carolina Panthers. The latter two would require a trade, but both underachieved expectations during the 2016 season and may be available.
Whoever takes the job, whether it’s one of the aforementioned names, interim head coach Fassel, or a talented coordinator like Kyle Shanahan in Atlanta or Josh McDaniels in New England, they must approach the 2017 offseason without a first or third round pick in the upcoming draft - sent to the Tennessee Titans in the Goff trade. With holes on the offensive line and throughout the offense, the Rams will have to build without the luxury of a first round selection.
Two key defensive pieces - Trumaine Johnson and TJ McDonald - are entering free agency. Los Angeles placed a franchise tag on Johnson after he set a career high in interceptions (7) during the 2015 season. At 6’2” 208 pounds, he is gifted physically and explosive when healthy. McDonald, at the end of his rookie contract, also brings fantastic size to the secondary.
If the Rams offseason can somehow fare better than their 2016 season, there could be greener pastures in 2017.