Rams hon­ey­moon over as team slumps, coach fired

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

When the Rams con­firmed their re­turn to Los Angeles in Jan­uary, it seemed like a match made in heaven. The most pop­u­lar sport in the United States was fi­nally re­turn­ing to the city af­ter a two-decade ab­sence.

The Rams were ready to rekin­dle a re­la­tion­ship with the city, af­ter abruptly up­ping sticks and de­camp­ing to St. Louis in 1995.

If Rams fans har­bored lin­ger­ing re­sent­ment about the team’s ac­ri­mo­nious de­par­ture, no one was let­ting on. Sea­son ticket sales for the 2016-2017 cam­paign rapidly went through the roof. Ex­cite­ment built as the team sig­nalled its in­tent to be­come a ma­jor player by pulling out the stops to land the No. 1 pick in the draft, quar­ter­back Jared Goff.

In Au­gust, a record 89,140 fans crowded into Los Angeles Me­mo­rial Coli­seum to watch the Rams’ open­ing pre-sea­son game against the Dal­las Cow­boys. It was the largest crowd ever for a pre-sea­son NFL game, and fans bask­ing in the evening sun­shine were look­ing ahead to the new sea­son with op­ti­mism. Fast for­ward four months, and the eu­pho­ria which ac­com­pa­nied the Rams’ re­turn has long since left the build­ing.On Sun­day, the team crashed to a hu­mil­i­at­ing 42-14 de­feat at home to the At­lanta Fal­cons.

A com­i­cally in­ept per­for­mance left fans head­ing for the ex­its well be­fore the end, while those who re­mained booed loudly and called for the dis­missal of be­lea­guered head coach Jeff Fisher.

‘AN EM­BAR­RASS­MENT’

The verdict of Los Angeles Times writer Bill Plaschke was with­er­ing. “Against all odds, in a city that em­braced them, with fans who loved them, in a sta­dium that show­cases them, the im­pos­si­ble has hap­pened-the re­turn of the Rams has of­fi­cially be­come an em­bar­rass­ment,” Plaschke wrote. “A Hol­ly­wood re­union that couldn’t go wrong has blown up in bits of car­peted red.” Todd Gur­ley, the team’s star run­ning back, lam­basted what he de­scribed as the fran­chise’s “mid­dle school of­fense.”

On Mon­day, Rams owner Stan Kroenke, the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man whose as­sets also in­clude English Pre­mier League side Arse­nal, de­cided enough was enough.

Fisher was fired in a bomb­shell move af­ter six years at the fran­chise, and only two months af­ter sign­ing a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

“This is the right time to make a change as our per­for­mance has not lived up to my or our fans’ ex­pec­ta­tions,” Kroenke said.

So what has gone wrong? In a word, ev­ery­thing. The warn­ing signs first started flick­er­ing when it be­came clear that Goff, the rookie quar­ter­back, was nowhere near ready to start as sig­nal caller. In­stead, the man ex­pected to lead the fran­chise into a bold new era started the sea­son third in the peck­ing or­der.

‘RAMS JU­NIOR HIGH’

The re­luc­tance of Fisher to pro­mote him fu­elled the sense that the Rams had picked un­wisely in the draft.

That angst was height­ened by the as­sured per­for­mances of Car­son Wentz, the Philadel­phia Ea­gles rookie who was over­looked in favour of Goff. A dis­as­trous sea­son opener at the San Fran­cisco 49ers ended in a 28-0 de­feat. The Rams bounced back to beat the Seat­tle Sea­hawks in their home opener, and grabbed two more wins to ad­vance to 31. But the im­age of a team on the up was il­lu­sory. They lost eight of their next nine games to fall to 4-9.

Along the way Fisher found him­self in an em­bar­rass­ing spat with Rams icon Eric Dick­er­son, who claimed he had been banned from home games. Last week, Fisher was forced to deny re­ports of a rift with gen­eral man­ager Les Snead at the team’s head­quar­ters, nick­named “Rams Ju­nior High.”

It looked as if Fisher might mud­dle through to the end of the sea­son. But Sun­day’s de­ba­cle proved the tip­ping point, leav­ing Fisher with a 31-45-1 record at the Rams, and with 165 ca­reer losses, tied with Dan Reev­ers for the most de­feats in his­tory. — AFP

FOXBORO: Mal­colm Mitchell #19 of the New Eng­land Pa­tri­ots is tack­led by Lar­dar­ius Webb #21 of the Bal­ti­more Ravens dur­ing the first half of their game at Gil­lette Sta­dium on Mon­day in Foxboro, Mas­sachusetts. — AFP

Head coach Jeff Fisher

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