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Dan Dierdorf Provides Insight On Rams' Stability In St. Louis

More than 50% of insideSTL voters said they were more concerned about the stability of the Rams after hearing Stan Kroenke's comments at the Jeff Fisher press conference about "we'll see" how things work out to decide whether or not he'll be in St. Louis for another 20 years.

I'm not sure I expected a whole lot more...but I definitely didn't expect what he said. Even if he's playing the leverage game, I'm not sure how saying that he is committed to making the Rams a winning team for the City of St. Louis and looking forward to working with the CVC on the lease would be a dishonest statement---even if he plans to move the team in three years.

Just something would've been better than "we'll see." Hell, it would've been better if he didn't show up than that.

Personally, I thought these paragraphs in Jim Thomas' Post-Dispatch story were even more concerning than Kroenke's answer:

Although it didn't prove to be a deal breaker, two league sources told the Post-Dispatch over the weekend of Jan. 7-8 that Fisher came out of his Jan. 5 meeting with Kroenke and Rams officials in Denver concerned about a possible move of the team to Los Angeles.

One of the reasons for Fisher's concern, one of those sources said, is that the Rams asked Fisher several questions about what the experience was like when the Houston Oilers moved to Tennessee in 1997. Fisher was head coach of the Oilers at the time.

Asked Tuesday about concerns over franchise relocation coming out of that interview in Denver, Fisher sidestepped the question like Titans quarterback Steve McNair eluded the Rams' pass rush in Super Bowl XXXIV.

"You know, there were a lot of things that were discussed going forward," Fisher said. "I'm not going to go into specific areas right now."

Based on Kroenke's comments at the press conference and those paragraphs in Thomas' story, I've received numerous emails/texts from those who currently own season tickets and say they don't feel good about spending money on a product they're not sure will be around in three years.

As Frank Cusumano put it on The Pressbox yesterday, "If I know my wife is going to leave me in three years for another man, I'm not going to buy her a diamond on our anniversary."

Dan Dierdorf joined us on The ITD Morning After to discuss this whole issue, the future of the Rams on and off the field, Los Angeles, London...and, of course, Jeff Fisher. To listen to the interview, click HERE. Or, courtesy of Intern Zac, you can read the transcription below:

Tim McKernan: Your thoughts on the Fisher hire in St. Louis?

Dan Dierdorf: The first in a long line of St. Louis trying to get used to a guy with Fisher’s credibility to talk about their football team. Nothing but positives in Fisher’s hire. I’ve known Jeff for a long time, and for a franchise in desperate need for some buzz, they got a lot of it.

Jimmy "The Cat" Hayes:
Do you think people’s emotions might be misplaced if they’re concerned about the Rams moving based on Kroenke saying “We’ll see” instead of saying that they will fight the good fight to keep them here?

DD: Stan Kroenke is a business man, and he’s right that there is a process underway between the Rams and the CVC here where they are trying to work out the provisions of the lease. I don’t blame him for saying something disingenuous rather than him saying the truth which is what he said. Yesterday was all about Jeff Fisher and I know it is a rare opportunity to ask questions of Stan Kroenke, and the questions had to be asked, but I did anyone expect a different answer?

Doug Vaughn: Is there anything the CVC can do to improve the stadium? And who gets to decide if the stadium is in the top 8 stadiums in the league?

DD: It’s going to begin as a negotiation of sort; the CVC is going to make a proposal by February 1. They will fulfill their obligations. They will submit a proposal to the Rams telling them what they would do and what they are going to spend to improve the stadium. The Rams have a certain amount of time to review the proposal, digest it, and if they don’t approve the proposal, which they won’t, they will respond with a proposal of their own.

The Cat: Do you think it is feasible that the improvements can bring that stadium up to the top eight stadiums in the NFL?

DD: It depends on what the definition is on being in the top 25%, and that is a grey area. That is something that up for interpretation and if it comes down to arbitration, it will be an arbiter who decides that. And, where I’m hopeful of, over the course of this negotiation going on between the two sides, it will probably be the CDC and this region doing more than they would like and the Rams probably taking less than what they are entitled to by the structure of the lease. That’s what I’m hopeful for, that the two sides can work something out that will keep the Rams here for a long time. I really do think Stan Kroenke wants to stay here. He seemed proud of the fact that he has been involved here for 20 years. I do not think Stan is sitting around saying ‘I wonder what I can do here to get out of St. Louis.

Doug: Have you heard any rumblings about whether Kroenke would develop anything in St. Charles, Chesterfield or the old Chrysler plant?


DD: I think there have been lots of proposals kicked around. I’m not ready to take dynamite to the Dome. Didn’t that building open in 1995? Are we building disposable stadiums now? I think it is crazy that a stadium that is 17 years old is being thrown in the scrap yard. I haven’t been there in awhile, but I did a game there late in the season this year, I was kind of saying to myself that this place isn’t bad; it’s not a bad place to watch a game.

Tim: In all of your travels and discussions with people across the country, what are the talks about Los Angeles possibly getting a stadium out there?

DD: There’s a lot of talk about them having a stadium ready to go out there. There are still two groups out there trying to build stadiums there. Lost in all of this is that these two groups want to be involved in ownership of the team that would play in their stadium. I think you have to understand something else, Los Angeles has gone a long time without a pro football team. Let’s just say that the NFL came out and said they wanted a team in LA. The Rams are not the only team that is being thrown out as moving to LA. San Diego is in a year-to-year situation in San Diego. They just came out and said that they will play 2012 in San Diego, they won’t beyond that. Keep in mind that they are just down the road, and that the Chargers started in Los Angeles. And then, just last week, Mark Davis, the son of Al Davis just talked about them (the Raiders) possibly moving back to Los Angeles. Even if the Rams are dying to go back to Los Angeles, and I’m not saying they are and I don’t think they are, there’s real competition to see who’s going to get there first.

Doug: You don’t sound near as discouraged that we are going to lose this team as the three of us are right now.

DD: I think there are two things in play. I think one is that we have to deal with the stadium and the lease. It was a bad lease from the get-go in thinking that the Rams would be here for 30 years. It was a 30 year lease, but the way it was structured, 20 years was the most you could ever hope to get out that lease. You’ve got to negotiate some long-term deal that is appealing to the Rams in keeping them here. The second part is, if you’re going to move, you have to have some place to go. The age of cities lining up to snatch teams and move them to different cities is long gone. With the economy and the way things are right now, it’s just not happening. Do the Rams or any other team right now have anywhere to go? And the answer right now in my mind is no.

Tim: The league has had a few games played overseas in London at Wembley Stadium, what do you think of the possibility of a team moving over there and playing their games in London?

DD: I know the NFL has floated that idea on a couple of occasions. Personally, I think it is lunacy. You are asking a lot from NFL players to try and incorporate a team in Europe into the schedule. Travel is bad enough now, it’s tough to tell the 49ers ‘You’re playing in London on Sunday’. I’m all in favor of going over there and playing one game over there once a year, rotating teams in and out. But to actually place a team in London, wow, what a nightmare that would be for me.

Tim: We’ll move away from the re-location topic for a bit after this last question. Do you see any other teams besides the Chargers, Raiders and Rams that are in a bad situation in their markets?

DD: Well certainly Jacksonville, it’s a struggle for them to sell tickets. The Buffalo Bills are in an interesting situation, they are in a small market and they struggle to sell tickets in one of the oldest stadiums. Tampa Bay struggles to sell tickets. You wonder if the state of Florida can support three NFL teams. I don’t think the situation in Minnesota is finally resolved yet.

Tim:
Moving on to Fisher, give us an idea of what kind of coach Fisher is and what he brings to the team?

DD: I think everyone has to stop and commend the Rams on playing ball in the big leagues when it came to hiring a coach. I’m not sure that we would’ve always assumed that when they was a bidding war between teams for a coach that the Rams would’ve won. I think Kroenke, Demoff and the whole team deserve some congratulations. The NFL world is talking about St. Louis right now, and that hasn’t happened since The Greatest Show on Turf, so kudos to them for that. Now Jeff Fisher, I’ve known Jeff for over 20 years and I can tell you his players love him, he has discipline, but at the same time he knows how to get them to do what’s hard, and that is practice well, train hard. And Jeff Fisher’s teams play hard, play to the whistle. I’m a fan of the hire, it’s a major, major step forward for the franchise.

Doug:
What does he have to do in terms of acquiring personnel to make the Rams competitive as quickly as possible?

DD: Well, I think he has to draft well. That sounds incredibly simple, but over the past decade, the Rams haven’t drafted well. You can any head coach, have the best stadium, you could put a $2 billion stadium on top of the arch that rotates with lights on it, but it’s not going to make any difference if the Rams don’t draft better. That will take some time to put solid drafts back-to-back. The Rams draft record if you put pen to paper, it has not been anywhere near where it needs to be for this franchise to win.

Tim: What should the Rams do in this draft with the second overall pick? Everyone loves Blackmon, but if Smith is gone, there is a whole on the offensive line and you could go with the tackle out of USC. How would you handle this situation?

DD: It would be insane for me to sit at my desk in January and tell the Rams how to draft in April. I don’t know if they’d be willing to go again for an offensive lineman that high in the draft. They need a playmaker at wide receiver. I think it’s all going to boil down to them identifying a need a maybe dropping down a couple of spots and still get the guy they want. If that’s something that works for the Rams, and I think suspect that might be a direction that they go, well then you could get a few extra picks for just dropping down a few spots. And to say that Blackmon will be there at number four or number five, then you dump it and move down a little bit. There is so much that can happen between now and when the draft happens in April.

Doug: They do have a lot of room under the salary cap, you’d expect them to spend some of that money on free agents, proven guys that can sure up that offensive line?

DD: You can plug in one guy. Offensive line play requires continuity. You can aid it greatly in free agency. And, that is something that might have been appealing to Fisher was that they had money to spend and he may have gotten a commitment to spend some of that money. This team has so many holes to fill. First, they need to get guys healthy again. There’s no pie in the sky cure here, it’s going to take some time.

Tim: Your thoughts on how well the Patriots are playing and whether or not the Ravens can go in take them down.

DD: Yes, the Ravens are good enough to go in there and take them down, if they can get going offensively. They are an up and down team. This is a team that beat the Pittsburgh Steelers this season by Joe Flacco taking his team 92 yards in the last two minutes of the game without any timeouts and beat Pittsburgh. I did the game on Sunday where they had no rhythm, couldn’t get anything going. Their offense at some times is so anemic it puts a lot of stress on their defense. …Joe Flacco has started eight playoffs games, and in those playoffs games he has only thrown over 200 yards once.

Tim: It seems like over the last few years with Saints in 2009 and the Packers in 2010, it seems like the team that is on fire in December takes that into January and finds themselves in a position to win, and that looks like the New York Giants.

D: It could be, although this is some deal they have to go to Candlestick and beat the 49ers. I can’t be the only guy in America that is impressed with 49ers. Not just the scoring, but the passion that Jim Harbaugh has that team playing with, its fun to see. It’s old fashioned, in-your-face football.



What do you think of Dierdorf's comments regarding the Rams' future in St. Louis, The Dome, and Fisher? Log-in and post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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