Peter King On The Rams: “2012’s Smartest Team,” But…

In an area in which you have one of the most storied baseball teams in the game, with some of the most passionate fans in the game…

In an area in which you have a hockey team with a starving fan base hopeful for not only the game’s return…but its team’s return to the playoffs…this time with a deeper run…

In an area with two of the top college basketball teams in the country and a third making strides in that direction as well…

And in an area with a college football team playing in the best conference in the country…

…when insideSTL voters were asked this week what they were looking forward to most in 2013, they chose the team that hasn’t had a winning record since 2003.

They chose the Rams.

 I don’t know if it’s Jeff Fisher. I don’t know if it’s seeing what this defense is becoming. I don’t know if it’s just the dire hunger that comes with not seeing a playoff game at The Dome in close to 10 years…but fans are buying in that a real foundation is in place for a run.

Peter King of Sports Illustrated agrees.

Writing on SI.com, King called the Rams “The Smartest Team of 2012,” and he said all of the teams that blew up their coaching staffs and/or front offices on Black Monday would be wise to follow the Rams’ road to rebuilding. King cites two monster moves in giving the Rams the title of “The Smartest Team of 2012:”

“A little more than a year ago, Rams owner Stan Kroenke read a book by Boston-based author Michael Holley that I've recommended highly, War Room. It's about the formation of modern pro football teams and front offices, and how Bill Belichick and two former Patriots personnel men, Scott Pioli and Thomas Dimitroff, went about building the Patriots, Chiefs and Falcons. Kroenke liked the division-of-labor aspects of the book, and he also liked the fact that teams can best be formed with a strong titular head of an organization, that most often being a strong head coach. So he had Kevin Demoff, his man on the ground in St. Louis, go hard after the best available head coach/franchise leader he could find. That man, Kevin Demoff thought, was Fisher. After dueling with Miami, the Rams landed Fisher. The next step was finding a smart personnel man who would look everywhere for players -- small college, Arena, Canada, didn't matter. That man, Kevin Demoff thought, was Dimitroff's Atlanta lieutenant, Les Snead. So in came Snead to repair the dumpster fire the team had become (10-38 in the previous three years, 2-14 in 2011).”

Now, maybe I’ll be proven wrong. And if I get proven wrong, my guess is many of you would also be proven wrong since so many of you chose Fisher as your insideSTL Sportsperson of The Year, but I’d be shocked if the Rams take a step backwards this year.

And, the difference between some setting the bar incredibly high after 2010 and setting the bar high for 2013 is simple: Fisher.

But, I think much of the credit and reason for optimism has to go to, as King cites, Demoff and Snead. Whereas fans used to cringe at looking at drafts from the past, you can’t help but be fired up by what they did in 2012. And, that draft class is the first of three that will feature two first round picks, which is where King gives his second reason for calling the Rams “The Smartest Team of 2012:”

“As it turns out, St. Louis moved down 12 spots in the first round in 2012 -- and got two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a fifth-round pick for the swap of ones. That's as it stands now. Snead and Kevin Demoff could pull off more deals with the extra ones in the next 16 months.

The hidden benefit of the deal is that St. Louis, with the current trade parameters in place, will have by 2014 a league-high 12 players, 23 percent of their 53-man roster, under the team-friendly control of the new rookie salary scale. That's two from 2011, four from '12, three from 2013 and three from 2014. In the flat-cap era the league will have in place for the next two years at least, the Rams are ahead of the game with getting good young players at manageable prices. Trading the second pick overall last year yielded, as of today, five of those salary-friendly high picks.”

In other words, the Rams are not only young, they’re priced right. It sets the stage for some perennial success. However, I think most fans would agree that it will all be irrelevant if the Rams’ offense fails to improve. King gets more specific, and makes a scary comparison:

“Now, none of this means anything if Bradford bombs. And the jury's still out on him. In his two full seasons quarterbacking the Rams, all his numbers are pedestrian, at best. He's been the 25th- and 18th-rated quarterback in football in 2010 and 2012, with a pedestrian 58.8 percent completion rate and a plus-11 touchdown-to-interception radio. All the excuses are there for him -- a struggling offensive line, all young and new receivers. But if doesn't make this offense soar in the next couple of years, he'll be forever known as the Rams' Sam Bowie to Michael Jordan, assuming Griffin keeps being the phenom he was in his first season. (Google that, youngsters, if you don't get it.)”

While I am in the camp that would say the jury is out on Bradford, and I’m really not sure how anyone could---at this point---call him a star or a bust, I would disagree on the Sam Bowie to Michael Jordan comparison.

Now, I don’t know what the hell the Portland Trailblazers were dealing with in 1984. But, I do know what the Rams were dealing with in 2011: needs damn near everywhere. And unlike a five-person basketball team, an NFL team as bad as the Rams were needed lots of players.

Would I love to see RGIII in a Rams’ uniform? You better believe it.

But, would I rather have what the Rams have now because of trading the second pick?


And, even if RGIII does turn into one of the all-time greats, I would stand by that.

Personally, I’m not big into results-oriented judgments.

Beware…it’s time for the oft-used poker analogy. Feel free to skip over it: If Player A moves has more than 20 big blinds and moves all-in preflop with pocket Aces, and Player B, who also has more than 20 big blinds and is a dipshit, calls him with KingJack offsuit…and wins the hand…it doesn’t mean it was a good play.

The results would say it was, but the math would say it was a horrible play.

87% of the time, AA beats KJo. So, you want to put your whole tournament life on 13%?

What if your opponent had AceKing vs. KingJack instead of AA vs. KJ? You have a 25% chance of winning.

Would you want to put your whole tournament life on 25%?

Poker analogy done.

Feel free to start re-reading.

Feel free to complain about the analogy below.

The point is that making plays against math---or logic---are long-term losers.

The math: when you need about 10 (or more) players to become a competitive team, it doesn’t make sense to move all-in on one player.

The logic: you’ll take a cap hit and still have holes to fill if you trade Bradford and use that pick to select RGIII, limiting your ability to acquire help via free agency. The Rams wouldn’t have been able to bring in Cortland Finnegan, Kendall Langford, Scott Wells, and Jo-Lonn Dunbar.

Instead, they have those players all under contract through at least 2013…and they have draft picks galore both in 2013 and 2014.

I love RGIII. As I’ve said on the show a number of times, because I had RGIII, Alfred Morris, and Pierre Garcon on my fantasy team, I watched more Redskins’ games than any other team this year outside of the Rams. I think he’s a superstar. Plus he’s already well respected with his teammates and around the league. I think he would’ve energized this fan base like no player the Rams have drafted since arriving here in 1995.

Had the Rams been the slightest bit solid at even just a few positions, I would’ve advocated drafting him.

But, considering the circumstances…and considering what the Rams were able to command in return for that pick…letting Griffin go and making the trade was the right move.

We don’t know how it will all play out, so if you’re into results-oriented judgments on decision-making, I don’t believe you can make that call after one season. If you think you can, so be it.

But, I don’t believe the “right decision” will be determined by who has the better career: Bradford or RGIII.

And therefore, while I respect King’s opinion and reporting a great deal, I respectfully disagree with the comparison of the potential for the Rams to look like the Trailblazers if RGIII turns into the NFL’s Michael Jordan.

The Rams did the right thing.

They were the smartest team in 2012…and that won’t change even if Bradford morphs into Sam Bowie, and RGIII turns into Michael Jordan.

Log-in to post your comments, or you can email me at tmckernan@insidestl.com.

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