If you are a fan of a bad franchise, it usually means decades of anguish. The Golden State Warriors, and Pittsburgh Pirates, and Buffalo Sabres just never win. Sure, there was that one time they did before you were born, or an occasion when they were so close, but then Latrell Spreewell choked the coach, or Brett Hull scored with his foot in the crease, and the rest is history.
The beauty of the NFL is the ability to go from really bad to competitive or even great in a matter of a few years. Carolina went 1-15 under George Seifert, two years later John Fox had them in the Super Bowl. The Niners stunk, Jim Harbaugh arrived, bingo. In 2013 look out for the St. Louis Rams.
Washington, Indianapolis, and Seattle were all surprise playoff teams in 2012. Two year ago San Francisco, the Tim Tebow led Broncos, and Cincinnati were all upset playoff qualifiers. As we look ahead to 2013, why not St. Louis?
When Jeff Fisher took over the Houston Oilers the team was 2-14. As an interim coach he went 1-5 during the final stages of 1994. After drafting Steve McNair, the team improved to 7-9 in his first full season. After three years at .500, in 1999, having moved from Houston to Tennessee, the franchise put together back-to-back 13-3 campaigns.
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In his first year with the Rams, Fisher stumbled to a 3-6-1 start before finishing the year 4-2. They beat three playoff teams and went 1-0-1 against the NFC Champion 49ers. During the opening 10 weeks of the season the Rams scored just over 17 points a game while allowing nearly 24 points per contest. In the final six weeks they yielded 18.5 points a game while tallying nearly 21 points a ballgame. St. Louis went from 2-14 in Steve Spagnuolo's final season, to 7-6-1 in Fisher's first year. Two years ago the Rams faced the toughest schedule in the league. Last year St. Louis played the third most difficult slate in the NFL.
Rams quarterback Sam Bradford is not yet a star, but neither was Joe Flacco until this year's playoffs. Bradford was fair as a rookie n 2010 passing for 3,512 yards and 18 touchdowns while being intercepted 15 times. He took a step backwards in an injury plagued 2011 campaign. Under Fisher he threw for a career best 3,702 yards, 21 touchdowns, and his 6.72 yards per completion were by a wide margin the best of his career.
Bradford should be working with a lot more talent in 2013. St. Louis already added wide receiver Titus Young, and are said to be negotiating with their talented but frequently injured top target Danny Amendola. While Amendola is a free agent, because he has missed 20 games the last two seasons due to injury, it shouldn't break the bank to retain him. That being said, when healthy, Young and Amendola are the best tandem Bradford has ever had to pass to.
Because of last season's trade with Washington, the Rams are armed with two first round draft picks this year and next. The Redskins got Robert Griffin III, and St. Louis is now well positioned to improve their most pressing areas of need immediately.
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In Fisher's first season the Rams went 4-1-1 against arguably the best division in the NFL. With an extra first round pick, an improved receiving core, and time to assess and address the squads largest needs, if Bradford turns the corner St. Louis should have the supporting cast to contend.