Two weeks ago, the St. Louis Rams looked poised to get into the playoff hunt in the NFC. They were coming off consecutive dominating wins at home over the Browns and 49ers, to get to 4-3. They had won at Arizona, and already beaten Seattle.
And now, after a loss at Minnesota against another playoff hopeful, followed by getting crushed at home by the Chicago Bears, it looks like another mediocre season in St. Louis. Before the meltdown against the Bears–where they allowed two 80-yard touchdown plays to Zach Miller and Jeremy Langford–the issue was offense, particularly the passing game.
The Rams are 8 of 51 on third down over the last four games, and Nick Foles’ numbers over the last five games starting with the Packers loss are 51.7% completions, 5.95 yards per attempt, and 2 TD to 5 INT. With a stellar talent in Todd Gurley the offense still cannot move the chains unless Gurley breaks a big run. Those numbers are a big part of the reason that Foles has been benched and Jeff Fisher is now taking his chances with Case Keenum.
In this week’s NFL preview podcast, we touched briefly on Jeff Fisher and whether he would be on the hot seat. (After opening by talking to Tom Pelissero of USA Today about the Vikings and Adrian Peterson). If the Rams don’t win this week, they are looking at back-to-back games at Cincinnati and at home against Arizona to follow. They are capable of winning any of those individually–these Rams have maybe been the most inconsistent team–but this looks like another 7-9 type season.
This is year 4 for Fisher in St. Louis, after 17 (16 full seasons plus the year he was interim coach) in Tennessee. Do you know how many coaches get to a fifth season if they don’t have a single winning year in the first four with a franchise? Here are the coaches since 1960 who had four straight non-winning seasons to open their tenure. I note whether they were brought back for year five (the asterisk is for those that were brought back, but fired before the completion of year five).
Yes, the last coach to not have a winning season in any of his first four full seasons, and be brought back, was . . . Jeff Fisher. (Fisher had three straight 8-8 seasons before the Super Bowl year in 1999). Since the merger, only Jeff Fisher and Walt Michaels of the Jets made it through a fifth year.
Fisher’s teams are never truly bad. They are respectable, hard-nosed. Other than a stretch when Steve McNair was in his prime, though, they’ve generally been done in by the offenses, and the coach has only six playoff appearances total. That rate, assuming the Rams miss the postseason again, is below average (6 of 16 make it each year). He is 11th all-time in games coached in the NFL, and assuming he finishes out the final 7 games, he will move into a tie for 10th with Paul Brown. His 52.2% win percentage is the lowest in that group. He’s been given a long leash for a long time, so maybe he’s fine. But if he is gone after this year, well, it’s not like he’s not been given enough time compared to his peers.
[photo via USA Today Sports Images]