Hard Knocks Blog; L.A. Rams; Week 4

The fourth episode of Hard Knocks starts with a review of the preseason game against the Kansas City Chiefs. Working with the offense, Rob Boras, points out some good plays and shows examples of how what they have been working on in practice showed up in the game.

The scene then shifts to Gregg Williams talking to/at the defense. Pointing to a Chiefs running back in the game film, Williams yells, “He got five yards on a nine man front – what game are we playing, checkers, chess, putt-putt golf?” Notice he does not say WHY they got five yards – or WHAT they – or an individual player could have done to make the stop on the play. Williams then concludes “It’s simple – it’s effort.” Notice this comment takes all the responsibility off the coaches and puts it all on the players. Perhaps it is true this was due to effort – if that is the case then he should point out who the responsible players are on this play for not putting forth the effort. He should not blame the whole group.

These are the kind of statements that take a huge emotional toll on a team over the course of the season. The players who did put forth the effort feel like they are getting put down when they tried hard. Perhaps they even beat their man – it is unlikely that all nine players did not put forth the effort on the play. Eventually, the players will develop an attitude of “Why bother, we will get yelled at anyway.” Also, the statement about the lack of effort reminds me of an old coaching saying. “If they perform great – it’s due to great coaching – if they don’t – it’s from lack of talent, or no effort.” This attitude absolves the coach of any wrongdoing. Could it be possible that the reason the Chiefs got five yards on that play was because the coach did not have the players in the right formation? Perhaps not – but it is still important to point out exactly who did not make the play. The coaches need to show and tell them exactly what they could have done differently so it does not happen again.

Along these lines Williams then stops the game film and points to a receiver who is wide open (the ball was not thrown to this receiver) and says, “If he catches the ball right there – you, me and everyone in this room is fired.” Once again – he does not comment on how the defense should have played differently on that play. Should someone have jammed the receiver at the line of scrimmage? Did someone miss or confuse their coverage? It is important that each player – and coach know exactly what went wrong and how to fix it. Although he seems to be speaking to one particular player, the message seems to be “don’t let that happen again.” The message needs to be; “this is what went wrong – and here is how to avoid that from happening again.”

Fights during preseason practice may happen from time to time. The fight shown on this episode seemed like an example of an undisciplined and unfocused team.

Lamarcus Joyner is a prime example of a player with a lack of discipline. Joyner was ejected from the game against the Chiefs for fighting. He walks away from a drill in practice because he is not getting reps with the first team. He walks away from the coaches when they try to talk with him. At some point his attitude and behavior will be a huge problem. His actions could change the outcome of a game. He was able to control himself in the preseason game against Denver. However, over the course of a season he is likely to lose control of his temper and himself. It is these “heat of the moment” situations that are so important in sports. How will he act with a receiver who verbally taunts him? He will most likely react when his buttons are pushed, if he feels disrespected or he is beaten consistently by a player. He will be unable to control himself and feel justified in fighting back no matter what the cost to the team. This is an individual who puts his own needs in front of the teams.

Mike Singletary was not shown this episode at all. It was noteworthy that Alec Ogletree had a great game against Denver. He seemed like he took the lessons Singletary taught him in the last episode and was able to implement them very well.

Ian Seau did not have a good game. Part of this is due to his inexperience, part due to coaching. Seau probably could get away with being out of position when he was in college playing for Nevada. Has he been told, shown and does he know exactly what he should be doing each play?

Notice after the loss to Denver, Jeff Fisher says, “We get no touchdowns, I don’t know if we converted a third down in the second half offensively.” “That defines the game – that’s why you lost the game.” Semantics are very important. Contrast the above statement with “That defines the game – that’s why WE lost the game.” “You lost,” means the coaches did nothing wrong. Often this may just be a sound bite, but many coaches will say “Our players need to play better and I/we need to coach better.” Fisher puts the loss on the players – and the players alone – “you lost.” After the win against Dallas in the first preseason game, Fisher says: “We rallied, we found a way to win the game.” Against Dallas “We won,” against Denver, “You lost.”

Over the course of a long drawn out season all of the above issues will take their toll on the Rams. My guess is that in their last eight games they win two or three games. I say this without even knowing their schedule.

Parting thoughts:

Once again Fisher has to remind the defense during practice not to hit Todd Gurley. Players who put the team first would not need to be told this over and over. Again, this is a sign of a much deeper problem with the Rams. It may be jealousy, lack of discipline or poor coaching – or some other issue – but this is a huge red flag that something is seriously wrong.

The Rams do a good job of cutting players by using strength coach Rock Gullickson. Last year I really liked how Coach O’Brien of the Texans told the players what they needed to improve – or why specifically they were cut. Fisher did not do this during this round of cuts.

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