On Sunday in Indianapolis, Jeff Fisher walked onto an NFL field as head coach for the first time since 2010. We’re still waiting for his team to show up.
I’ve had my sensible take on the Rams’ 38-3 loss to the Colts. It’s only the preseason, after all, and it was obvious from the start that Fisher’s approach to this game was essentially “just another practice.” His coaches installed a very limited number of things that they wanted to work on, and rapidly worked the Rams’ core starters out of the game so they could evaluate the roster’s younger players.
But there’s still this disconnect between what we saw on Sunday – the Rams getting rag-dolled up and down the field – and the image we all have in our head of what a “Jeff Fisher team” is supposed to look like. Win or lose, we’re supposed to *hit* the other team hard enough to make them feel it well into the next week. You never hear of a Jeff Fisher team getting bullied. You don’t see quarterbacks giggling on the sidelines while playing a Jeff Fisher team, even if they’re ahead.
Robert Quinn had the right idea, getting up into wunderkind Andrew Luck’s face and giving him a couple of good whacks, even if he did pop back up again. Even if he did burn us with a screen pass / touchdown romp to Donald Brown on one of those. As Luck played deep into the second quarter, the Rams’ second-string pass rush was turned into Carl Spackler by Luck’s wily gopher ability.
But Fisher wasn’t interested in leaving Quinn in to prove any points, or to set any particular tone. As it turns out, he was more concerned about his newly assembled staff performing simple gameday management, like getting the plays in on time.
“It’s kind of an unusual game because the offense puts a drive together and then, bang, they’re back on the field one play later because we gave up a touchdown,” the Rams coach said. “Then you’re trying to catch up with plays for your defense and then you can’t stop them and then you can’t get the plays for your offense. We tried to get as many plays as we could on tape and we’ll move on.”
This is not to paint a picture of chaos, or to prompt headlines screaming RAMS SIDELINE IN DISARRAY!
But it is worth noting that not only is this roster a work in progress, so is this coaching staff. And it appears that Fisher is very much in management mode, watching his coaches percolate their gameplans through their overstuffed position groups. He’s been sitting back in practice, watching each of his units at work, only occasionally stepping in with a word here or a play-call there. Yesterday was the first time we saw all the pieces at work together, and as I wrote yesterday, they still look like a collection of parts.
To my mind, pure unadulterated football violence was going to be the glue that helped fit those pieces together. Maybe it’s too early for that. Maybe in avoiding injuries of our own, our team was behaving with gentlemanly discretion toward the opponent as well. Or maybe Roger Goodell’s crackdown on Gregg Williams and the Saints is still casting its shadow over this team. (WARNING! UNFOUNDED CONSPIRACY THEORY!)
Either way, we’re all still waiting for this Rams team to become a Jeff Fisher team. Hopefully we won’t have to wait too much longer.