Saturday, 21 January 2012

Let's not be sheepish its time to be a Ram Man

Erm, yay! erm, maybe.

Not quite sure how to react to the announcement yesterday that the St Louis Rams are going to be the 'home' team at Wembley for the next three years, as the NFL continues it's commitment to playing American Football in England.

It is terrific that we are going to be guaranteed NFL regular season football over the next five years, but paying about £80-£90 a ticket to see the Rams every year is hardly setting my world alight.

The Rams are without doubt the worst team of the last five seasons, having won 15 games out of 80 - a staggeringly awful 18.75% winning percentage.

True - they are looking to start a new era under newly signed head-coach Jeff Fisher, the former coach of the Tennessee Titans, who ironically lost Super Bowl XXXIV (1999 season) to the Kurt Warner led St Louis Rams.

True - they have perhaps the most underrated running back in the NFL in the last 10 years, in the form of man-beast Steven Jackson, who has had seven consecutive seasons with 1,000+ rushing yards and 40 or more catches.

True - they have a former #1 overall pick in former Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford. Bradford was the likely tipping point that meant Coach Fisher decided St Louis over the balmy climate of Florida, where he was mulling over the Miami Dolphins head man position. Bradford was brimming with potential in his rookie season (2010), but regressed in 2011 through a combination of injury and poor supporting cast in the wide receiver department. In 10 starts in 2011 Bradford won one game and threw six touchdowns and the same amount of interceptions.

To make a somewhat unfair comparison, the quarterback that will play against Bradford at Wembley in October, threw six touchdowns IN ONE GAME - going crazy against the out-of-their-depth Denver Broncos in last week's divisional playoff obliteration.

The Rams will be drafting #2 overall in April, just behind the Indianapolis Colts. Barring a crazy offer or a complete shock pick the Colts will take Stanford gunslinger Andrew Luck, leaving the Rams to decide on either a shutdown cornerback, legacy building offensive tackle or super stud wide receiver. Whoever they select they need to be an immediate difference maker and will most likely be in the starting line-up when he travels first class over to London Heathrow.

The experiment to sort-of have a Wembley NFL team ended in disaster as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers two tries to be the 'London home team', complete with a Buccs flag waving crowd each time, ended in defeats to the Patriots and the Bears. The Buccs plans to expand their fan base took a dark turn after their 2011 loss at Wembley, as they released a statement saying they would not come back for another NFL game in England for the foreseeable future.

In steps the St Louis Rams, a team that couldn't be more rock bottom if they joined the seven dwarves on a coal mining expedition. The Rams 'proposal' to be the 'host' team in 2012, 2013 and 2014 at Wembley was accepted by the NFL's ginger prince Roger Goodell and now bemused fans in England, the rest of Europe and most importantly St Louis, face the prospect of seeing the blue and gold get battered for three Halloween's in a row.

It's hardly fair that the Rams get to start their three-year European vacation, minus Chevy Chase, against the New England Patriots. For a start the Pats have already played and won in London, and they are also one game away from the Super Bowl, unlike the Rams who are one lifetime away from the big dance.

To be fair Clark Grizwold could have probably won more games for the Rams in the past five years than their three coaches Steve Spagnulo, Jim Haslett and Scott Linehan.

The one positive for the Rams is that they have won a Super Bowl in recent memory (in 2000), and between 1999 and 2004 they were in the playoffs in five out of six seasons, winning six out of ten playoff games, including making a second Super Bowl appearance* - in a loss to none other than the Tom Brady led New England Patriots.

* =TRIVIA TIME - In that Super Bowl (2001) Brady may have been voted the Most Valuable Player, but if you look back he only passed for 145 yards, with a longest throw of 23 yards. That stat line has been lost in NFL history as Brady led the team on the game winning drive. Bet even the most loyal Pats fan didn't think Brady managed under 150 yards passing in his first Super Bowl win

I have a feeling that the 2012 version of the Rams and the Patriots will not lead to a Patriot win with a last minute field goal win for New England, instead the Rams will be lucky to score a field goal (hmm maybe a bit harsh).

Above all we have guaranteed NFL football in England, and although some fans will moan that there is not a second regular season game in the UK, we should count our blessings that we are not going back to dark days of NFL exhibition games at Wembley, with walk-on nobodys playing camp fodder.

Time to get a Bradford or a Jackson jersey and root for the London Rams ! It's time to be a Ram Man.

Don't forget your axe in October !!!

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