Hope your week is off to a good start ...
Reading Time 5 Minutes:
* I like the Rams' hiring of Les Snead as GM for a simple reason: as personnel director he had a good record of finding players for the Atlanta Falcons. And that's what the Rams need more than anything. Players. Lots and lots of quality players. Atlanta had 21 picks in the last three drafts (2009-2011) and 19 are still with the team, including seven starters. The 2007 and 2008 drafts produced several starters including QB Matt Ryan, LB Curtis Lofton, OT Sam Baker, G Justin Blaylock, and S Thomas DeCoud.
By contrast the Rams have had an almost unbelievable strikeout rate with their draft picks going back to 2006. More than anything the team's 15-65 collapse from 2007-2011 was the result of the organization's inability to identify and select difference-making talent. The Rams have drafted more busts than impact players.
* Does Snead work for head coach Jeff Fisher, or is Fisher working for Snead? When Snead made a reference to working "for" Fisher it set off some clucking among those who are hung up on titles. Here's your answer: Fisher and Snead work for team owner Stan Kroenke. Fisher didn't ask for total roster control as part of his contract with the Rams, but he does want to have a say, and he expects to have influence, and I don't think anyone at Rams Park will push the coach out of the way when it comes time to make big decisions. But Fisher is a football coach. He doesn't have time to scout and grind tape. Fisher wanted to bring in someone who could oversee the vitally important scouting work and then help the Rams make smart personnel decisions in the draft and free agency. And Fisher wanted someone he can trust. Snead is a workaholic that wears out DVD players with long hours spent studying video of players. And in Atlanta he had an eye for talent.
* By saying he looked forward to working "for" Fisher, here's what Snead meant: he wants to get busy supplying as many good players for this coach and staff to help them win football games. Nothing more.
* As long as Fisher and Snead have a comfortable working relationship, I'm not sure why everyone is so worried about where the lines of authority are drawn. If Fisher tramples Snead, that's a problem. But let's wait and see how it plays out before we presume that Fisher is on some sort of power-tripping flexing that will roll over Snead.
* Obviously Fisher isn't a normal coach in this setup; obviously he has juice. He has power. We knew this already. So yes, I would think that Fisher will break all ties when there's a stalemate on personnel decisions. But Fisher insists that he wants to build a consensus, and that he doesn't have time to scout and arrange draft boards, so he will lean heavily on the GM for draft/scouting expertise. That's his vow, and we'll see if he follows through on that.
* This isn't the traditional GM/coach setup. But again: didn't you know that already? Given Kroenke's aggressive recruitment of Fisher, did anyone of sound mind really expect that Fisher was going to come to St. Louis for the Rams' job and twiddle his moustache in the dark while the GM makes all of the decisions? Really?
* Snead apparently has some fire to his personality and will stand up for what he believes in. "He's not a pushover. He's not silly putty," said D. Orlando Ledbetter, a St. Louis native who covers the Falcons for the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "He has strong opinions on what should be done in making personnel decisions."
This jibes with what Fisher has told me on multiple occasions: he didn't want a yes-man GM.
* Here's an opinion from Peter King of Sports Illustrated: "The Rams were smart to hire a hardworking scout like Les Snead as general manager. All he wants to do is find players. I know Snead, and I know his work ethic, and he's going to mesh with Jeff Fisher just fine."
Moving On ...
* Notes on my college basketball box scores: in his latest offering of "Bracketology" ESPN's Joe Lunardi has both Mizzou and Kansas as No. 1 seeds, joining Syracuse and Kentucky... Lunardi put Missouri No. 1 in the Midwest (St. Louis) region ... in Monday's daily RPI at ESPN, Baylor (No. 6) was still rated ahead of Kansas (7th) and Mizzou (8th) despite being 0-4 against KU and MU this season... strength of schedule figures into that of course, and that's where Missouri could be a tad vulnerable if it comes down to choosing between Kansas and MU for a No. 1 seed. Kansas is No. 8 in strength of sked; Missouri is No. 86 ... then again, Missouri is 3-0 vs. the top 10 and 9-0 vs. top 50 teams this season. Kansas and Baylor are each 7-4 vs. top 50 opponents ... Lunardi has Saint Louis U. as a No. 9 seed, with Illinois still hanging in there as a No. 12 seed.
Ken Pomeroy's ratings system loves St. Louis U, which continues to be ranked 10th at kenpom.com. Missouri is No. 7 at kenpom. ESPN's Jay Bilas is confused by SLU's elevated status. "I don't get it, Bilas wrote. "Saint Louis is rated No. 10 in the BPI and No. 10 on KenPom.com. There is no way that Rick Majerus has a top-10 team. Still, the Billikens have beaten Washington, Xavier, Villanova and Oklahoma. Only Washington is expected to stay in the Bilas Index past the next two weeks," ... Bilas has SLU at No. 32 in his personal rankings; the Billikens are No. 23 in the daily RPI ... Pomeroy has Missouri rated No. 1 in the nation for offensive efficiency ... Pomeroy rates St. Louis U. at No. 9 in team defense.
* It's looking rather grim for Illinois basketball coach Bruce Weber. The Illini are free-falling, and new AD Mike Thomas isn't exactly rushing to Weber's side to offer reassurances. "It's our goal to be relevant through Big Ten play," Thomas told the Chicago Tribune. "It's not a question of being in the tournament. That should be a given. It should be what seed." Speaking on a Chicago radio station, Thomas said Weber would be evaluated after the season. "For us we have to compete at the highest level with our men's basketball program," he said. "We have to be in the higher ranks of the Big Ten ... That's where Illinois used to have a history of, a good part of history has been that kind of program. We need to not only get to be be that kind of program -- (what) is more difficult is to sustain it."
Thomas made his comments before Illinois got thumped at Michigan on Sunday to fall to 5-7 in Big Ten standings. The Illini could miss the NCAA tournament for the second time in three years. Weber went 26-6 in conference play during his first three seasons at Illinois but has a Big Ten record of 49-51 since the start of the 2006-2007 season. That includes a 15-21 mark in the last 36 games.
Moving On ...
* I'll hit more Blues' stuff tomorrow, but it was great to see Andy McDonald return to the lineup after an extended absence. And he made a difference right away, with an assist in the Blues' dominant 3-0 win over San Jose. McDonald's speed is an ideal fit for Ken Hitchcock's aggressive end-to-end style ... I'll repeat something I said last week: no one can make more of a difference than David Perron. With his love of the game, sure hands, cunning instincts and nose for the goal, Perron can be a big-time scorer. And that's what the Blues need more than anything else ... only one player in the NHL has a better plus-minus rating at home this season than young Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo. Detroit's future Hall of Fame defenseman Nicklas Lindstrom is plus 24 at home; Pietrangelo is plus 22 ... in addition, Pietrangelo is No. 2 among NHL defensemen for most points on home ice with 8 goals and 15 assists for 23; Ottawa's Erik Karlsson is first with 6-20-26.
Thanks for reading.