As if anyone needed to be reminded, the Rams are coach Jeff Fisher's team. He's completely in charge of their fate. He's building the roster in a way that matches his core football beliefs. He doesn't care what you want. He doesn't care what I want. He doesn't care what we think. And that's fine. This is his show.
Fisher wants a team that will line up and knock you down. A team that will run the ball, stop the run, and invade the quarterback's pocket. A team that will do everything within its power (and perhaps outside the boundaries of sportsmanship) to win the physical battles up front, and on both sides of the ball. A team that inflicts more pain and suffering than it absorbs.
Coach Fisher finds himself in a grim battle in the NFC West, and he realized he needed more tanks for his 2014 pushback against the Seahawks, 49ers and Cardinals. So he went for the reinforcements. He didn't think big ... but he went big.
The first round of the 2014 NFL Draft fell into place like a Fisher fantasy.
With the No. 2 overall pick, the Rams took Auburn offensive tackle Greg Robinson.
With the No. 13 overall choice, they went for Pittsburgh defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
One for the offense, one for the defense.
This is Fisher's idea of a perfect night.
No excitement, no charisma, no buzz, no daring _ and nothing that would prompt a bull rush to the ticket windows or internet portals.
Johnny Manziel -- aka "Johnny Quarterback" — to the Rams? Cue the laugh track and send in the clowns from the national media that willingly participated in the Rams' lame attempt to con everyone into believing they'd actually take a QB second overall. Or even 13th overall.
(Sidebar: I couldn't help but laugh at the media people who say you can't draft Manziel because Brian Schottenheimer is the offensive coordinator ... and so if Schotty is the OC, you can't possibly have a improvisational QB running around, making plays. Oh, gosh no. Can't have that. Basically, this is a rubber-stamp endorsement of Schottenheimer's predictable way of offense. Goodness, the Rams must be feeding the media very well out there at Rams Park.)
A brilliant wide receiver like Sammy Watkins who can take the top off a defense? Well, as I told a friend yesterday: if the Rams draft Watkins, I'll pay off your mortgage. There was ZERO chance of that happening.
So the Rams — metaphorically speaking — took the air out of the football Thursday night with two safe, conservative choices that probably confused fans that expecting a little pizazz.
I would argue, however, that the Rams' picks provided plenty of entertainment in an unintentional way.
After trying to spread Johnny Football fever — with no response from possible trade partners — the Rams left Manziel sitting in the green room, looking bewildered. And the Rams made complete fools out of media co-conspirators that spread the bogus rumors. That's funny.
Fisher and associates peddled the story to reporters — the Manziel speculation — but couldn't sell it in a way that stimulated trade interest in the No. 2 overall choice. The Rams completely misjudged the Manziel market. From what we know now, Manziel wasn't a coveted commodity.
Here's the problem: the Rams also stimulated a fan base that suddenly hoped this would be a wild Thursday-night ride, with the Rams going crazy and picking an outrageously flamboyant dervish of a quarterback to replace game manager Sam Bradford.
And it's not nice to play a practical joke on fans that have watched a 43-100-1 football team since 2005.
OK, now that I have that out of the way...
The selections of Robinson and Donald made sense; they fit into Fisher's plan to toughen and harden the Rams for the increasingly difficult conflict in the NFC West.
From a practical football standpoint, the Rams filled two needs at positions that are significant areas on any NFC West track.
I'll have a comprehensive take on Robinson down below.
But first a brief comment on Donald: despite using a first-round pick on DT Michael Brockers and throwing hefty free-agent dollars at DT Kendall Langford, Fisher still needed help at the position. The Rams don't have an invasive defensive tackle to ignite an inside pass rush or quickly trespass into the backfield to tackle the running backs for losses. I don't know if Donald will become that guy, but he fits the profile. He was a great, disruptive player at Pitt.
The larger issue: what does it say that the Fisher had to double back on his Brocker-Langford investments to spend a premium pick on another DT?
Now, here's a shorter version of what I wrote earlier on Robinson:
1. Fisher chose Robinson over Texas A&M offensive tackle Jake Matthews, even though Matthews is widely considered to be more ready to plug in and play at left tackle in Game 1 of his rookie year. Robinson is a tremendous natural talent with huge upside, but the prevailing conventional wisdom is that he'll need some work to refine his pass blocking.
Given that the Rams need to win and do it now, it's a little surprising that they'd bypass a safer pick who won't be on a learning curve. But seriously, Robinson is such a powerhouse, I can't say the Rams were wrong by taking him over Matthews. I think it's safe to say that most if not all NFL teams rated Robinson as the best OT in this class.
Robinson can play guard and help the Rams power up inside. But since no one else will say it, I guess I'll have to raise the point: if you draft a tackle at No. 2 overall, shouldn't the OT be capable of immediately starting at OT? You don't draft a guard with the second pick. But I digress; at some point Robinson will be a starting offensive tackle. And as a No. 2 overall choice, he needs to become one of the best OTs in the league. With excellent O-line coach Paul Boudreau working with him, I don't see why it would take a lot of time to get the big man ready.
2. Obviously, Fisher loves a bruising rushing attack ... as does Schotty. In that context, Robinson is ideal for what the Rams want to do. They compete against ferocious, muscular defenses in the NFC West; six of their 16 games are against division nasties. To succeed the Rams have to win the hard battles in the pit and dominate the line of scrimmage. And Robinson will be a physical force up front. No matter where he lines up, Robinson is an instant upgrade for the Rams rushing attack.
3. There's a perception that the Rams have been a successful rushing team during Fisher's two seasons, but that isn't exactly true. The Rams had some impressive displays on the ground but have lacked consistency. Over Fisher's two seasons the Rams have ranked 17th in the NFL with an average of 108 yards rushing per game. Their 15 rushing TDs rank 30th. Their red-zone rushing has been below average. Their yards per carry (4.1) ranks 15th. Their percentage of runs that gain 10+ yards ranks 14th. There's still a lot of work to be done before the Rams pave over defenses the way Fisher wants them to.
Key statistic: in 12 games against NFC West beasts in Fisher's two seasons, the Rams have averaged only 3.7 yards per carry, 99 yards rushing per game, and have scored only TWO touchdowns on the ground.
4. Robinson, of course, was a dominating OT for Auburn. He mauled defenders for an Auburn offense that led the nation with 328 yards rushing per game last season; even more impressively the Tigers averaged 324 yards in games against Top 25 opponents. And they averaged 286 yards in SEC games; that's outstanding. Robinson played a leading role at the point of attack to get that powerful ground surge going. He seems particularly suited for NFC West hostilities.
5. In terms of style, I don't see the Robinson and Orlando Pace comparisons. I'm not saying Robinson can't become a great lineman; he can. But Pace was a naturally graceful and dominant pass protector who wasn't necessarily an elite blocker in the run game. Coming into the NFL, Robinson's profile is something of the opposite.
At some point the Rams have to add to this physical foundation by sparking the offense with more creativity and big-play capability. For all of the talk about the up-front ruggedness of the Seahawks and 49ers, those teams have struck for more plays of 20+ yards than the Rams over the last two seasons. Maybe we'll see more of that as the young STL receivers develop. I can't rule it out.
If Fisher and his coaches don't understand the need to have both elements -- run it strong, but also burn secondaries -- then they'll eventually face the repercussions.
As for what happened Thursday night, well, I'm a hopeless pragmatist. Fisher still has the leeway to run the franchise in a manner that pleases him. So he went with what he knows best and grabbed two more pieces for the power game. That's his privilege.
There's no point in taking a WR that won't fully develop under these coaches in a run-dominated system. There's no point in going for a QB at No. 2 or No. 13 overall when Fisher is so firmly committed to Bradford.
So why would we expect Fisher to disavow his core football philosophy? Fisher's only Super Bowl contestant (the Titans) ran the ball and attacked quarterbacks. So in Fisher's head, that's the way to win _ even if that Super Bowl trip came at the end of the 1999 season, a long time ago. The league has evolved offensively.
In the Rams' minds, they've already drafted enough WRs ... four in their two drafts under Fisher. That's short-sighted on their part, but what's the point of arguing?
You can almost read Fisher's mind going into this year's draft.
"What do these people want? I've drafted four wide receivers. I signed another wideout in veteran Kenny Britt. Last year I gave a huge free-agent contract to tight end Jared Cook. That's enough of this nonsense. Let's get the leather helmets out, dammit."
For what Fisher is ... and for what Fisher wants to do ... and for what Fisher believes in ... he deemed Robinson and Donald as essential. He views them as blocks to strengthen his fronts for the heavy-duty challenges in the NFC West.
Fisher will ultimately judged on wins and losses.
And if he wins and gets the Rams into the playoffs _ well, who says it has to be entertaining?
Thanks for reading ...