Sometimes when watching an NFL team morph from a woebegone loser to a chest-puffing winner, it can be a rather agonizing and time-consuming process. The folks who have diligently followed the Rams have wondered for the better part of the 21st century when (or if) their pitiable football team would ever emerge from its loser's cocoon, grow some wings and fly.
Well who could have imagined that barely two games into the Jeff Fisher coaching era that the Rams would come out of the cocoon like this? It's still too early to say just yet that they've grown the wings of a winner, but they've surely grown something that they didn't have a year ago.
Let's call it attitude.
Big, huge, confident swagger.
It shouldn't really come as any surprise, considering the tough-guy persona Fisher has earned in his 17 years as an NFL coach. But on Thursday afternoon at Rams Park, his young football team took time out to admire its new image as NFL bad boys. This was the day after Redskins rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III complained to the Washington media that the Rams' defenders treated him rudely last weekend.
Among his many observations about the Rams, RGIII said they were "unprofessional" and "dirty" cheap-shot artists. And while the Rams players didn't exactly preen in the mirror, they did let it be known that they clearly like the view.
Well, first they laughed, and then they basically said thanks for the compliment.
"I don't know how to say it, but I don't think we're dirty," said linebacker Jo-Lonn Dunbar, his voice dripping in sarcasm. "I mean, the last time I checked I took a shower a couple times a day. I don't know if we're dirty. But it is what it is. He has his own opinion about what's going on. He doesn't partake in this locker room at all, so he can formulate his own opinions, we're going to play our style of football. I'm sorry he didn't like it, and I hope he has a good day."
Running back Steven Jackson grinned when asked what he thought about Griffin's complaints.
"It's not the Big 12 (Conference)," Jackson said. "I don't think we're a dirty team. I think we're a team that's hungry, that's young and eager to make a turnaround in the franchise."
It's fascinating watching just how quickly this team has completely embraced Fisher's way of playing football. It's an emotional and physical transformation that has injected a sudden jolt of competitive verve in this team and made it respectable overnight. I sort of imagined that his tough-guy, no-nonsense approach would stick quickly. But this is remarkable and maybe even a bit ridiculous.
There's an air of believability permeating the air at Rams Park that feels like the honest-to-goodness beginnings of a winner's transformation. How long it takes to elevate the Rams from losers to legitimate winners in the won-loss column remains to be seen.
Remember, the last time the Rams actually had a winning record at any point in any season was seven games into the 2006 season when they were 4-3. That's more than six years and 91 games ago. But a victory in Chicago on Sunday would elevate the Rams to 2-1 and break that long loser's nightmare.
And if the Rams have any hope of extending that course correction beyond Chicago and deeper into this new season, it will surely be as a result of how quickly they have embraced their bad-boy persona.
All around the locker room on Thursday, players and coaches on both sides of the ball were interested in Griffin's comments. If they hadn't already read about them, they'd surely heard about them. And the most common reactions were defiant denial and biting sarcasm.
When Dunbar was asked if he gave Griffin a little extra-curricular elbow during one scrum, the linebacker gave a little Cheshire Cat smirk and 'fessed up, sort of.
"I gave him a forearm?" he asked. "I'm sorry. I guess he feels bad I did it. I don't really feel bad. If it happened, it happened. It is what it is. No disrespect to him. I think he's a really good player. We just try to play physical, and with a little bit of edge to us. No one's trying to hurt anybody out there. That's not how we play our game."
Understandably in the post-Bountygate era, a lot of NFL coaches and players are a bit sensitive about the notion that any risky business is being orchestrated behind the scenes. It's why both Fisher and assistant head coach Dave McGinnis rejected any claims that the Rams are dirty.
"We're going to play aggressive and we're going to play hard to the whistle, and that's it," Fisher said.
"I've been in this league 27 years and have never been on a dirty defense," McGinnis said. "I've been on some damn tough ones. Never been on a dirty one."
One of the lessons that every bad-boy team must learn is how to dance right up to the edge of that line between devilish and dastardly without getting caught. After two weeks, so far so good with the Rams.
But now they have to be very smart with how they do their business, damned tough or otherwise, because the folks in the NFL offices suddenly are rather sensitive about the level of aggression that is permeating the game.
In reaction to the embarrassing mess the league has created by using replacement officials, who have consistently demonstrated that they lack the spine to stand up for themselves and the ability to control the raging testosterone swirling all around them, the NFL has taken the next illogical step.
No, the league didn't get rid of the scab officials.
Instead, it scolded the players and coaches, who have smelled the fear in these scab officials like sharks can smell blood in the water. This week, the NFL sent out a league-wide memo to owners, general managers and coaches of all 32 teams, promising to crack down on anyone who basically bullies the replacement officials.
The players and coaches berating the replacements isn't the problem. It's the replacements who are the problem.
But unfortunately, what the NFL is suggesting as a solution makes about as much sense as sending a meth addict to the dentist to fix his teeth instead of snatching the pipe out of his hands.