By: Doran Grieshaber, Sports Writer
After over a decade of mediocrity, the Rams team that all St. Louis sports fans remember is finally gone, and in its place a playoff contender has been revealed. The 2017 Rams look nothing like the team that went 4-12 in their first year in Los Angeles. The team fired head coach Jeff Fisher and brought in some fresh faces to the head coach and defensive coordinator positions. Arguably the key component to their new-found success has been the hiring of new head coach Sean McVay. On top of this, Jared Goff is playing with the skill a first overall draft pick is meant to have, and Todd Gurley is running more like his rookie-of-the-year season than his sophomore slump.
Amid a disappointing first season in Los Angeles, the Rams decided to part ways with Jeff Fisher after a 4-9 start to the year. Fisher had a record of 31-45-1 in his five years with the team. The team also released defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Looking to change the culture around Rams football, the team hired the youngest head coach in NFL history, Sean McVay. McVay brought with him a coaching veteran and one of the best defensive coordinators in the game, Wade Phillips. Both players and coaching staff alike have told reporters that McVay has completely reshaped the landscape in the Rams organization. The players have stated that McVay’s rules for practice and meetings are strictly enforced and things are much different than it was under Fisher. There has been a far greater emphasis on technique and also on making sure things are done 100% correctly at all times. Along with McVay, Wade Phillips looks to take a defense that is consistently ranked in the top 10 of the NFL and turn it into a monster. Despite the more strict and intense regime under McVay, it seems that everyone is buying into the new system and this could be the beginning of a new era in Los Angeles.
The team has gotten off to a 5-2 start for the first time in 14 years, and is on pace to finish above .500 for a season for the first time since 2006. Todd Gurley is currently fifth in the league in rushing yards and tied for third most touchdowns. While Jared Goff is not suddenly becoming an elite quarterback by any means, he has made vast improvements over his rookie year. Goff currently sits at 15th in the league in passing yards and is tied for 19th in touchdowns. While these don’t seem like considerable numbers, Goff threw only five touchdowns all last season. If Goff can continue to improve, the team can ride on the workload of Todd Gurley and one of the best defenses in the NFL into a playoff spot.
Despite the strong start, the Rams do have a tough schedule to end the season. The team does have two highly probable wins against the New York Giants and the winless San Francisco 49ers, but will also have to face the NFC East leading Philadelphia Eagles and division rival Seattle Seahawks. The team has also lost to Seattle once this year, but will play them again in week 15 in a matchup that could decide who wins the division.