At first glance this seems lackluster but with further investigation and consideration – this could be very notable if only in a year or two. Jeff Fisher took over in 2012 and never had this team better than 7-9 on the season or #3 in the NFC West. He had a different offensive coordinator in each of the last three seasons.
From a fantasy perspective, the offense has been a dud every year that Fisher manned the helm. The Rams ranked dead last in passing touchdowns for the last two seasons. No element of the passing game has ranked better than 27th in that time. Even drafting a quarterback with the #1 overall pick last year provided no spark or even a starter until Week 11 when the season was already well over.
Jeff Fisher came in with defensive credentials and head coaching experience and never produced an offense of any consequence. The Rams have been such a wasteland for fantasy points that it’s all too easy to just dismiss this as anything more than a very bad offense going into a complete rebuilding year.
Nothing is going to change overnight. But the pieces are in place with a change in coaching staff that will turn this team into an entirely different direction – and that has to be a positive for the offense.
Start at the Top
No change was bigger than swapping out Jeff Fisher for the youngest head coach in NFL history. Sean McVay is only 30 years old and comes off being the Redskins offensive coordinator for the last three years. His offenses passed for over 4000 yards every year. In 2017, they passed for 30 touchdowns. The Rams never passed for over 4000 yards with Fisher in control. They never passed for more than 22 scores in any year including just 11 and 14 touchdowns in the last two seasons.
McVay was tutored under Jon Gruden and rose quickly from being the Assistant tight ends coach in 2010, to taking over the tight ends in 2011-2013 and then running the offense from 2014-2016. That’s a short resume to lead an NFL team but McVay was the much-hyped hot coaching candidate this year. His hiring is all about turning this team around from being primarily based on defense and rushing to a more modern wide-open offense predicated on the pass. McVay will call the plays himself and will focus equally on his head coaching and offensive duties.
Last year the Skins ranked #3 in the NFL with 4917 passing yards. His offense made use of all options – Jordan Reed flourished with McVay calling plays. Both Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson broke 1000 receiving yards. Alfred Morris managed 1074 rushing yards in 2014 but the last two years have been with a committee backfield from a lack of talent. That won’t be an issue with Todd Gurley.
Airing it Out in 2017
The Falcons Quarterbacks Coach Matt LaFleur was hired as the offensive coordinator. He spent the last two seasons with Matt Ryan and the Falcons ranked #2 in both passing yards (4960) and touchdowns (38). That should help Jared Goff restart his NFL career after spending his rookie season in an already predictable and punch-less offense. LaFleur won’t call plays but will help install the offense and game plan.
Ex-Jaguars Offensive Coordinator Greg Olson signed on as the Quarterbacks Coach after his work with Blake Bortles. The Rams even brought in passing tutors Tom House and Adam Dedeaux in to work with Goff. This will be a completely different environment and direction for Goff and the Rams are filling the coaching ranks in order to get the passing offense out of the league trashcan and hopefully realize the potential of spending the #1 overall draft pick on a quarterback.
Next up – actual players
The offensive line was a major issue last year and prevented Todd Gurley from having any chance to repeat his encouraging rookie campaign. After rushing for 1106 yards on 229 carries over 13 games as a rookie, Gurley was held to only 885 yards on 278 carries last year. That was a drop from 4.8 to only 3.2 yards per carry. There’s no need for better running backs but the entire offense is going to succeed (or not) based on improving the offensive line.
The receivers are worth tracking through this summer since much change is likely here. Kenny Britt is expected to move on and with that the only receiver of any note from the last few years is gone. Second-year tight end Tyler Higbee becomes instantly more interesting given the success of the position under McVay. But the Rams are going to use both the NFL draft and free agency to restock the wideouts. There will be no reprise of the Greatest Show on Turf this year but it would be almost impossible to do any worse than the Rams receivers of the last few years.
The defense will remain at least as good with Wade Phillips taking over and he’ll have free reign to instill more discipline into what is a talented crew that lacks consistency. It is also quite a juxtaposition with a 30-year-old head coach directing a 70-year-old defensive coordinator.
Bottom line – all the coaching changes were made to produce a more potent offense and in particular invigorate the passing game. Rebuilding the offensive line and finding better wide receivers will be critical to any success. But it all comes down to getting Jared Goff to realize his potential and all the coaching changes should expressly do just that.