THOUSAND OAKS (AP) — Although the Los Angeles Rams aren’t moving this year, just about everyone currently working for the struggling franchise could be headed elsewhere.
The Rams hit the off-season this week with possibly even less organizational stability than they had exactly a year ago, when their intention to move back to Los Angeles from St. Louis became public and set off the tumultuous relocation process.
The homecoming season went remarkably smoothly off the field, but it ended last Sunday with seven straight losses, an interim head coach and a 4-12 record — the same mark they posted in 1994, right before leaving California.
The Rams missed the playoffs for the 12th consecutive season and finished with a non-winning record for the 13th straight year.
“We’ve just got to come to work, and come with the mindset that this won’t happen again,” Pro Bowl defensive lineman Aaron Donald said.
Everything is about to change again for the Rams, who already have requested permission to interview at least eight candidates for their head coaching vacancy.
The new boss will shape every decision about the Rams’ rebuilding process, perhaps even leading to changes in the front office currently led by general manager Les Snead.
The Rams also seem likely to switch up nearly everything about one of the worst NFL offenses in recent history.
Jared Goff and Todd Gurley desperately need help after Los Angeles finished last in the league in several categories for the second straight season.
Goff’s rocky rookie year is worrying to LA fans who watched their once-and-future team finish its return season at the Coliseum with six consecutive home losses.
The Rams mortgaged a chunk of their future for the No. 1 overall pick, so their new coach’s top responsibility is almost certainly building around Goff.
Almost nothing is certain beyond that. Los Angeles has no idea what kind of team will be moving into the Rams’ lavish new stadium in two years, but owner Stan Kroenke’s head coaching hire will determine how much relocation optimism can be salvaged by a franchise that hasn’t had a winning record in California since 1989.
“I feel like with the talent we’ve got, we shouldn’t be where we’re at, as far as the record and the way we’ve been losing,” Donald said.
“But certain things happen, and you’ve got to go through certain things to get to where we want to go.”
Here are more things to ponder while the Rams stay home for the off-season:
COACH SEARCH: The Rams are one of at least six teams looking for a new head coach in the off-season. They don’t have the most tempting job available after this wholesale franchise collapse, but the Rams’ high-profile hometown, palatial Inglewood stadium and deep-pocketed owner make it far from the worst. It’s no surprise that the Rams’ early interview list prominently features offensive-minded coaches after a half-decade of defense-minded Jeff Fisher’s struggles to find a competent offensive staff.
DOWNTRODDEN DEFENSE: Donald and the Rams’ defense survived despite their utter lack of support from the offense, but the excessive strain showed up when they wearily blew late double-digit leads over Miami and San Francisco . Perhaps the best move to bolster Los Angeles’ defense would be to improve the offense so that the defense doesn’t have to spend so much time on the field. Yet with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams certainly not guaranteed to return, everything also could change about the group surrounding Donald.
GOFF’S GROWTH: Goff passed for 1,089 yards with seven interceptions and five touchdowns in his seven starts. He was also sacked a disturbing 26 times, along with many more violent hurries and hits, leading Gurley to wonder whether he was hit less than Goff this season. It’s difficult to judge Goff, given the clear weaknesses in his offensive line and receiving group, but at least the 22-year-old rookie is already showing leadership: He went around the Rams’ locker room after their final defeat, encouraging players to remember the feeling when they get back to work in April.
FIND A LINE: The Rams’ offensive line was utterly ineffective in almost every aspect of its job, and a rebuilding should be the new regime’s top priority. After all, Goff’s health depends on it. A new role seems necessary for expensive left tackle Greg Robinson, benched twice while ranking among the NFL’s most-penalized players.
REWARDING FASSEL: Interim coach John Fassel enjoyed his brief time in charge, and the Rams’ front office clearly feels strongly about the indefatigable special teams coordinator, who has been with the Rams for five years. He doesn’t imagine he’ll be a candidate for the full-time job, but it’s quite possible Fassel could stick with the Rams after presiding over one of the NFL’s best special teams units.
(© Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)