Football is back in Los Angeles! After 21 years in St. Louis, the Rams re-debuted as the Los Angeles Rams Monday night! Since the Rams’ 1994 departure, Los Angeles has had a dynastic NBA team, a Stanley Cup-winning NHL team, a really strong MLB team, a World Series-winning MLB team that oddly has “Los Angeles” in its name even though it isn’t in Los Angeles, a dynastic college football team, a dynastic MLS team, and a consistently elite college basketball team. But now, finally, they have an NFL team, coached by Jeff Fisher.
Unfortunately, the debut went about as poorly as it could go. Against a 49ers team that was outscored by 149 points over 16 games last year — that’s bad — the Rams were shut out 28-0. The most exciting play of the game was definitely a dude running on the field. (Seriously, listen to Kevin Harlan’s call of that.)
Case Keenum looked abysmal, going 17-of-35 passing for 130 yards with two interceptions. Todd Gurley followed up his rookie of the year season with 17 carries for just 47 yards, although it’s hard to be mad at him for that performance. According to Pro Football Focus, he managed to have more yards after contact than net yards, meaning the average point of first contact was behind the line of scrimmage. It’s a testament to Gurley’s talent that he even got 47 yards. And the Rams still can’t figure out how to get elite college playmaker Tavon Austin into successful situations, as his 12 targets and one carry worked out to just 15 yards.
Meanwhile, the Niners put up more first downs than they had in any game since 2012, when they made the Super Bowl. Their offense didn’t look great — as to be expected of a team starting Blaine Gabbert -- but they still managed 28 points. Gabbert threw no picks and was never sacked.
Los Angeles’ MVP was probably Aaron Donald, who bullied the inside of San Francisco’s line and did a great job of pressuring Gabbert from the middle. But he got ejected after grabbing a dude’s neck, (allegedly) shoving a ref, and then did this:
On the plus side, it meant at least one Ram was disappointed with things.
The reason for optimism is the Rams had the No. 1 pick in the draft last year and took QB Jared Goff. But he was inactive for Monday night’s game, third on the depth chart behind Keenum and Sean Mannion.
We’re told this isn’t based on Goff’s performance, but that it’s being done with a view towards the rookie’s long-term development. Goff is the future of the franchise, and securing a positive career arc for him is more important than scoring a few points or perhaps even earning a win Week 1 of his rookie year.
But I wonder if telling a QB he doesn’t even deserve to make the active roster over a quarterback who literally produced nothing is more damaging to his psyche. Considering Carson Wentz, who the Rams passed over at No. 1, was deemed ready to play Week 1 for the Eagles and looked pretty darn good, the Rams look a bit weird.
You’re supposed to sideline promising rookies if you’re worried their unreadiness will hurt your team’s playoff chances. The Rams don’t appear to have playoff chances. They probably should let their youngster get game reps sometime soon.
Jeff Fisher has a reputation for going 8-8 or 7-9, and famously promised that this team wouldn’t. But to do that, they’d have to go .500 or better in the last 15 games of the season. Considering they were just shut out by a non-contender, that seems like a lot to ask.
But the good news is football is back in Los Angeles. Hurray! Even if the Rams aren’t good, it’s still much better than not having football. Look: we made this graph to show how much better the Los Angeles Rams are performing now than in the 21 seasons when they didn’t exist.
The Los Angeles Rams’ last points still came in a Christmas Eve loss to Washington, a Chris Miller pass caught by Jermaine Ross with a Tony Zendejas extra point. And the Los Angeles Rams still haven’t won since Week 10 of that season -- they closed their last year in LA on a 7-game losing streak. I guess it’s eight games now.
There are certainly a lot of hard feelings back in St. Louis. So, let’s take a look at the rivalry between the Los Angeles Rams and the non-existent St. Louis Rams — who’s having the better year?
To get serious for a moment after some mean jokes, I’d like to say something to any Los Angeles Rams fans reading. I’ve never had a sports team taken away from me. I can’t imagine what it feels like. I know there are thousands of Los Angeles Rams fans who loved their team, have spent the last two decades yearning for them. I mean, heck, they sold out of season tickets.
Los Angeles fans should be excited about the mere fact that they now have football.
I will never tell you not to love this team. But it’s my job as a football writer to say that it’s pretty bad football. The Rams have been depressingly average for some time, owners of a decade-long playoff drought in a league built for parity. And last night’s performance was far worse than average.
It’s also my job to tell you that your team’s owners have made it clear they care more about making money off a football team than they do a) achieving football success or b) the happiness of the team’s fans. I can’t tell you not to love them, but I can tell you to love with caution.
And with that said, I also would like to say something to any St. Louis fans reading: You’re free. You’re finally free.