Snead: Youthful Rams on the Rise

Posted Jan 10, 2014

Approaching his third offseason as the Rams’ general manager, Les Snead spoke of an organization on a discernible positive progression in his first meeting with St. Louis media since the conclusion of the 2013 season.

During the team’s second consecutive seven-win season, Snead oversaw the swift ascension of a bevy of first-year players, including RB Zac Stacy—who was named the team’s rookie of the year after rushing for 973 yards, third-most in Rams history by a rookie—and LB Alec Ogletree, who established a new Rams rookie record with 155 tackles.

As encouraging as that start was, Snead anticipates it only represents the beginning for a rookie class that included team leaders in touchdowns (Stacy, seven), tackles (Ogletree), and all-purpose yardage (Tavon Austin).

“I’m harder on them than anybody, because there should never be a moment when you’re satisfied,” Snead said.

The 7-9 season was certainly not without its challenges, which were often related to the team’s considerable youth. For the second consecutive season, the Rams opened the year as the league’s youngest team, and Snead acknowledged the learning curve can at times be steep. The growing pains were evident during a 1-3 start to the season, a series of early setbacks punctuated by a rash of early-season penalties on special teams and a scuffling ground game. True to the vision of Snead and Head Coach Jeff Fisher, both areas proved to be strengths by season’s end behind the Rams’ youthful, yet talented personnel.

"If you do things this way, there’s definitely going to be some spilled milk,” Snead said. “But you learn the hard way, and I think this team is learning and getting experience. You’re building a foundation."

That foundation proved sturdy enough to win seven games in the NFL’s toughest division, despite having been dealt the loss of starting QB Sam Bradford for the season just seven weeks into the year. The Rams weathered much of that storm behind the performance of QB Kellen Clemens, who accounted for four of the Rams’ seven wins in his nine starts. Snead credited Clemens not only for his on-field performance in Bradford’s absence, but also for the leadership the eight-year veteran offered to the comparatively youthful Rams’ offensive weapons.

"One of the reasons we went to Kellen is that he knows these receivers,” Snead said. “He knows their strengths and weaknesses, he knows what they need to improve on. The guy could coach. He was a guy that would be after practice before he had to make starts, working with the guys. I like the way our receivers progressed."

The 2013 season could easily be defined by the word ‘progress,’ a description befitting an organization that remained a few steps from contention, but has demonstrated plenty reason for optimism in the years ahead.

"If you take the whole thing,” Snead said, “to be inconsistent is from a metrics standpoint, with the roster turnover and having the youngest team in the league, you can see this thing heading in the right direction."