While there is now stability in the location of the franchise, the Rams have begun another offseason full of change. With the organization set to hire a new coaching staff, players reflected on the 2016 season and what’s to come in the future during locker clean out on Monday.
“Everybody’s pretty much beat down mentally, physically,” offensive lineman Jamon Brown said. “We went through a rough season. It didn’t go as planned — most definitely didn’t go as planned for anybody in this building. So I think this is a time where we can just kind of take a deep breath, be able to take a step back and just get ready for the next steps in moving forward.”
“It’s hard to win in this league,” defensive Aaron Donald said of the lessons the team’s learned. “It’s hard to win in this league and you have to go into each week like that, having that mindset and trying to find ways to win.”
With the Rams finishing 4-12 — dropping 11 of their last 12 games — there is clearly plenty that needs to change heading into the 2017 season. Two themes that have continually come up from players over since the end of Sunday’s game have been increasing accountability and changing the culture.
“We’ve just got to come working,” Donald said. “We’ve got to come with that mindset so this won’t happen again. When you’re losing, the game isn’t fun. It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning.”
“I think that it’s just the attitude around here needs to be more of winning,” safety T.J. McDonald said. “I think that whoever comes in here next just needs to demand the most out of everybody and just push everybody to their limit and really hold everybody accountable on both sides of the ball.”
A third-round pick of the 2013 draft, McDonald is heading into unrestricted free agency. While a new coaching staff certainly creates uncertainty, the safety said he’s open to coming back. But clearly the team has to get better.
“I’m going to be watching it closely, see what’s going on,” McDonald said of the coaching search. “But, that’s why I hire my agent — let him handle the business side of it. For me, I’m just going to go into this offseason with an open mind, ready to get healthy and see what’s next.
Donald will take a different approach, not necessarily following the coaching search developments too closely.
“I’m just going to wait and find out. Me watching isn’t going to help at all,” Donald said. “Whoever this coach is going to be — they’re going to pick who they want to pick. So I’m just going to train, work my butt off, and get ready. And whoever the new coach is going to be, like I said, I’m just going to come and try to earn the respect and trust from the coaches.”
The Rams passed out five awards in their final team meeting on Monday.
Voted on by his peers, defensive tackle Aaron Donald received the Daniel F. Reeves Memorial Award as Los Angeles’ most valuable player. It’s the second year in a row Donald has received the honor.
Tight end Cory Harkey was the club’s Carl Ekern Spirit of the Game Award winner, which honors the player who best exemplifies sportsmanship, ethic, and commitment to his teammates.
Linebacker Cory Littleton received the Carroll Rosenbloom Memorial Award as the Rams’ rookie of the year. An undrafted rookie out of Washington, Littleton was a heavy special teams contributor in 2016.
“Not only undrafted, but he was not at any of our OTAs because University of Washington is a quarter school, and he’s not allowed to report to OTAs until their quarter system and school year was over,” Rams interim head coach John Fassel said. “So not only was he undrafted, he missed the whole spring. So we didn’t see him until the first day of training camp.
“He played in every game, took every snap on special teams the entire season,” Fassel continued. “Did not miss a snap in practice at any point in time the whole season. So those are the types of guys, as a coach, that you look for — a guy that really didn’t have a chance, maybe, and he stepped up right away. And to not miss a practice snap the whole season, to not miss a game snap the whole season — of course, I’m biased because he’s a special teamer, but a true tribute to that kid.”
Donald, Harkey, and Littleton’s awards were all voted on by their teammates.
Linebacker Alec Ogletree is the Rams’ representative for the Ed Bloc Courage Award, after suffering a season-ending ankle injury in Week 4 of the 2015 season and playing every game this year.
And punter Johnny Hekker is the Rams’ representative for the Walter Payton Walter Payton Man of the Year.
FASSEL TO MEET WITH DEMOFF
While Fassel received no guarantees as the Rams interim head coach, he said he is set to meet with Rams EVP of Football Operations and C.O.O. Kevin Demoff to discuss the permanent position on Monday evening.
“I talked to Kevin a few days before the game, and he said to keep Monday evening, Monday night available to talk about the job and the future of the Rams,” Fassel said. “So a little bit open ended, but I looked at it as just an opportunity to talk football, especially since it’s fresh in our minds as far as what went right, and what went wrong, and how we fix what went wrong.”
Demoff, who is running the Rams’ coaching search, said in an email to season ticket holders on Monday afternoon that Los Angeles expects to begin interviewing head coaching candidates on Tuesday. As for Fassel, he said one factor he plans on discussing with Demoff is team chemistry.
Check out photos from the Week 17 matchup between Los Angeles and Atlanta from photographers Ric Tapia and Jeff Lewis.
“Coaches chemistry, coaches and players chemistry, coaches and management chemistry, players and management chemistry – and I wrote down some of the better teams in the league that seem like they have it, and it seems like they’re pretty consistent winners,” Fassel said. “But, then it takes somebody to have their fingers on the pulse and know how to build it. That would be something that I would really look forward to.”
“I think that’s, from my perspective as a special teams coach, that’s usually my No. 1 goal going into a season, is how do I take a whole bunch of wild dudes that are different positions and different expectations, and being a star in college. And all of a sudden you’re a special teamer in the NFL [thinking], ‘That’s not what I was brought here to do,’ and make it important to them — and teach them on a daily basis and develop players and make them a cohesive unit,” Fassel added. “So, that would be, I think, goal number one.”
Fassel said after Sunday’s game that though the next head coach will certainly determine the staff, he would be open to staying on as the special teams coordinator.
We’ll have plenty more on the Rams coaching search, including exclusive content, so be sure to stay tuned to therams.com through its conclusion.