The St. Louis Rams fulfilled their lofty offseason objective, hiring Jeff Fisher as their next head coach. But in and of itself, that will only go so far.
Fisher and the St. Louis management team must take rebuilding a step further by shaping a coaching staff and front office that can help lift this franchise back to its former Super Bowl glory. No one man can do it alone, and the decisions made in filling out the coaching staff and the football operations department will go a long way toward determining how quickly the Rams evolve.
The first significant move came Monday when the team wooed defensive coordinator Gregg Williamsaway from New Orleans, where his contract was due to expire. Williams and Fisher go all the way back to their days with the Houston Oilers, and Williams was Fisher's longtime coordinator in Tennessee. Williams, a Missouri native, returns home in some respects, and brings an aggressive scheme with him that's predicated on trying to create turnovers and shorten the field for the offense.
Jackson joins DDFP
The offensive coordinator search is much more wide open, and this decision may be most critical of all. Sam Bradford is heading for his third coordinator in as many years, and the Rams know you cannot cultivate a young franchise quarterback in that manner. This is why some within the organization were hoping they could keep offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Several people close to Fisher said the pairing of this coordinator and Bradford will be the most significant move of all for St. Louis. Perhaps even more important than securing Fisher.
Fisher's longtime offensive copilot, Mike Heimerdinger, passed away from cancer, leaving this search a bit more up in the air. Dirk Koetter was identified as one possibility, but the Falconssnatched him up just as the Rams were getting ready to start interviewing. Former Jets coordinator Brian Schottenheimer was the first offensive coordinator to sit down with Fisher, and by all accounts the meeting went well. But this fit has to be perfect -- both philosophically and personally -- and there isn't any more time to waste when it comes to Bradford's development.
Bradford needs one way of doing things and one voice in his head for the next three season or so, ideally. This coordinator should be open to sticking around a while.
People can knock Fisher's record if they wish, pointing to only six seasons above .500 in 17 years as a head coach. But continuity and loyalty are vital (and often rare) in the NFL, and Fisher provides both. You don't stay in a market like Nashville for as long as he did -- withstanding relocations and the rest -- if you don't have a certain dedication and fortitude.
Fisher brings a certain attitude and mentality to an organization. His teams will be strong in the trenches and fundamentals will be stressed. Those Titan teams, year in and year out, were pretty damn tough. Coming off a 2-14 season, that's not a bad place at all for the Rams to start.
You know Fisher will also look to establish the ground game above all else. Steven Jackson can carry that load for a few more seasons, but solidifying the offensive line is paramount.
As for the reconstitution of the front office, finding someone Fisher respects and can work with is key. That's why many league sources have thought for weeks that Titans exec Lake Dawson, whom Fisher knew well from his time there, would eventually follow him to his next job. Dawson is already among those to interview with the Rams -- Miami's Brian Gaine has impressed St. Louis as well, sources said -- and Dawson would already have an understanding of the kind of roster Fisher seeks.
Rams COO Kevin Demoff, who was the point person in the coaching search for owner Stan Kroenke, understands all of the ins and outs of the salary cap, has existing relationships with agents and officials from other teams and can spearhead the budgets and contracts (the Rams are already in good hands in that regard). Beefing up the organization with scouts and personnel decision-makers is the next step.
If Fisher gets the staff he wants, I wouldn't bet against the Rams being a factor in their division sooner rather than later.