"St Louis is a baseball town, first and foremost," you might say. "The Rams are always going to be a tough sell."
This was the gist of what FanBall's own Bryan Douglass had to say this morning, when I opened the subject of how to fix the Rams' "Ultimate Franchise Ranking" onto the Twitterverse. And I can't say I fully disagree. With more than 100 years of history in town, inextricably linked to the mighty Annheuser-Busch empire, and with championships won across five major generations of baseball (Pre-war, WWII, the '60s, '80s and '00s), there's simply no supplanting the baseball Cardinals from the hearts of St Louisans.
But that's not to say that fans here don't care about the Rams, or that loving your team always equates to being "satisfied" with the team. In fact, it's just the opposite. The more invested in the team you are, the more open to criticism that team becomes. And if this statistical measure of local "Franchise satisfaction" is anywhere close to the truth (and I think it is), the Rams' current ranking -- fed by years of decline -- is untenable. Without a serious reversal of fortune, you can count on the Rams leaving town in 2015.
ESPN's Mike Sando had a particularly insightful observation, when looking at division-wide trends in these rankings: "This type of survey probably carries a lag effect as perceptions chase reality."
In other words, even though the Rams have already made significant moves to change the culture and root out the negative influences on the franchise, those moves are not being reflected in widespread fan "satisfaction" with the team. "Are we still shelling out hard money to watch this team? Hell yes. Are we getting our money's worth yet? Hell no." That's the message that this ranking sends.
Let's check in on the rest of the components, and explore ideas on how the Rams can "fix" this ranking. (If you haven't already, read Part One of my look at these rankings.)
The Trust Factor
Ownership: #114 overall (31st in NFL)
Every aspect of this score is artificially deflated in my opinion, thanks to the pending sale of the Rams. But the lowest of all the component scores? COMMITMENT, which rates last in the league.
As I've posted before, I believe the Rosemblooms have made a lot of very good moves to ensure the health of the team in St Louis. But when you don't know who's going to buy the team, or what their intentions might be down the road, you can't help but wonder. If Shahid Khan surprises everyone with a winning bid, this ranking shoots up quite a bit, as he's become the lovable underdog in St Louis. But a Kroenke ownership would be very good for this team. Either way, the Rams clearly need resolution.
The Beer Factor
Affordability: 89th Overall (22nd in NFL)
Hey, we come here to have a good time. But high beer prices -- the highest in the league, perhaps -- puts a big hurt on the gameday pocket. And it doesn't do much for the jollility of the fans leaving the game with their half a buzz flattened by another depressing output. Plenty of bars are making bank by selling cheaper beers for cheap prices, and distributors can't move enough Stag, PBR, or Miller High Life into the south city coolers. Why not adopt the same practice at the stadium? Even if there was only one $5 beer man in the stadium, he would be a huge hit.
Players: 108th Overall (30th in NFL)
Coaches: 71st Overall (21st in NFL)
Another ranking that doesn't make sense on the surface, as the metric in question is supposed to measure players "effort on the field and likeability off the field." Not talent level, not Pro-Bowl berths, not fantasy rankings. True, our athletic talent is not eye-popping. (Quoth Jeff from RamsGab in the Rams' capsule summary: "The Rams have possibly had the worst roster in the league in 2008 and 2009.".) But if there's one thing I will hang my hat on, it's that our effort was not second-worst in the league.
Hurting the "likeability" factor was an embarrassing (and unproven) set of accusations leveled against Steven Jackson at season's end by his disgruntled baby mama. And depending on when this poll was taken, it may not have benefitted from the Sam Bradford honeymoon period -- which, in all reality, has yet to start. The kid is facing nothing but uphill expectations, with only a smattering of preseason love. But this team doesn't have that Kurt Warner or Isaac Bruce, players that are universally revered by the St Louis fans, and that hurts this ranking as well.
The coach gets higher marks for integrity, and the team's roster should as well as they continue to be remade in his image. This ranking should self-correct towards the center.
Title Track: 37th Overall (12th in NFL)
This is the one thing that the Rams can -- and should -- continue to celebrate. Last year marked the ten-year anniversary of the miracle '99 team, a milestone that was quietly downplayed to avoid the obvious compare-and-contrast with a 1-15 disaster season. But I believe that downplaying this bright shining moment, the one thing that really galvanizes Rams fans and gets us all misty-eyed, is a mistake.
We can accept that this isn't the same team, but we love when they wear the throwbacks. Why not bring them back full time? It isn't as though these new uniforms have been working for us...
What would you do to fix these rankings?
This was the question I posed yesterday via Twitter, and got a variety of responses.
It's cheeky, but there's no doubt it would help. The Rams need to put serious Ws on the record in the next five seasons, and regain at least "contender" status in the division.
Interesting idea, and a twice-annual Titans matchup would rekindle a lot of Super Bowl spirit, but would it really help to move into the toughest division in the NFL?
Even though the Dome feels empty and anonymous, it is the home of our Greatest Show days and our one championship banner. Does that hold you back at all?
Personally? I'd love to see them rip the roof off and play on grass. Sure, it gets cold here in December, but that's why you layer up. This isn't frozen tundra, and it's not as though the roofed stadium is bringing in those weak-skinned winter fans. The Rams had a scrimmage last August at Lindenwood University, on a simple little outdoor field. It may have been rinky-dink by NFL standards, but it felt like football. Playing in a convention center feels just like that -- cold and business-like.
If they want to reconnect with St Louis, perhaps the Rams should start by opening up their field to the blue St Louis skies.