NFL 2017: The Rams Offensive Coaches are Better Than Their Players

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David Malinsky

Wednesday, August 2, 2017 1:33 PM GMT

Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017 1:33 PM GMT

NFL 2017: The Rams Offensive Coaches are Better Than Their Players (and we do need to understand the various implications of that)…Can Rick Porcello become grounded again…Why the flag should be at half-staff for the first pitch in Yankee Stadium today…

Point Blank – August 2, 2017

It will be day-long baseball on the Wednesday board as the working background while so much football information is flowing through, the time of the calendar year having been reached in which 30-hour days could easily be filled. The focus here is on the third installment of the NFL camp tour, Rick Porcello working too high in the strike zone, and also unfortunately a farewell to a friend, which I will get to in a moment.

As the games are being sorted through we are getting the comments section in order – some of you experienced technical glitches yesterday, and when you do bring them to my attention so that we can build out the best possible platform. Just click on the gray window in the upper left, and you can begin. With the proper attention to detail we will have a smooth flow in place; now the football question is whether the details that the Rams coaching staff will bring might be wasted to a degree because the players aren’t very good…

The Rams Offensive Coaches are Better Than Their Offensive Players

To say that the 2016 Los Angeles offense wasn’t very good would be an understatement. The Rams rated dead last in weighted offensive efficiency from Football Outsiders, and the dots were easy to connect – for the first time since those chartings began, a team finished at the bottom in both rushing offense and passing offense. There wasn’t much talent, outside of Todd Gurley, but there also wasn’t much quality coaching on that side of the ball. The lemons rotted on the ground, instead of becoming lemonade.

Now there is a fascination as 2017 unfolds because while the talent has only been upgraded a bit, and there are genuine questions as to whether Jared Goff has the upside this franchise is banking on, the Los Angeles coaching staff is intriguing. Not much needs to be said about Wade Phillips taking over the defense, but the offense is another matter entirely.

Yes, we can start with the detail that there are 14 NFL head coaches that are older than Goff and Sean McVay combined who check in at 54. Ordinarily that would be a rather awkward mix of inexperience, especially when there is a legitimate question about their abilities anyway. But that is where the plot twist comes with this offensive staff.

McVay has been an NFL OC for three seasons, which is not much time to elevate to his current position. There is a lot for a young guy to handle. But in this instance the presence of Phillips means little for McVay worry about in terms of the defensive playbook; keeping John Fassel almost none at all with the special teams; and what has McVay surrounded himself with in the offensive meeting room? A tremendous amount of experience.

OC Matt LaFleur will be in his ninth NFL season, spending the past two as the QB coach of the Atlanta Falcons. QB coach Greg Olson has 11 seasons as an OC with four different teams, and was also the QB coach with four teams, spending every season of this millennium in the league except for a one-year stint with Purdue in 2002. OL coach Aaron Kromer has been in the league since 2001, including stints as an OC, and even interim HC with the Saints in 2016. That means three long-term veterans that have had OC experience, bringing a rare staff mix, and that does not count RB coach Skip Peete, in the league for 19 seasons, and assistant OL coach Andy Dickerson, who has been around for a dozen.

While there will be much focus across the Sports Mediaverse on the youth of McVay, this is not a bad setting for a young guy to step into, because of the experience he is surrounded with. Might it lead to confusion or a battle of egos? Perhaps, but note that McVay has worked with LaFleur and Olson in the past, which is why this was filed away in the off-season (and you can already note the communications style of McVay in using “we” often) –

“I got a chance to work with Coach Olson my first year in Tampa. He’s a great communicator. He was always taking times during those periods that might not have been focused on offense, but if it’s special teams, defensive periods, he was always making sure those guys were working. He’s a guy that we’ve kept in touch throughout the course of our coaching careers. He was a guy, when he became available, wanted to get him to be a part of this staff.

“You look at (Matt) LaFleur that we’re going to be able to have as our offensive coordinator. He’s a guy that we were able to develop a really close relationship with in Washington. Detail oriented, good communicator, been around some of the most productive offenses over the last couple of years. You look at what Atlanta was able to do. A lot of the things that we do philosophically will be very similar.”

Combine that experience and rapport with the already established abilities of Phillips and Fassel, and the leadership pressure is reduced on McVay. But in terms of tactics, even with the addition of Andrew Whitworth, Robert Wood and some rookies in the mix at WR/TE, the players in the offensive huddle are going to force those veteran assistants to use every bit of their experience.

Here is the key – unlike yesterday’s discourse on the 49ers, in which it was detailed how Kyle Shanahan may not go as deep as he would like with his playbook because he may be running different packages for different players in 2018, McVay and staff will begin with the belief that in Goff and Gurley they already have their key guys for the indefinite future. That calls for a genuine commitment to build on what is there, and while the pieces are limited, this staff may be able to show some genuine improvement with them as the season progresses (in particular expect to see Gurley used much more as a receiver out of the backfield).


Can Rick Porcello become grounded again

In the Tuesday edition there was also a take on Mike Pelfrey, and how baseball has actually been a rather cruel mistress through the years, bringing him a W/L record far worse than the level of his pitching would call for (now 25-59 since 2011). We can use those swings that the geometry of the sport brings to break down Rick Porcello’s extended pendulum arcs across the 2016/17 seasons, and help put him into perspective before he faces the Indians this evening.

Porcello’s two-year cycle has been one of the most dramatic in the history of MLB when we just look at the base outcomes:

2016     22-4     3.15

2017     4-14     4.55

Most of you already recognize something from those numbers – a 3.15 ERA shouldn’t get a pitcher anywhere near 22-4, nor a 4.55 call for a 4.55. There has been an awful lot of baseball fortune in play, the rewards much higher than they should have been last year, and the current punishment too extreme. Ironically it balances out to 26-18/3.69 when we combined the campaigns, and that is just about what the W/L tag should be on merit. To help explain those bounces even better, xFIP has only gone from 3.89 in 2016 to 4.33, and SIERA from 3.78 to 4.13. Not all that much has actually changed, but…

To accurately power rate Porcello properly right now does call for some perspective, because there is an item that does cause concern. He needs to become grounded again.

After opening his career with five consecutive seasons of 50.0 or better in GB%, there has been this –

Porcello GB%

2014   49.0

2015   45.7

2016   43.1

2017   38.7

There is a consistency to the 2017 numbers that matters – in only three of 22 starts has his GB% been above 50.

Porcello needs to work down in the zone because his fast-ball is averaging 92.7, not far from his career standard, and it is not easy to work up in the zone with that velocity. There are still two months of pitches left to be thrown and he has already allowed 25 home runs, matching a career high.

The 2016 Cy Young award winner has not fallen that far off this season, despite what the wins and losses proclaim, but there has been a genuine decline in one key aspect of his arsenal. That bears watching.

RIP Palmtree (the flag should be at half-staff for Tigers/Yankees first pitch)

It is with a heavy heart that I have to inform long-term readers of the passing of Eric Strasser, better known as Palmtree on these pages through the years. Eric had been bravely fighting some major health issues, and one of the driving forces behind that energy was his passion for baseball, especially when it came to using his knowledge of the sport at the betting windows. He will be missed, and while afternoon baseball does not lend itself to an appropriate toast in his memory, with too much to be done on this Wednesday, there will be the appropriate libation and salute at first pitch for one of the evening games. RIP Eric.

Your daily dose of SportsBIT

Plenty of action across various fronts in today’s edition, and you can use the comments section from PB to help bring the ideas into play that you would like to see. Teddy and Pauly recap the classic that was Indians/Red Sox from Tuesday night, and also a deep dive into some 2017 NCAA action, including the first Bet Bet for the opening weekend (but I'm not going to tell you; you'll have to watch to find out which week #1 team you should be "Bullish" on) - 

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