Rams Fire Fisher, Look To The Future

Fassel Becomes Interim Head Coach


December 15, 2016

Jevone Moore

Jeff Fisher's last game as the Rams head coach

'Fast and furious' news spread quickly from the Los Angeles Rams on Monday.

"Obviously, a very difficult day here for the organization in relieving Jeff (Fisher) of his head coaching duties. It's not a decision that you ever want to make and it's a day you never want to come, as a group," began Rams Executive Vice President of Football Operations and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Demoff.

The hammer finally came down on Jeff Fisher's five-year tenure as the Rams' head coach. The team had just suffered its third consecutive humiliating defeat, a 42-14 shellacking to the Atlanta Falcons on a very gray Sunday afternoon in the Coliseum.

The constant booing beginning with the first play of the game was a prelude to the thousands of disenchanted fans pouring out of the stadium in the third quarter.

Demoff continued: "... collectively, we all felt that this was the best chance to move forward, to finish the season with some direction and hope, and begin the process of building for 2017.

"I want to thank Jeff for five years of unwavering leadership, we put him in some tough circumstances over the past few years... for whatever reason, this year we didn't have the kind of success over the past few weeks that I think we all expected and wanted."

The writing on the wall became apparent three weeks ago in the Coliseum. The Rams turned certain victory into defeat late in the game against the Miami Dolphins. It was the first noticeable crack in what has been a very reliable but fatiguing defense. The last three losses were the final nails in the coffin for Fisher, all decided by halftime while yielding 117 points total.

A certain recipe for disaster given that their offense ranks dead last in multiple categories.

John Fassel has been hired as the Rams' Interim Head Coach. Fassel, in his 12th NFL season and the fifth with the organization, was the Special Teams Coordinator.

He has helped the special teams become one of the best in the NFL including the All-Pro punting of Johnny Hekker. Ironically, it was an opening game fumble by his kickoff return unit that initiated the final game unraveling of Fisher's reign.

"We're 2-1 in the division, this is a chance to finish strong in the NFC West, have a chance to have the best record in the NFC West...This is a short week and we really felt that John Fassel would be the right person in our organization to go lead this team for the last few weeks," offered Demoff.

Fassel spoke after practice on Monday: "It's been a long night, it's been a long day. A lot has happened in a little amount of time, emotional, and we've got a couple of days before our next game...

"I love Coach Fisher, I respect the heck out of Coach Fisher. He gave me a great opportunity to come coach on his staff and I'm going to try to do my best to make him proud over the next three weeks.

"I found out just about an hour before my special teams meeting. I talked to Mr. Demoff, Coach Fisher, and they let me know that this was going to happen. I talked to Coach Fisher and basically asked what he thought, asked for his blessing...

"He told me everything that I needed to know. But, I know there's a lot more that is going to be in to it than I'm prepared for. I'll do my best to be great."

The game against the Falcons was a disaster literally from the opening kickoff. Ram rookie Mike Thomas failed to catch the ball and fumbled it away at the Los Angeles three-yard line. One play later Falcon quarterback Matt Ryan hit Justin Hardy for a touchdown. A stunned crowd was instantly deflated ten seconds into the game, already facing a seven-point deficit.

The Rams responded, driving the ball down to the Atlanta 16-yard line. On third-and-three tight end Lance Kendricks failed to handle a pass from quarterback Jared Goff. The ball was deflected to Falcon safety Ricardo Allen for the interception. The Rams never threatened again until the end of the third quarter. Atlanta scored two more touchdowns to lead 21-0 by halftime. A cascade of boo's and explicatives resounded throughout the Coliseum.

It was Goff's fourth loss in four starts as a pro. He was 24/41 passing for 235 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions thrown. One bright note: a three-yard keeper into the end zone late in the fourth quarter was his first career touchdown run.

Other inconsequential game stats: the Rams led in time of possession, first downs, rushing yardage and total yards.

Goff: "Obviously, it's not fun. It's not easy. We're not having fun and we're not enjoying any of it. It's awful and it's hard. But again, hopefully we can come out on the other side with the light at the end of the tunnel and look back at days like today and know that those days made us better."

Fassel and the Rams (4-9) had very little time to prepare for this week's Thursday Night Football game at Seattle. The Seahawks (8-4-1) lost to the Rams in NFL Week 2 at the Coliseum, 9-3.

Seattle is led by quarterback Russell Wilson with 3,382 yards passing and 13 touchdowns and cornerback Richard Sherman who has four interceptions. The Rams have won the last three games against the Seahawks, who still hold a 21-16 all-time advantage.

Fassel after Tuesday's team practice: "It was good, it was great. It's always good to be back out on the grass after the last 24 hours. Tuesday is a normal practice day for us anyways during the week, so it was just kind of a normal Tuesday practice even though it really was Friday emphasis.

"Nothing has changed as far as the organization of the offense or the defense or even special teams. Obviously, Seattle is a great team and I think the cool thing about it for us is... an opportunity to practice like it's a playoff-atmosphere game is pretty good. This will be really good for us. I'm super excited..."

The Rams' top priority will now be to hire a head coach who can turn a perennial loser with a rookie quarterback into a title contender by the 2019 season when the Rams begin playing at their brand new stadium in Inglewood.

Jevone Moore

Rookie quarterback Jared Goff (16) under constant Falcon pressure

Looming in the background is the fact that the complex will host Super Bowl LV on February 7, 2021.

Demoff: "Stan and I talked last night. We started talking this morning. Again, about the criteria that he wants for the next leader. Then, you meet with the building and establish that criteria.

"Then, I think you start to evaluate the potential candidates against that. You try to find where you're going to go. I'm sure that we'll get a number of inbound calls over the next few weeks about people who are interested. This is going to be a very attractive opening."

This new generation of L.A. Rams fans spoke loud and clear during Sunday's debacle: losing is not an option. Let the search begin.


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