Dave Choate: First of all, Jeff Fisher just received a much-deserved contract extension for his work personally moving many boxes of helmets on foot from St. Louis to Los Angeles, as well as coaching this team to success. My question is, do you believe he is more intelligent than handsome, or more handsome than intelligent?
Joe McAtee: It's a great question Dave, and given that this is Positive Week over at TST one that certainly is worthwhile addressing.
In terms of intelligence, Jeff Fisher is a man who has continually offered excuses to justify an overwhelming number of losing seasons that have him just two losses away from holding the most losses of any NFL head coach in history (can you say record books, baby?!). He has re-routed concerns about his teams lackluster offenses and frequently penalized defenses into small pockets of coachspeak, homespun gobbledygook and blame for others to act as his scapegoat. That kind of (evil) genius belies a pretty spectacular intelligence. You have to believe that eventually it ends up manifesting in better results on the field. Maybe in Season 23!
As for his comely visage, is there a better/more suitable mustache in the Americas? Perhaps one could bring up Tom Selleck's lipdrapes. Sam Elliot's Western Walrus is perhaps less well-known than his voice. Alex Trebek's late-in-life treason in leaving his philtrum exposed is unforgivable. Say Andy Reid and get these hands.
Dave Choate: Todd Gurley, it was broadly agreed, was the best player available in the 2015 NFL Draft. On a scale of 8-10, how successful has he been for the Rams, and how many MVPs will he ultimately win in his career?
Joe McAtee: Todd Gurley has been remarkable. As Fisher once remarked, "These guys only come out once every 10 years." So apologies to Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott and soon-to-be pro Leonard Fournette and any other running back for the next seven years thereafter. The Todd Gurley Show is on!
What's been really great is to see Gurley and the Rams attract so much attention going into this season without any payoff on the field. ESPN the Magazine featured Gurley on the cover for their 2016 NFL preview edition with the cover title, "The Offense Strikes Back," following a 2015 season in which the Rams had arguably the worst offense in the NFL with the least yards per game of all 32 teams. This year, the Rams have fallen even lower averaging a league-worst 15 points per game and outpacing even last year's league-worst yards per game rate by 13 less yards per game.
It takes a special skill set to pull off that kind of distancing from reality, but the Rams and Gurley have pulled it off with the aplomb. The offense has struck back indeed!
Dave Choate: Aaron Donald is just one cog in your very successful defense, but he is a scary cog, the kind that has very sharp teeth and turns very fast. Will he get three sacks or more against the Falcons, and will Matt Ryan survive the encounter?
Joe McAtee: Oh, Aaron Donald might be the greatest NFL player of all time. And with teams knowing that, they're crafting gameplans to deny the Rams' defensive front, led by Donald, the opportunity to get to the quarterback on deep dropbacks or slow-developing pass plays. It's how the Rams' D-line was able to look so awesome against Tom Brady and the New England Patriots last week with one of the more dominating 0 sack performances you'll ever see. The mental terror the D-line offered was what largely helped the Rams outscore the Pats 10-9 in the second half allowing us to go 1-1 if you go by halves last weekend. It's very impressive to split with the Patriots on the road in December!
Dave Choate: Jared Goff was the first overall pick in this draft class. Is he great already, or merely very good? Also, has he captured the heart of eligible bachelors both male and female in Los Angeles, or is he too focused on football for that?
Joe McAtee: First, let's at least acknowledge Jeff Fisher's supreme management skills by allowing Case Keenum, maybe the league's best backup QB, to lead the Rams out to a 4-5 record before making the switch to Goff after saying he wouldn't play Goff until the Rams were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs and then doing the exact opposite. Chicanery!
As for Goff. he struggled against the mighty Miami Dolphins defense in his first start but lived up to expectations in the first half against the New Orleans Saints by throwing three touchdowns in a great showing in the Rams' exciting and spirited 21-49 loss. Last week, Goff humbly allowed Brady to hold the spotlight for his record-setting 201st NFL win (the young man has class, folks) before absolutely torching the Patriots on the final drive of the game to deliver a wondrous 10-26 loss.
What's really been impressive is the gameplanning. The Rams have created tons of 3rd and long situations forcing the defense to play 1st down-prevent while the Rams can focus on Goff's long-term development. Rifling off armsplosions for 5-yards on 3rd & 8 and then giving Goff a rest while the defense gets in their snaps is surely going to pay off long-term.
As for his availability, the Rams invited Britney Spears to his first practice after being named the starter. The culture of the Rams is very serious and wanted to make sure Goff was focused on getting ready for his first NFL start, and what better way to do that than bringing out Spears, the very artist who penned "Ooh La La" from the Smurfs 2 soundtrack? It's that kind of culture that you feel comfortable having a #1 overall QB that you traded future first-round picks for with perhaps the league's worst wide receiving group, a patchwork offensive line and an offensive scheme that fights its ass off to get to 3rd and 2 because that's the only down and distance they can convert with any legitimate likelihood.
So yeah, things are going great with Goff!
Dave Choate: Let's just assume you're predicting a win for the Rams. How big will the margin be, and how much forward momentum will you build for next year between now and Week 17?
Joe McAtee: I don't want to offend your readers, so I'll just be terse. The Rams are practically unstoppable in theory. With as much draft capital as they've spent in the last five years under the steady hand of consistency provided by Jeff Fisher, the Rams could compete with anybody on paper. So I apologize in advance for the overwhelming challenge the LA Rams are giving you guys this weekend! Rams win by 32 setting us up for another great 7-9 season in 2017 under the Make a Fish Foundation. Sorry, rest of the NFL!