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Know your enemy: Rams' HC Jeff Fisher and GM Les Snead at the podium in Indy


Hey y'all. The Rams will not be a team to be trifled with in 2013. That's all I'm going to say. Learn more about the turnaround they're making below. These interviews came late last week in Indianapolis, but now that I've got access to transcripts, you might want to give them a read.

Transcribed by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

--assessing the NFC West-

We assessed it before I started last year, and we were very, very impressed with it. Three physical teams. As you recall, Arizona was 4-0 or 5-0 when we played 'em (JT note: they were 4-0). So I have a great deal of respect for the talent level, for the coaching and those teams being very competitive.

--on Rams' success vs. SF-

You know we made some plays in both the overtime games. Both teams had opportunities, mind you, they missed a field goal in each one of those in overtime. But we stayed in 'em and guys played hard. We've got a long ways to go, but to answer your question very impress with the division.

--personality of division w/mobile QBs Kapernick and Wilson-

We studied it during the year. We don't have a lot of time. We played as best we could considering the amount of time we had and the ability level at the position. That's going to be an ongoing process for us. Obviously we feel like we sense for what we need to do and the type of players that need to be on the field when you've got that type of talent at the quarterback position.

--on Gregg Williams-

You know, I made that decision well before the season ended, that we wanted to go a different direction. It probably wouldn't have been as easy had we not had the assistants that I had on the staff. I'm talking about Dave McGinnis and Chuck Cecil and then Coach (Mike) Waufle. You've got guys that have coordinated. I'm very fortunate to get Frank Bush now. He's also coordinated. So we just felt like we wanted this to be the Ram defense, so we're moving in a little different direction from what Gregg's philosophies are.

--talked with Williams since reinstated-

I have not spoken with him since being reinstated. I'm happy that it worked out the way it did. I think Gregg can help the Titans and help Coach (Mike) Munchak, and of course Jerry Gray. The other side of that is that they can help him to re-establish himself back in the league.

--how do you see Gregg and Jerry Gray working together-

They've worked together in the past and there were no issues. Some years have gone by, but when they were on our staff, we didn't have any issues.

--on Tim Walton hired as new d-coordinator-

I'm real excited about Tim as is the staff. Again, we've got a number of former coordinators on the staff. It's the Ram defense. Tim fits in really well with that. He has a very, very good understanding of the passing game and pass coverages. Tim has been in college (as a coach and coordinator) and been successful there. He's defended options and he's defended wishbones. At the end of the day, the patience in the process paid off for us.

--is this team one good offseason away from being a bona fide playoff contender-

If you're talking about acquiring players, it's really year to year. I'm probably equally excited about the offseason at the facility _ the offseason program. The fact that both sides of the ball are staying in the same system. We're gonna improve our young players. So I'd like to think by the end of the offseason that we're a better team than we were when we finished (2012).

--4 games a year vs. Kaepnerick and Wilson-

It's very challenging and they're very talented. They're also really good players around the quarterbacks. Both teams in addition had outstanding running backs, which makes that concept much more difficult to defend because traditionally on defense you haven't accounted for the quarterback (as a runner). You have to make adjustments. So we're going to be doing that along with everybody else. Because we can't predict that there's not going to be another team or two that's gonna come in and do that type of stuff. We've got our baby there in the West, and now those guys in the (NFC) East have their challenge with the high-tempo offense that they're gonna see out of Philadelphia.

--will NFL coaches be visiting with college coaches in offseason to help figure out how to defense this pistol/read option stuff-

A lot of people are gonna go there. But I think everybody that thinks, 'Well, let's go talk to Coach Ault.' (JT NOTE: Kaernick's former college coach at Nevada). You know, he's the one that started this stuff. You think he's gonna help us defend his former player? Good luck to those guys.

--on Titus Young's quick stay with Rams-

Our approach regarding Titus was we had two options: One was to let him clear waivers. And then be one of those teams to try to get him in here and try to sit down and talk to him. Or actually submit a claim, and we were awarded (him). So we got to spend time with him. This to me was just a long, extensive interview and at the end of the day we felt like we were better off without Titus.

--Rob Ryan backing out of d-coordinator job-was it simply a case of running a 3-4 front (Ryan's strength) vs. a 4-3 (which Rams run)--

Yeah, it was that. There were some other things involved. Again, things have worked out really well for Coach Ryan and for the Rams because we've got our guy, and he's gone on and he's more comfortable in the odd-front defense.

--are you comfortable with taking a guard or right tackle in first round-

Yeah, I'd draft just about any position in the first round except maybe a kicker or a punter. We don't need those.

--Fisher didn't draft an o-lineman in first round during all his time as Oilers/Titans head coach-

But we felt like we got first-round value out of some players we drafted there, specifically the two tackles. The tackles played very well for us down there.

--on development of young players--

Coaches will stand up and tell you that players make the biggest improvement from Year 1 to Year 2. They're no longer rookies. They understand what they have to go through. They're gonna come in the offseason program. And they're gonna improve. If we're doing our job _ we identify strengths and weaknesses in not only the younger players but all of our players _ and you have to address those things during the offseason. That process is well underway. As frustrated as we are that we can't really put our hands on 'em (until start of Rams offseason program April 15), we're gonna take advantage of the time that we have starting in April to work with the young guys.

--expectations for Bradford with same coordinator, same offense for first time in NFL career-

Well, I think you'll see more production out of him week to week. Probably a little bit more consistency out of him, not that he was inconsistent. But when you stay in the same system over time, you feel much more comfortable. One can only imagine what it's been like for him for the last few years going through three different offensive philosophies and systems.

--on William Hayes's success as a pass-rusher in 2012--

Will works real hard. We have an outstanding defensive line coach in Mike Waufle. And Will got real close with the other three ends, with Eugene and Robert _ and very close with Chris _ and just loved playing. Will wasn't a 60-play-a-game guy, but when he was on the field he was productive. He ended up the season with 6½ sacks (JT NOTE: actually it was 7 sacks) and a lot of tackles for loss.

--so you want to bring back Hayes, who's unrestricted-

That's correct. Yes. We have a great deal of interest in bringing him back. As he does have interest in remaining with us.

--plans on backup QB--

Well, we've got Austin Davis. I was really happy with his progress. Still there's a possibility that we would bring Kellen (Clemens) back. Kellen's an outstanding locker room guy and very competitive. And if that were the case we'd probably flip things to where Austin would be (No.) 2, Kellen would be 3. We got a chance to see Austin in the preseason, and he's got some ability.

--with the possibility that Steven Jackson and Amendola could end up elsewhere-will that effect how you approach the RB and WR position in the offseason-

Well, I think we have for where that goes before we have to make any decisions (on free agency and draft). Now, you talk about free agency, we have a good feel for what we can do. What we're planning on doing as far as UFAs. But there's always a possibility that that doesn't happen. We've said all along, we'd like to have both of 'em back. They're key members of our team. But if that doesn't happen, you have to address it and fill those voids.

--on LBs-

Because of the nature of the college game now, the physical characteristics of the linebackers that are coming out is not necessarily what we need. You've got to develop. They're smaller. You see safeties now playing (linebacker) because of the speed and the multiplicity of the game. So when you talk about addressing the need at the linebacker position, there's typically not a lot of depth from year to year.

--OG Rokevious Watkins update coming off ankle and weight issues-

We encouraged him to take some time off. He did. He came back. His rehab's just about complete. His weight is significantly down and he made a commitment to a program early in the offseason to get himself in a position where he can really compete. So I'm pleased with his progress thus far.


Transcribed by Jim Thomas, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

--defending teams with mobile QBs-

Any time you have cover corners, what that can allow you to do is if they can cover early in the down, it takes away some of the traditional 3-step, 5-step plays away. And then, I don't think you can ever cover once the play breaks down. At that point you're gonna need discipline. Your corners need to decide, we're gonna go cover down the field and let him throw the ball up and then go get the ball.

If they day, we're coming to get the QB, that's where you get people open. So that goes to the players on the front seven. If you have some speed and athleticism, they can hunt the player down. Stress him during a game. He may make a play or two early, but if you're hunting that player (QB) every time he breaks it, he's getting stressed and mentally stressed and it's just gonna wear him down.

But yes, the cover corners or big. What they do is you can take away some of the traditional stuff now. And then you
can do some fun stuff as a coordinator.

--Rams at cornerback-

The Rams to nobody's fault, they had a lot of injuries at corner the year before. You get those two players (Finnegan & Jenkins), you not only upgrade, you went to one of the best tandems in the league. Then you add a guy like Trumaine Johnson, who's a bigger corner. So now we've got some matchups with bigger receivers, tight ends.

--why able to play Seattle and SF so tough-

When you play those two teams that are very good, it's going to be more than just individual matchups on the field. .But I give Jeff Fisher credit. As we went into this year we had some bigger conceptual goals. One of them was, we're gonna let the division know that we're gonna be around for a while. And we're gonna set the tone. So to go out and compete with those two teams and battle the 'Niners in games that basically went into the final second of two overtimes, that's probably more the culture shift with Jeff than anything in the locker room. I'm gonna give him the 'dibs' on that.

--uncertainty over Jackson and Amendola affect what you do in the scouting department as you prepare for free agency and draft?-

No, because I always tell our scouting department, whether it's in free agency, people on the street, college draft board, you've got to be prepared - they're gonna know the whole board. Now in decision-making. . .yes, it'll effect maybe some of your scenarios. You're always dealing in scenarios. We've got so many things we want. We get 'em this way. Or can we get 'em this way?

It's always evolving. Whether Amendola-Jackson return? Whether the player we want in the draft gets picked before us? You've just got to be ready to adjust.

--philosophically, how to you feel about taking a guard or right tackle in 1st round?-

Here's what we need: We need the best players. Traditionally, guard-right tackle maybe they're not valued for some reason. But at the end of the day, I always look at it this way. You should never draft a position.

If you've got this player vs. this (guard-tackle) player. But this guy's (guard-right tackle) gonna actually dominate, help
us really become a dominant team, draft that.

--value of guards-

If you look at the guard market over the last few years in free agency, it's gone up for a reason. As you see the way teams play on defense, if your quarterback can step up in the pocket _ it's easier to step up and throw than run around. Sometimes when you run around, you've got to stop and figure it out. You look at the Saints, I think the Saints have invested well in guard and Drew Brees was one that would step and has had a lot of success.

--Warmack and Cooper as top 2 guards in the draft-

Both of those players, they're getting talked about for a reason. It's not by chance. They're good players.

--rock stars--

What happens is a draft is you usually get a couple of rock stars. If those two players are the rock star guards, you need to be able to then go, OK who are the dancers in this concert? Are they similar to the rock stars? Maybe not as good but relatively close who can help us a little later.

--personality of this draft-

What you try to do is figure out who's really gonna be gone. Who's not. I haven't totally figured out that personality yet. Now, at the positions that we want to help us. As I've looked at them, I've been jacked. OK, good. We've got some nice scenarios.

As a scout you love to fall in love with a player This guy's the guy we want. As the general manager you like to go, 'OK, I'm thinking about falling in love.' But they're two or three guys behind that one. How close are they and if we don't get that one can get those two?


That issue is not: Life's over. He's 21. Life ends at maybe 80. He's got a lot of healthy years left.

--could you see yourself taking a DT in first round-

You can probably never have enough defensive tackles because if you're gonna chase a QB around all day, the 300-plus pounders tend to get tired. So it wouldn't be inconceivable to (pick one).

But when you have a rotation defensive line like we do, and you can win with the front seven, hey, if you can bring in your next guy - who's fresh - who's just as good as the guy who just left. Yes.

--Scott Wells and Harvey Dahl-

The goal is not to have either one of them ready for spring practice. It's really more to have them primed and ready for opening day. They're veterans. We've got the same offense. For them to be there for the first OTA may not be the wisest thing to do.

--on Janoris Jenkins-

He's a gym rat. And usually gym rats are successful as they mature.

from Jim Thomas

(On Titus Young)

He was a waiver player and we have been successful this year with at least two waiver claims. Shelley Smith and Joseph Barksdale made starts for us on the offensive line so we are always going to attempt to acquire players in that manner. With the combine, you get 15 minutes to interview. With this particular player you needed more than 15 minutes to interview him. So that's exactly why we claimed him. We sat down with him, had a lot of good discussions. At that point in time, at the end of nine days, we decided 'Hey, it's not the best partnership at this point in time.' But I can tell you he's a talented kid with passion and drive, still got a future. But for us it was not going to be the best fit at that particular time.

(On Steven Jackson)

The inbox has a lot of things going on but I can tell you the Steven situation is right there at the top. We have had ongoing discussions with his representation. We are going to keep that between us. This is the first time I got a chance to live with the person. You can be a fan from a far or a scout from a far but when you live with someone, you really get to know them. Go back to our first 49er game when it's third and 9 and all of a sudden he doesn't have a helmet on and he's still getting the first down. Then you go late in the game and you need to score again to take the lead and Patrick Willis comes on a blitz and it's not his guy but he knows exactly what to do. That's why I put that picture on my wall of Steven Jackson.

(Confidence in Pead, Richardson, Ganaway)

Those guys, Pead toward the end of the year, Daryl at the beginning and middle proved they can play in the league as well as Steven made some big runs for us. So what you will always do is they will all have a role. Richardson is going to have a role, Pead is going to have a role, they are all going to have a role and we are going to utilize those roles.

(On weighing Jackson's value off the field in keeping him or not)

When the decision to draft someone comes down to the final yes or no on the player or whether we will take him, I always ask 'All thing considered,' not just whether he can run, catch, block but all things considered means something. Yes, that definitely means something and we value that. Yes, all those guys have physical talents and usually the intangibles will be what takes those talents and eventually produces who they are.

(How can players change opinions of them at the combine?)

If we are private investigators, each player has a folder and in that folder you still have some questions to answer. Some of them will be in the physical process, some will be the interview process, some of them will actually be the play speed of a player if he comes and runs a certain time you can say 'OK, we've got that checked off.' Each player is case by case and you have got to almost have your outline and say 'This guy is up next and about to do this drill and we need to see him.''

(On weighing the value of Danny Amendola given his injury history)

Just like intangibles come into play, just like physical skill comes into play, just like production comes into play, your ability to be on the field comes into play. That's a fact of life. I think everybody knows it and I'd be remiss to not tell you that. So yes, you have to weigh that because you are going to produce more for the team if you are out there.

(On how important durability is for slot receivers since they tend to be smaller)

I don't think that's the No. 1 thing you look at. You want to know that your slot receiver is going to go out there and he's going to help us score points, get first downs and durability is somewhere in there. It's a tough element to count upon. Obviously you have to make the decision now, it's hard to predict how the story is going to end. Durability is definitely something you weigh but not No. 1.

In general, I think history can usually predict the future if there is certain patterns. Having one ACL and then coming back and nearly breaking Eric Dickerson's record is one thing I think you have to think about. History is a predictor but it's not a definite predictor.

(Thoughts on the WR class and finding play makers)

Obviously we want to get better in scoring offense. That's the No. 1 priority. Score points, win games. If we have more points on the scoreboard at the end of the game, we win the game. So really, I would say offensive play makers and weapons come in all shapes and sizes. They can be 5 foot 8, they can be 6 foot 5. They can come in and help you block and score points that way. They can also be on the defensive side of the ball because if you keep that team from scoring that helps your offense. So I think you always look for weapons. It doesn't have to be one position to help your team. Nowadays on offense you are throwing the ball around to a lot of shapes and sizes and things like that.

(On Brian Quick's development)

He made big gains for us during the year and I expect as of year two that he will ascend further. When we took the player from App State, a smaller school, we knew it was going to be a tougher transition than if you were at a certain program that was larger and had a more traditional offense. You think Vincent Jackson when you draft Brian Quick. If you look at he comes from a small school, he only had maybe 59 yards his rookie year. His career wasn't over at that moment. We definitely are excited about Brian Quick coming back to our building, going through OTAs, getting to work with Sam and staying in the same offense and getting better.

(On whether his moving around the draft via trade last year is an indication of his style)

Speaking of patterns, when speaking of drafts I don't know that you're ever going to be able to figure out a pattern with us. I think it's going to be, what we need is the best available player and we are going to try to get the player we want whether it's trading back and acquiring more players or if it's going up. Throughout my career, I have been a part of one in Atlanta where we decided we are going to give up some things and go get a player. And it looks like it's worked out well there. But I think it's figuring out as an organization who in the draft you are targeting.

(On having more flexibility with two first round computers)

When we made the trade to get two No. 1s this year, really we made the trade we were thinking '12, '13 and '14. And if you want to know what keeps me up at night and wakes me up in the middle of the night or wakes me up early with a smile, it's the fact that in those two years - most people think in those years we have five first rounders and five second rounders - I like to say we have got six first rounders and four second rounders because when we decided to take Janoris we considered him a first round talent. So I like to say in these three years we have got six first rounders, four second rounders, which puts a smile on your face as you build this team. Teams win games, teams win championships and the thing is as you make that team, the more talented individuals you can bring to your team the better chance your team has to win.

(On Chris Givens and Isaiah Pead moving forward)

I'm like a father in this instance. Those two players, Chris really had a nice year, Pead toward the end. As a father figure I always look at it as that was just the freshman year of college and we are going into your sophomore year of college and we expect you to absolutely improve upon what you just did. They are going to have a role. We are excited about them. They are both fast, teams are spreading people out, speed is huge and those two players have it. We are expecting them to be even better their sophomore year.

(On if he thinks one more big offseason puts the Rams in the playoffs)

The reality of the situation is when I started we were picking No. 2 in the draft. This year we are picking 16 so we progressed. We play in a division where one team was NFC champion and the other was in the final four of the NFC in Seattle and San Fran. And we had the best record in the division. So I think those things point to a positive, positive future. And yes, I think the bar has been moved from 2 to 16 and we do want to follow that bar. And with those six first rounders and four second rounders, we want to further that bar going into next year.

(On what he's learned from last offseason to this offseason)

I have always had a philosophy of work to make the decision work. Since last year, our building, from assistant coaches, head coach, trainer, strength, coach, nutritionist, Artis, all those guys are going to play a role in helping these guys become professionals on and off the field. So this whole thing actually works when you take a player and say this is the curriculum for this individual, let's put him on it and see how it works. In our case, so far it's worked.