Todd Gurley rushed for four yards. Then he lost three yards. On third and long, Case Keenum threw a short pass. The Rams punted.
And so went Rams-49ers on Monday Night Football two weeks ago. It was less of a game and more of a demonstration on how to ensure you never again play in front of a national television audience.
There's a reason why you rarely see the Rams in primetime. They're not just occasionally boring. They're habitually boring.
And we have proof.
We started with this question: What makes a team interesting? Wins are an obvious indication, as are points scored. We also considered yards gained per play, yards allowed per play, explosive plays (plays of 20 or more yards), punts, All-Pro selections, home attendance and primetime games.
We compiled data from the past 10 seasons and then ranked each team from 1 to 32 in nine categories, assigning a "1" to the lowest-performing team and a "32" to the highest-performing team. To arrive at a score for our "Boring Team Index," we added those rankings.
The results: The Rams are the most boring team of the decade — the NFL's Bastions of Boredom — and it's not even close. In every statistic we analyzed, they finished no better than sixth-worst. In seven of nine categories, they finished either worst or second-worst.
What a fall for a franchise that at the turn of the millenium was one of the most exciting teams we've ever seen. Thanks to a pedestrian head coach and his dispensable cast of quarterbacks, what was once the Greatest Show on Turf is now the Dullest Team on Earth.
• • •
Rams vs. Bucs again?
You might want to hold the lolz, Tampa Bay. Your Buccaneers are among the five most boring teams, according to the index.
Boring Team Index: most boring teams, 2006-2015
|Rank||Team||Win %||Points scored||Yards per play||Yards per play allowed||Plays of 20+ yards||Punts||All-Pro selections||Attendance||Primetime games||Total|
|32||St. Louis/Los Angeles||2||1||2||4||2||1||6||2||2||22|
The only thing worse than watching one of these teams play is having to watch them play each other. That's what fans in Tampa Bay and St. Louis have had to endure five of the past six seasons (the NFL schedule formula pits last-place teams against last-place teams the next season). This Sunday, they'll meet for the sixth time in seven seasons, or roughly six times too many. Fans in St. Louis wanted out of this game so badly that when they learned the team was moving to Los Angeles, they high-fived a friend and then resumed talking about who the Cardinals' fifth starter would be.
The Rams are dominating this riveting rivalry, winning the Super Boring Bowl four seasons in a row. Last season, Case Keenum — CASE KEENUM! — had the best game of his career. He completed 14 of 17 passes for 234 yards and two touchdowns in a 31-23 win that ended the Bucs' slim playoff hopes.
The most interesting thing about the 2014 game was whether Bucs running back Bobby Rainey would carry the ball more often than Fox would air commercials of Matthew McConaughey driving a luxury SUV. Rainey won — barely — but the Bucs didn't, and the Rams prevailed 19-17 in an epic battle of field goals.
This weekend's contest also could come down to field goals. After all, that's the only way the Rams offense has been scoring points (three field goals in two games). If Los Angeles can't score a touchdown again, it would be the first team since the 1976 Bucs to not find the end zone in its first three games of the season.
Here's how it could get worse: Defensive tackle Aaron Donald (six quarterback pressures against the Seahawks last week) and defensive end Robert Quinn (four pressures) could tee off on Jameis Winston and take him out of the game. Donald nearly did as much last season when he speared Winston into the turf.
Imagine an afternoon of Mike Glennon versus Case Keenum. Actually, don't. Try to think happier thoughts.
• • •
The path to nowhere
So how did we go from Kurt Warner-to-Torry Holt for 72 yards on second and 2 to Case Keenum-to-Bennie Cunningham for 7 yards on third and 12?
After the Rams' Super Bowl runs, they declined steadily, bottoming out at 1-15 in 2009. With the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 draft, the Rams entrusted Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford to lead them out of darkness. When healthy, he helped, but only as much as a flashlight helps someone stuck in a room without a door.
When the team regressed from 7-9 to 2-14 in 2011, St. Louis fired Steve Spagnuolo and hired Jeff Fisher, Just For Men Touch of Gray model and coach the Rams beat to win the 1999 Super Bowl. Because he has had a winning record just six times in 20 seasons, Fisher is often characterized as an underachiever, but that's a simplistic take.
The Rams have been excruciatingly boring partly because of one of Fisher's hires: Brian Schottenheimer, the team's offensive coordinator from 2012 to 2014. Under his direction, the offense never finished higher than 21st in points scored.
Schottenheimer's passing attack was particularly weak. Because of a system heavy on short passes, the Rams finished below the league average in net yards per pass attempt (which is yards per pass attempt with sack figures included) every season.
Were Sam Bradford, Kellen Clemens, Shaun Hill, Austin Davis and a shaky offensive line to blame? No, not entirely.
Before Schottenheimer joined the coaching staff in St. Louis, he was the Jets offensive coordinator from 2006 through 2011. His 2006 season was the only season where the Jets finished near the league average in net yards per pass attempt. In all others, they were below-average, including 2008 with gunslinger Brett Favre at the helm.
In 2015, the Rams traded Bradford and drafted running back Todd Gurley 10th overall. Without a franchise quarterback and a reliable receiving corps, St. Louis ran the ball like it was 1962 — 27 times a game for about 4.5 yards a carry.
All of this has led to the Rams we see today.
Run. Run. Pass. Punt. Repeat.
Statistics in this report are from Pro Football Focus and Pro Football Reference. Contact Thomas Bassinger at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @tometrics.