1.4.17

Page 29

B6 • ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH

NFL

M 1 • WEDNESDAY • 01.04.2017

6. MIAMI

6. DETROIT 1. NEW ENGLAND

1. DALLAS

7:15 Jan. 14, KMOV (4)

3:40 Jan. 15, KTVI (2)

vs. lowest seed

vs. lowest seed

12:05 Sunday, KMOV (4) 3. PITTSBURGH

5. OAKLAND

7:15 Saturday, KSDK (5)

2. KANSAS CITY

2. ATLANTA

12:05 Jan. 15, KSDK (5)

3:35 Jan. 14, KTVI (2)

vs. highest seed

vs. highest seed

3:35 Sat., ESPN/KDNL 4. HOUSTON

3. SEATTLE

5. NY GIANTS 3:40 Sunday, KTVI (2) 4. GREEN BAY

Feb. 5, 5:30 p.m., KTVI (2) • Glendale, Ariz.

NOTEBOOK

Rams’ horrible season became a bore FREDERICKSON • FROM B1

will admit that I’m done. I lasted until Week 15. Jeff Fisher’s firing spoiled a lot of the fun for me. Suddenly, I found myself almost pulling for interim coach John Fassel, mostly because his success would highlight the mind-numbing job security Rams owner Stan Kroenke had allowed Fisher since 2012. Then Seattle beat the Rams so thoroughly that I nearly felt sorry for our town’s former team. That’s when it hit me. There was nothing left to see here. Anger had faded into apathy. It was time to move on. I read the game story and scanned the box score after the Week 16 loss to San Francisco. I didn’t look into the specifics of the season-ending loss to Arizona until just now. I won’t pretend to speak for St. Louis Rams fans. Each one has his or her relationship with the team that left. But I imagine a fair amount feel something similar now that it’s over. The Rams’ rocky road to 4-12 became a catharsis. It was the bitter stage of a breakup. Eventually that anger gives way to indiference. Some got there faster than others. Others haven’t experienced it yet. Some will hatewatch forever. More power to them. They should realize, though, that they might not find a season sweeter than 2016. This season saw the toppling of Fisher, whose smugness was never softened by his inability to produce a winning season with the Rams, let alone one single playoff appearance. Fisher flamed out in dramatic fashion, fighting with Rams legend Eric Dickerson, feuding with defensive coordinator Gregg Williams on the sideline, forgetting the names and positions of opponents, losing his challenge flag in his coat. Fisher’s season finale came off the field, as he fired verbal shots at his former

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rams running back Todd Gurley pushes of Arizona linebacker Kevin Minter during the first half Sunday.

front oice during TV and radio interviews. I wonder what his potential future employers are going to think of that approach? This season, which featured the Rams’ “middle-school offense” (Todd Gurley’s words) and an overhyped defense, embarrassed Kroenke and his lackey Kevin Demof. We know this because Fisher would still have a job if it didn’t. The Rams wanted no part of employing the NFL’s losingest coach, so they canned Fisher before he broke his tie with Dan Reeves for most regular-season coaching losses in a career. The new coach Demof lures to Los Angeles has to agree to a temporary stadium location, an unproven quarterback in Jared Gof, an alarming lack of draft picks (the price of moving up last season to draft Goff first overall) and a roster that has plenty of other holes. But most important, this season eliminated what so many here feared — that the Rams would somehow reinvent themselves after relocation. That worry reached its peak when the Rams followed their sea-

son-opening loss to San Francisco with wins against Seattle, Tampa Bay and Arizona. Three victories by a combined score of 15 points. They were either special, or just lucky. It turned out to be the latter. They won one of their next 12 games. Los Angeles’ interest turned into anger, then indiference. And finally, the rest of the nation seemed to realize what St. Louis had been putting up with this whole time. A change of scenery did not hide the franchise warts. The bright lights of Hollywood magnified the flaws. The tired talk of St. Louis not doing enough to support and keep its team died down. Some of the biggest proponents of that flawed logic suddenly shifted, claiming that the Rams’ ineptitude could be traced back to the fact St. Louis didn’t demand a better product. What is there to do but laugh? The St. Louis sports scene seems to be doing OK without the Rams. Their relocation energized the MLS movement. Funding remains a thorny issue, but the conversations taking place are

important. They show lessons were learned from the past. Monday, 46,556 people showed up to a baseball stadium for a hockey game, rain be damned. Seeing Busch packed with Blues fans was the best illustration of how wrong Kroenke was in his slandering of this city’s fan support. Did I mention there are much better NFL games on TV these days? Perhaps it’s the Winter Classic high that has me looking for a more positive pastime than clinging onto the Rams like a rabid dog on a mail carrier’s pant leg. And I reserve the right to take a swipe now and again, like pointing out USC and Penn State combined for more points (101) in Monday’s Rose Bowl than the Rams scored in Los Angeles all season (89). But for now, one season of hate-watching has scratched my itch. It’s not really about if the Rams get better. It’s about realizing there are better things to do. Ben Frederickson @Ben_Fred on Twitter bfrederickson@post-dispatch.com

Warner, Bruce are Hall of Fame inalists

Chargers ponder LA move while hiring a new coach As the Chargers’ brain trust wades into the search for the replacement for fired coach Mike McCoy, they won’t be able to tell early candidates whether the team will be playing In San Diego or Los Angeles next season. “There’s a lot in the air right now, and as players we’re all anxious to see what all that means,” center Matt Slauson said. “... it is a little scary because I bought a house here, and one of my kids is in school here.” The Chargers must make two major decisions in a short time following a third straight season out of the playofs. “Hiring a head coach will be the biggest decision this franchise will make,” general manager Tom Telesco said Monday, a day after the Chargers finished 5-11 and fired McCoy (27-37) after four years. The next coach will be the 10th hired since Alex Spanos bought the team in 1984. So far, the Chargers reportedly have sought permission to interview Patriots defensive coordinator Matt Patricia, Miami defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and Kansas City special teams coordinator Dave Toub. But more important, chairman Dean Spanos must decide by Jan. 15 whether to move to Los Angeles or stay in San Diego and continue a struggle to replace aging Qualcomm Stadium that has left the fan base fatigued and angry. Going to LA would cost Spanos a $650 million relocation fee plus other costs, but the move could more than double the team’s $2 billion valuation. The Chargers would have to cultivate a new fan base in the crowded LA market. If they move, the Chargers would share a share a stadium with the Rams scheduled to open in 2019 in Inglewood. If they stay, they’d have to negotiate with the city, county and San Diego State over sharing a new stadium. On Nov. 8, city voters overwhelmingly defeated a Chargers-written measure asking for $1.15 billion to fund a new stadium and convention center. Jets shake up staf • The Jets announced that ofensive coordinator Chan Gailey has retired after two years under head coach Todd Bowles, and five other assistants — Kevin Patullo (QBs), Pepper Johnson (D-line), Mark Collins (outside linebackers), Marcel Shipp (RBs) and Joe Danna (DBs) — were fired.

NFL • FROM B1

place-kicker Morten Andersen, offensive tackle Tony Boselli, running back Terrell Davis, safety Brian Dawkins, ofensive guard Alan Faneca, offensive tackle Joe Jacoby, cornerback Ty Law, safety John Lynch, center/ guard Kevin Mawae, wide receiver Terrell Owens, defensive end Jason Taylor and running back LaDainian Tomlinson. Among the finalists, Dawkins, Taylor and Tomlinson are eligible for the first time. Andersen, Coryell, and Lynch are finalists for the fourth time; Davis and Warner are threetime finalists; Faneca, Jacoby and Owens are finalists for the second time. All of the others are first-time finalists. Also under consideration for the Class of 2017 are safety Kenny Easley as a senior finalist (for players who have been retired for 25 years or more), plus former league commissioner Paul Tagliabue and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones as finalists in the contributor’s category. The 48-member selection committee will meet Saturday, Feb. 4 in Houston — the day before the Super Bowl — to vote on the Class of 2017. A maximum of five modern-day candidates can be voted into the Hall of Fame out of the 15 finalists. So the maximum size of the class of 2017 is eight members, if five modern-day finalists are elected plus the senior finalist and both contributor finalists. The voting can be unpredictable, but Tomlinson appears to be the only sure thing among the modern-era finalists, leaving the four other available spots wide open. Although there was strong support for Warner last year, his candidacy was hurt by the presence of Brett Favre, with Favre gaining induction. There is no other quarterback among the finalists this year, so the third time could be the charm for Warner. He was an NFL MVP for the 1999 and 2001

Browns, Bears to coach Senior Bowl • Cleveland and Chicago will coach the Senior Bowl teams Jan. 28, getting a close-up look at some of the top prospects available in the NFL draft. First-year Browns coach Hue Jackson has the No. 1 overall pick after finishing 1-15, and John Fox, in his second season with the Bears (3-13), has the third pick.

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Rams wide receivers Isaac Bruce (80) and Torry Holt celebrate a touchdown by Bruce in an exhibition game at Detroit in 2005.

seasons and was named Super Bowl XXXIV MVP after leading the Rams to a 23-16 victory over Tennessee. He set a Super Bowl record against the Titans that still stands with 414 passing yards. He is the only quarterback in league history to throw for 300 yards-plus in three Super Bowls, with that third Super Bowl with the Arizona Cardinals in the 2008 season. As for Bruce, he’s considered a long shot this year as a firsttime finalist, but because he’s a finalist his case will be discussed at length by the selection committee for the first time, which should help him down the road if he doesn’t get in this year. Bruce caught the game-winning touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXIV and topped 1,000 yards receiving eight times. A fierce competitor and feisty blocker, he had a career full of

clutch performances, including four TD catches on the day the Rams ended their 17-game losing streak against rival San Francisco in 1999. At the time of his retirement, he ranked second in career receiving yards (15,208) and fifth in career receptions (1,024) alltime among NFL pass-catchers. Noteworthy among the absences in the finalist group is Bruce’s running mate at wide receiver, Torry Holt, and safety Steve Atwater (Lutheran North HS). Holt is in his third year of eligibility, as is the case with Warner and Bruce. But as each Ram goes in from those Greatest Show teams, that should only help Holt move up the pecking order. Running back Marshall Faulk was inducted in 2011. Left tackle Orlando Pace was inducted last year. If Warner gets in this year, it will help clear the decks for Bruce and

Holt. Atwater, who played his college ball at Arkansas and spent most of his NFL career with Denver, was a finalist last year. The eight-time Pro Bowler won two Super Bowls with the Broncos and was considered one of the game’s hardest hitters. The first-year eligibility of Dawkins, a nine-time Pro Bowler who spent most of his career with Philadelphia, may have bumped Atwater out of the top 15. The enshrinement ceremonies for the Class of 2017 are set for Saturday, Aug. 5 in Canton, Ohio. The year-long selection process came with the initial list of 94 nominees. That group was pared to 26 semifinalists announced in mid-November, a list that included both Holt and Atwater. Jim Thomas @jthom1 on Twitter jthomas@post-dispatch.com

Browns owners apologize to fans in letter • Browns owners Jimmy and Dee Haslam apologized to fans for putting them through the worst season in franchise history. In a letter sent to season-ticket holders and distributed to members of the media, the Haslams fell on their sword after the Browns set a franchise record for losses in a season. “Clearly, this season has been a painful part of our building process,” the owners wrote. “You deserve the best, and you certainly deserve better than a 1-15 team. We are sorry that our results have not been better.” Carr admits finger was broken • A fibula isn’t the only broken bone Derek Carr is dealing with. The Raiders quarterback finally admitted Tuesday, during a radio interview, that he actually broke his right little finger in the team’s Nov. 27 win over Carolina. “There was a little fracture in it. There was,” Carr said. “There was a whole bunch going on with that thing. But I can bend it now. It’s getting there.” The finger injury, which was reported at the time as a dislocation, became moot when Carr broke his right fibula on Christmas Eve against the Colts, an injury that ended his season. With backup Matt McGloin nursing a shoulder injury that could make it tough for him to practice enough before Saturday’s game at Houston, rookie Connor Cook could become the first quarterback to make his first career start in the postseason. From news services