Commentary

The Bust Meter: How mad should we be about disappointing acquisitions?

A few years ago, I was shopping in the soda aisle at Target. I drink a fair amount of soda, but since high school, I’m trying to stay away from sugary sodas. I now settle on drinking Coke/Pepsi Zero. My soda adventure brought me to something I have never seen before: RC10. I don’t drink RC often, but my Grandpa was a huge fan and seeing a case of RC on the shelf made me nostalgic. Quickly purchasing it without hesitation, but discovering it’s terrible immediately. I gave the rest of the case to my roommates because RC10 is a disgrace to diet sodas.

Years later, when comparing Rams players to soda’s on my podcast, that Sean Mannion is the equivalent of RC10. For whatever reason, this is amusing to me and, in hindsight, of course it wasn’t good. Maybe I should have never purchased it to begin with? Maybe there is a good reason everyone drinks Pepsi and Coca-Cola instead? The same logic can be applied to Sean Mannion. I can’t blame the RC10 for being bad; I can only blame myself.

This is my inspiration for the “Bust Meter,” a five-level system to filter disappointing players that became a Ram and how angry it made fans. Level one are players we shouldn’t hold a grudge against, while level five are players we can reasonably root against for the rest of their careers. To make this easy, I’ll only use players acquired by current general manager Les Snead. Let’s get into it.

Level One: They Should Have Never Been Here to Begin With

If a team signs a bad player to a bad contract, we shouldn’t blame the player for being bad. It’s on management. These guys shouldn’t have been on the team to begin with.

The most obvious example here is Coty Sensabaugh. Just take a look at the Reddit thread when the team announced they were signing the former Titans cornerback to a three-year, $19 million deal. Playing awfully for the Titans, the Rams thought $6 million annually is a fair contract for whatever reason. Spoiler alert: he wasn’t, and was cut four games into his contract. To quote the late Dennis Green, “he was exactly who we thought he was.” I can’t hold anything against him for that.

Level Two: He Wasn’t the Worst, but He Wasn’t the Best

I’ll just get right into level two by talking about Sammy Watkins. The Rams acquired the wide receiver right before the 2017 preseason for a second-round pick. Unfortunately, he never connected with Jared Goff, but he still left an impact that season. Watkins drew coverage away from the rest of the receiving corps by simply being on the field. Guys like Todd Gurley, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp benefit whenever a player like Watkins is on the field. Defenses did take a hit whenever playing soft coverage on Watkins.

Clearly, Watkins is a team player, but a disappointing individual performance is the end of his time with the Rams. Don’t worry about Watkins though, Kansas City is his new home with a major pay day. Ultimately, the Rams do have a compensatory pick in this year’s draft because his payday. The Watkins era left a sour taste in all our mouths, but a rational fan shouldn’t hold a grudge against him. He’s the perfect level two name. If Ndamukong Suh leaves in free agency, he’ll be in the same group.

Level Three: You’re Really Going to Leave and do that?

This level is for guys who don’t come in with high expectations, still manage to disappoint and are gone quickly. You aren’t upset at all that this player is gone, and sometimes you might even wish him well. But then they leave and do something spectacular, and all you can think is: “really? Really?!”

The obvious poster-boy for this group is Nick Foles. The Rams traded Sam Bradford for Foles in 2015 and foolishly signed him to an extension before he even took a snap (Note: This extension falls under the level one rules.) The fault here belongs to the front office and not Foles. And what did Foles do with this money? He came out of the gates and beat the Seattle Seahawks. Rams fans like myself immediately fell in love with Foles the moment he threw this dime to Stedman Bailey to help lead the team to victory over a division rival.

All that love withered away as Foles began playing poorly in nine of his next 10 starts, and the team moved on. Two years later, Nick Foles is hoisting the Lombardi Trophy after out-dueling Tom Brady in one of the greatest Super Bowl performances of all-time. Safe to say I had mixed feelings after that.

Level Four: I Won’t Root Against Him, But I Won’t Root For Him

Typically, guys in level four tend to be draft busts for me. Drafting players to fill a position we desperately need help at, then play horribly during their time here. The kicker is bypassing players that could have done a much better job at the same position.

Greg Robinson sits at the top of level four. The Rams drafted him second overall to finally be the franchise tackle this team had so desperately needed. Instead, we got the second coming of Jason Smith. Robinson’s three seasons as a Ram flopped and was traded for a sixth-round pick.

To put the icing on the cake, here’s the next fifteen players taken after Robinson: Blake Bortles (bust), Sammy Watkins (we gave up a second round pick to acquire him), Khalil Mack (second-best defensive player in the NFL), Jake Matthews (stud), Mike Evans (stud), Justin Gilbert (bust), Anthony Barr (stud), Eric Ebron (better than any tight end we’ve had in the last 20 years), Taylor Lewan (stud), Odell Beckham (stud), Aaron Donald (maybe the only reason Snead keeps his job after this draft), Kyle Fuller (stud), Ryan Shazier (stud before the injury), Zack Martin (stud) and C.J. Mosley (stud).

We were lucky to get Donald from this historic draft class, but imagine if we select just about any of these other guys? We could have had Mack and Donald, Lewan and Donald, Evans and Donald or even Watkins and Donald, but we ended up with Greg Robinson. I won’t cheer against Robinson, because he simply wasn’t a good player for us, but it would be tough for me to cheer for him.

Level Five: Go F*** Yourself

Let me make this clear, fans shouldn’t actively root against any player to fail. Sure, we all root against the Patriots because of the success and controversy, and we all root against our division rivals because that’s a part of the game. But, I don’t think it’s fair to think “Sammy Watkins was disappointing here, so I hope he never does well again.” We don’t have to cheer for him, but he didn’t do anything bad enough to warrant us to root for him to fail. It takes a special kind of disappointment for me to approve of fans to actively root against a player.

I’ll lay out an example of that special kind of player. Let’s say that for years, your team failed to find good pass catchers, especially out of the tight end position. So your general manager makes a smart move by locking up a young, talented tight end to a 5-year contract. This new acquisition comes in and shows just enough of his talent to warrant being on the team, but constantly drops passes and is seen jogging around the field. He doesn’t seem to care. This guy just came to collect his paychecks and get out of there. Occasionally, he’ll put in some effort to score a few touchdowns so he can keep collecting those paychecks, but most of the time he just drops the ball and loafs. He even shoves his quarterback after he dropped a touchdown pass!

After three years, the team finally let this player go and the fan base rejoiced. But it didn’t stop there. You had to watch this guy start trying again on other teams. You had to watch him make miraculous game-winning catches in playoff games. Then he plays his former team,  and torches them for 180 yards like he has something to prove. Like we didn’t know he had it in him and the team was the reason he didn’t try.

That is the type of player I’ll permit fans to actively root against. So here’s my message to Jared Cook: I hope you live a long and healthy life off the field, but I will wish you nothing but misery on the field.

Steve Rebeiro is a staff writer and host of the Butting Heads podcast for Rams Talk. He is an alumni of Marquette University. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.

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