Against all odds, in a city that embraced them, with fans who loved them, in a stadium that showcases them, the impossible has happened.
The return of the Rams has officially become an embarrassment.
A Hollywood reunion that couldn’t go wrong has blown up in bits of carpeted red. A glittering homecoming has become a prolonged wake. This match made in heaven has been ruined by newcomers from hell.
The honeymoon is not only over, but also already has been engulfed in threats of divorce by fans who, during one moment Sunday afternoon, filled the Coliseum air with the loudest and angriest boos this columnist has heard there in 30 years.
It was a 42-14 victory by the Atlanta Falcons. It was the eighth loss in the last nine games by a Rams team that has clinched its 10th consecutive losing season. It was the 165th loss by Coach Jeff Fisher, tying him with Dan Reeves as for the most losses by an NFL coach.
It was one big, fat, faded-blue-and-fake-gold embarrassment.
And all this was before Todd Gurley, in a stunning postgame interview for the most taciturn of players, said the Rams were running a “middle-school offense.”
It’s embarrassing for the city of Los Angeles, which can’t possibly appreciate being fronted by this half-baked band of strangers.
It’s embarrassing for Rams fans, who were again shown on national television sitting amid thousands of empty seats while screaming their anger and sulking in their dismay.
It should be beyond embarrassing for Rams owner Stan Kroenke who, if he doesn’t do something about this soon, will quickly morph into a Donald Sterling-sized joke.
The Rams need a new coach. Now. The expiration date on Fisher has passed. He has had five seasons and produced nothing better than mediocre. His contract extension will provide him with a parting gift. Time to go.
“I feel responsible for this,’’ Fisher said late Sunday afternoon, and he’s right.
He’s right, and the Rams would probably replace General Manager Les Snead along with him.
“We lose games — this team has lost games more than it’s been beaten,’’ guard Rodger Saffold said, and he’s also right.
Kroenke needs to make these moves, and he needs to make them sometime in these final three weeks of the season so the Rams can get a head start on finding replacements. It might be tough to make a change immediately with the Rams playing in Seattle on Thursday, but after that? It would be strong signal of hope to Rams fans if Kroenke shakes things up before the Rams return home again for their final two games of the season on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Day.
It also would be a sign that the Rams want folks to actually show up for those games.
“The fans have every right to be frustrated,’’ said punter Johnny Hekker, whose record-setting season is ironically being obscured by the fact that he has had to punt so dang much. “We have to wear it as players. We’re letting [Fisher], each other and our fans down, and that sucks.”
The letdown began Sunday on the opening kickoff, which rookie backup Mike Thomas muffed and the Falcons recovered on the Rams’ three-yard line. Moments later, Justin Hardy caught a touchdown pass from Matt Ryan and the rout was on.
The Falcons scored four of their six touchdowns after all but one of the Rams’ five turnovers. The Falcons passed for 220 yards even though their offense was without its two most electrifying players, injured receivers Julio Jones and Mohamed Sanu.
“We got some glimmer of hope over the last couple of days when we found out that their two most explosive players weren’t going to be available,’’ said Fisher, oddly, because does that mean they had no hope before that news?
The Falcons led, 42-0, before the Rams scored twice in the fourth quarter against the scrubs. And if that’s not ugly enough for you, how about the Rams’ 105 yards worth of penalties, which was one more yard than Gurley’s “middle-school offfense’’ gained on the ground?
“We’ve got a talented team, but penalties kill you, mistakes kill us,’’ linebacker Alec Ogletree said. “When you don’t know how to rebound from it, you get exposed and that’s what happens.’’
Afterward, what was exposed was the depth of the players’ frustrations. It was an unusually angry and profane locker room with players taking turns collectively lashing out at the losing. Even as they publicly support their coach, their deep and honest bitterness at their situation shows that even though Fisher is their good buddy, he might have finally lost his hold as their coach.
“We find a way to come out every week and lose the [bleeping] game,’’ defensive end William Hayes said. “Collectively as a team we just have to go out there and stop playing bad football. We are finding ways to get our butt kicked every week. It’s getting repetitive. We go into practice and come out with a good game plan, then we find ways to mess up the game plan.’’
Messing up more than most was quarterback Jared Goff, who threw two picks, lost a fumble and missed on several throws, including overthrowing Austin downfield early in the game when it still mattered.
Can the kid play? It’s too early to tell. And his receivers keeping dropping balls, including a pass that bounced off Kenny Britt for one of Sunday’s two interceptions. But after four games, Goff is 0-4 with four touchdown passes and five interceptions while only showing the occasional glimmer of his projected greatness. While the Rams are hiring a coach and general manager, they also might want to find a quarterback whisperer. They mortgaged the franchise to draft Goff, and they can’t afford to quit on him now.
“We’re not having fun, we’re not enjoying it, it’s awful and it’s hard,’’ said Goff, and enough is enough.
As recently as three months ago, the door to this city’s sports landscape was wide open to the Rams and their history and their hope.
That whoosh you hear is the sound of it closing.
MORE FROM SPORTS