While Rams majority owner Stan Kroenke sat back and studied the front office, coaches and players in action last season (while also keeping tabs on the entire operation of the organization), he soon will put his architectural touches on a franchise that hit rock bottom just a few years ago.
Prior to the 2010 success and the arrival of quarterback Sam Bradford, the Rams won six games total from 2007 through 2009, putting them at the bottom of the NFL, where it is dark and cold. There is a lot of pressure at the bottom, just like there is at the ocean floor.
I’m not a scientist or an oceanographer, but I remember a few things from my oceanography class. For instance, benthoses are sea animals that spend their entire lives near or on the bottom of the ocean floor. Lobsters, worms, starfish and other various ocean life swim endlessly. Lobsters, for example, swim the ocean floor. They are content and comfortable while stuck in their surroundings, but really can’t survive away from it.
It is not breaking news that NFL franchises are structured the same way. It starts with strong ownership. That direction creates a solid foundation and a winning tradition. Kroenke understands the most valuable members of his team are the fans.
A strong and supportive fan base is the key to driving revenue and bringing profits to the organization. Build a championship team through the draft, while adding key free agents when needed. All aspects of the organization (both business and football operations) must run in the same direction at optimal speed. Once that is accomplished, talent evaluation will remain the key to the future.
These four objectives are important factors that allow an NFL franchise to stay on top. They allow teams to stay away from the proverbial bottom of the ocean floor where they face extreme pressure, and where it is dark and cold. Teams want to be like a competitive feisty sailfish, enjoying fresh air and weather while moving toward the ultimate destination.
Kroenke will encourage and demand smart business decisions, aggressive and creative marketing and sales within the state of Missouri and surrounding states. This will ensure a smooth finish to the rock solid foundation.
Kroenke’s product is his team: the players. The Rams’ organization must distinguish themselves from the 31 other NFL teams, to gain a competitive edge and championship mindset. They must transcend from a good personnel department to a great personnel department. To accomplish that, you first need to change the trajectory in which the department is presently moving and aim higher in order to achieve the ultimate goal, winning the Super Bowl.
As the player personnel bus moves forward, it is extremely important for that bus to have balance. It is also important for it to be well weighted with knowledge and road experience so it can travel forward with a combination of speed and power for the long haul.
It has been said many times, “Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness is a matter of conscious choice.” Everyone needs to work together. Ownership, executive management and the head coach (along with support staffs) and business side of the house. Together as a team everyone will achieve greatness.
Looking at the current situation, I see several challenges in front of the Rams. The personnel department should focus equally on what not to do and what to stop doing, to ensure a bright and successful transformation.
The main goal is to identify and acquire players that fit coach Steve Spagnuolo’s scheme to ensure a solid championship foundation, allowing limitless possibilities with greatness in the near future.
The personnel department should identify players that are overvalued as well as undervalued in pro personnel, and build with youth through the college draft each year. This direction will help the organization get to the next level while working on strategic ideas and methodologies that will develop a winning formula.
Meanwhile, with both sides in the labor dispute posturing over a new CBA (collective bargaining agreement), this legal game of chess is getting more interesting every day.
The salary cap heightens the need for communication within the front office. One important factor is to make sure the salary cap/contract negotiators and talent evaluators are on the same page. They must agree on the value that the player brings to the team from a personnel point of view while not handicapping the organization with future cap problems. Financial responsibilities as well as player evaluations are both critical aspects of an organization. What the Rams need is teamwork on the field and off the field.
Here are the key attributes to building teamwork in an NFL organization:
- Ownership’s vision, goals and direction
- Management’s – being aggressive and making hard/unpopular decisions
- Innovative coaching
- Players with good character. Players who are smart, tough, competitive, productive and have a passion for the game.
- Successful habits are structured and repeated
- Demand change or constant improvement. Operate an environment where change is encouraged not discouraged.
In the end, Stan Kroenke will change the culture and address the key principles of building a winning organization from the ground up, and show what is important to ownership as it applies to football operations, marketing and sales as wellas it pertains to the long-term success of building a winning organization.
In the April 2011 issue of Forbes, Kroenke was reported to have a net worth $2.6 billion. Regardless of his fortune he is a good person, a man that paid me a lot of respect when arriving in St. Louis and the respect factor is still very mutual.
It is no secret he made his first fortune developing commercial and retail properties. He purchased and turned two Colorado professional sports franchises into winners (the NBA’s Denver Nuggets and the NHL’s Colorado Avalanche).
As the minority owner of the Rams for several years, he was really unable to put his thumbprint on the organization until now. He took full control of the franchise in August and has a short amount of time to relinquish his majority stakes in both the Nuggets and Avalanche by year 2014, in order to comply with NFL ownership rules.
When I asked Rams general manager Billy Devaney about Kroenke’s involvement in the draft process, he said, “Stan has been awesome, very in tuned to the draft and interested in what we’re thinking. He wants to know what the plans are, the total process and wants to be kept in the loop. It’s been a pleasure”.
The architect of several sports franchises that seems to have the golden touch, Mr. Kroenke has a plan in place. Let’s hope Devaney and the gang move in the same direction of their majority owner on draft night at Rams Park when the club picks No. 14 in the 2011 NFL Draft.