Steven Jackson Saddened by Firing of Steve Spagnuolo, Not Discouraged However by Rams’ Chances to Contend in Future Years

January 3, 2012 – 11:10 am by Michael Bean

The 2011 NFL season is over and done with for the St. Louis Rams, and following last year’s encouraging 7-9 campaign, the Rams have to be considered one of the league’s bigger disappointments. St. Louis won just two games, a huge step back after taking two big steps forward in 2010. Rams ownership decided to fire head coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney following Sunday’s loss. I can’t say I agree with the decision, at least not with Spagnuolo. The former New York Giants defensive coordinator had proven that he was head coaching material, and though every team has to be able to survive injuries, it’s hard for a young team like the Rams to endure as many significant losses to key personnel like they were forced to do. Spags’ team played hard for him, unlike what happened in Tampa Bay when the Bucs’ season got off track, and he kept the attention and loyalty of key veterans like Steven Jackson. Speaking of Jackson, the potential Hall of Famer eclipsed the 1,000 yard plateau for the sixth consecutive season. A remarkable feat really for a guy playing on such an offensively challenged team. Now it’s back to the drawing board for Jackson and the Rams, as the bruising back enters what surely will be the twilight of his career in the upcoming seasons.

Jackson joined 101 ESPN in St. Louis to talk about the firing of head coach Steve Spagnuolo, how his good relationship with Spagnuolo was partly the product of him being a more experienced leader, how tough this 2-14 season was to endure considering the high expectations the Rams had following their encouraging season in 2010, playing in the offensive system of Josh McDaniels who’s the only remaining assistant coach under contract, and what his message to Rams fans is following the disappointing season and subsequent firings.

On the firing of head coach Steve Spagnuolo:

“Well you know, things started getting late after our game yesterday that he would likely get fired. It’s one of those things that I’ve been through it a few times, it’s never easy, you never know quite what to say. You feel bad. And Coach Spags apologized to us in the team meeting, especially to the guys that have been here the entire time during his three seasons. But he also told he would be our biggest fans moving forward. He believes we have a strong nucleus here, and he encouraged us to embrace the new regime, whoever it is, and keep going off the foundation that we’ve laid.”

If it’s true that he seemed to be closer with Coach Spagnuolo than he was with the other coaches he played for previously:

“I’m not sure if it’s more of the case or not. I’ve now been captain for a few years now, and I understand the importance of leadership now not just being concerned about my own personal things and being selfish in that manner, where you have to look at the grand scheme of things and consider all angles and look at everything as a whole. So I think my development as a leader has helped me understand. I have a closer relationship with Coach Spagnuolo than I had with the other ones just because of my thought process and where I’m at now.”

How tough was this season given how high expectations were following last year’s encouraging season:

“It’s been a tough season because of the high hopes. Being one game from the playoffs last year and seeing it all kind of crumble around us, it’s been disappointing and it’s been challenging. But knowing what I see today and seeing how my teammates prepare week in and week out, you still find a way to be fired up and encouraged for Sundays because there’s never a game, never an opponent we faced that I didn’t think we could win or beat.”

On what he thought about Josh McDaniels’ offensive system:

“Well Josh McDaniels system reminds me a lot of my earlier years when I came in with Coach Martz and the way he allowed me to use and display my versatility on the football field. So I really liked that, I really liked being involved in the passing game — it’s a part of my game I think really goes unnoticed. I think he’s a good play caller, he’s aggressive, and he knows how to take advantage of mismatches that present themselves against certain defenses.”

What’s his biggest message to the fans who might be discouraged by another disappointing season and head coaching change:

“The biggest message is we have a nucleus. And as far away as it seems, we’re a lot closer than the record reflects at 2-14. We’re better as a team that is 2-14, and we’re definitely better than the team I would say was when Coach Spagnuolo took over at the helm in the beginning of his tenure a few years back. You have guys now that have come into their own — Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, we have a franchise quarterback in Sam Bradford. Those main pieces….those type players are here, and it’s only a matter of time. I would love for it to be next year, and I trust it will be a lot sooner than later, and I think it will happen before I hang up my cleats. But don’t be discouraged, and don’t feel like because are starting over in the front office, things will be starting over in the locker room as well. I’m a firm believer that does not and should not be the case, because we have young talented players that are going to turn into fine pros.”

Listen here to Jackson with The Fast Lane on ESPN 101 in St. Louis

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