You are far more likely to survive the wrong owner in pro sports than the wrong coach or manager. But it is impossible to survive both. That is where fans of the Los Angeles Rams are right now, even if they wanted to carry the team's owner, Stan Kroenke, up and down Santa Monica Boulevard for finally being the guy who brought pro football back to L.A.
Rams fans have Kroenke, the Missouri guy who sold out St. Louis once he had his opening to make a move on L.A. And they sure have Jeff Fisher as their coach. Kroenke acted like both a phony and a loser for the way he played not just St. Louis Rams fans, but politics all over the state of Missouri. And they have a coach in Fisher, just rewarded with a contract extension, poised to become the coach who has lost more games than any coach in NFL history, someone who has had a total of six winning seasons in 22 years as a head coach in his league.
And President-elect Trump talks about making America great again. Are you kidding? Try telling Fisher that it's not great already. You know who's never going to take a knee during the national anthem? Him.
At least back in St. Louis they can watch this story play out with the full appreciation that Kroenke and Fisher deserve each other. Kroenke is already rich. Somehow, and against all odds, Fisher keeps getting richer, as he falls out of one tree after another -- though not the great coaches tree -- and lands on his feet.
After the Rams went to 4-8 against the Patriots on Sunday and ensured that this will be another year when Fisher doesn't end up with a winning record, this was one of Fisher's comments:
"The elephant in the room is the offense."
Well, yeah, but only if you don't count him.
Maybe the most symbolic moment of the season, at least if you're a Rams fan, was Fisher frantically searching around in his parka in Foxborough like a guy searching for his phone or his car keys, looking for his red challenge flag. But at least Kroenke isn't in danger of losing him for two more years.
This isn't about whether Fisher is a good guy or not. We know he's a smart guy, just because his agent, Marvin Demoff, the guy who just negotiated this contract extension, is the father of Kevin Demoff, who just happens to be the Rams' vice president in charge of football operations and chief operating officer, in one of those crazy coincidences you get in life sometimes. Everybody remembers how close Fisher's Tennessee Titans came to winning a Super Bowl one time, Super Bowl 34 in Atlanta, before Kevin Dyson came up a yard short against -- wait for it -- the St. Louis Rams. It's still the best thing Fisher has ever done for the Rams. Wherever they're calling home.
You know this is the one from Bill Parcells, the most famous thing he ever said, about how you are what your record says you are. Fisher now has a record of 173-164-1 in his 22 years with the Houston Oilers, Tennessee Titans, St. Louis Rams and Los Angeles Rams. Again: Six winning seasons in that time. Six. If the Rams get two more losses this season -- and believe me, that's the way to bet -- Fisher will have lost more than the 165 that Dan Reeves lost when he was an NFL head coach. Yeah. Fisher went to one Super Bowl. So have a lot of guys.
But somehow he has managed this elaborate and kind of amazing shell game, especially with the Rams. He needed time with quarterback Sam Bradford, the first player taken in the draft two seasons before Fisher became head coach. Now he needs time with rookie quarterback Jared Goff, the first pick in the draft. He keeps buying time as the Rams keep buying what he's selling. Famously, though, Fisher said on HBO's "Hard Knocks" that he "was not f---ing going 7-9….or 8-8….. or 9-7, OK?"
You bet! Totally!
If you want to have a rollicking good read, check out Ryan Van Bibber's piece at SB Nation about the litany of excuses Fisher has produced over time as he has attempted to explain away his own record. A huckster like this was made for reality TV.
But then he is working for the huckster -- Kroenke -- who not only took the Rams out of St. Louis, but effectively killed pro football in a truly great American sports city forever. Art Modell didn't do that to Cleveland when he took the Browns to Baltimore. Robert Irsay didn't do that to Baltimore, obviously, when he took the Colts to Indianapolis, because Baltimore was the team formerly known as the Browns.
It's impossible to believe that St. Louis will ever get another NFL franchise. Think about something: It is more likely that London will get an NFL franchise before St. Louis will. By the way? It's not that Kroenke became the latest rich guy to do this to a place like St. Louis. It was the cheap and lousy way he did it, stringing along his fan base, stringing along the politicians, engaging in this lousy, cynical deceit that he was trying to figure out a way to stay. He was never trying to stay. He always wanted to leave. Only this phony never said that. You always want to ask this to a billionaire like Kroenke: When does he have enough money? But of course it's a rhetorical question. He never once considered himself to be what Robert Kraft once told me owners are supposed to be, which means caretakers of a public trust.
"It's a difficult market," Kroenke said about L.A., talking about his new-stadium deal.
Well, here's the deal with this guy: Any market with him in it is always going to be a difficult market. It's why you look at the current partnership between him and Jeff Fisher and honestly believe that it was destiny that brought them together. Maybe Kroenke and the geniuses running his football operation can figure out a way for Fisher to be the Rams coach for life. For now, there isn't another owner in football whom would have signed off on essentially re-signing Fisher.
There was a groundbreaking ceremony not long ago at the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack where the Rams new stadium will be built. Some of the stories I read talked about how emotional Kroenke was. But then the subject of more money always makes guys like him get emotional.
When he was asked about his football team that day, here is something Kroenke said:
"Well, obviously all of this has been said, but the defense has been playing very well and on offense we haven't been producing the way we'd like to. So there's a big opportunity there. If you get the offense going, the argument would be that we could be pretty darn good."
So he has no clue. The good news in Los Angeles is that they do have pro football back. The bad news? That this owner and this coach came back with it.