St. Louis Rams Dismiss Offensive Coordinator Frank Cignetti, Promote Rob Boras


Despite the fact that changing play callers didn’t solve the Rams’ issues this year, they decided to take another shot at the coordinator dart board Monday.

As the St. Louis Rams have fallen off a metaphorical cliff in recent weeks, losing their past five games, there’s been increasing discussion from the fanbase and media about firing head coach Jeff Fisher after this season. That won’t be the first coaching move that the Rams make in a bid to change their fortunes, however. Following a Sunday meeting with the Arizona Cardinals during which the Rams accumulated just 212 offensive yards and scored three points, offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti was relieved of his duties, with assistant head coach/offense Rob Boras, who had been coaching the tight ends and coordinating the Rams’ run game, promoted to fill Cignetti’s role.

Cignetti, who replaced the departed Brian Schottenheimer in February following an unproductive search for an outside candidate, had been the Rams’ quarterbacks coach for the previous three years. Over 12 games, he called plays for a Rams offense that ranked 31st in both total yardage (3,556) and points per game (15.8).

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Unfortunately, Cignetti seems to be a sacrificial lamb (or “sacrificial Ram”, if you will) because of a failure to sufficiently plan in other areas. One stat that immediately jumps out is the Rams’ failure to score multiple touchdowns in a game since the starting offensive line group of Greg Robinson, Garrett Reynolds, Tim Barnes, Jamon Brown, and Rob Havenstein was initially broken up for their November 8 game against the Minnesota Vikings.

There was concern from numerous outlets all offseason about the Rams’ failure to accumulate sufficient offensive line depth for the 2015 season. When the Rams chose to carry just four linemen who had ever started an NFL game on their opening roster, they took a significant gamble, especially considering that four of their six linemen with no previous experience were acquired in the fourth round of the draft or later.

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That gamble obviously ended up failing, as the Rams have been forced to start three of those four–rookie fourth-rounder Andrew Donnal, rookie sixth-rounder Cody Wichmann, and second-year seventh-rounder Demetrius Rhaney–in recent weeks, as their two more highly-regarded rookies, Brown and Havenstein, have been sidelined with injuries. Those linemen haven’t quite been up to the task, and it’s hurt both the Rams’ passing efficiency (which wasn’t that good to begin with), but more significantly the run game, which had previously been effective, with Todd Gurley running for 100 yards in five straight games prior to Havenstein’s injury. While the blame should fall more prominently on Fisher and Les Snead, who are responsible for acquiring the talent, and to a lesser extent offensive line coach Paul Boudreau for failing to turn the rookie backups into respectable starters in such a short time, that blame will now be deflected onto Cignetti.

Obviously, some consideration also has to be given to the fact that Fisher has such specific requirements about how he wants his offense to operate, despite having come into the league as a defensive-minded coach. Other than for a three-game stint at the start of the 2013 season, Fisher has been the driving force behind the Rams sticking to a ground-and-pound offense that requires consistent efficiency from the offensive line and often puts the quarterback in the position of being a supplementary piece. With the combination of significantly reduced practice time in today’s NFL and the prominence of pass-based spread offenses throughout college football, it’s difficult to coach that system, which provides for the unpredictably poor performances that the Rams have delivered on offense throughout Fisher’s tenure.

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It will be interesting to see what Boras can do with the play-calling duties. It was odd that he wasn’t assigned those responsibilities to begin with, as he was put in charge of the Rams’ run game this offseason. Considering how run-based the Rams’ offense has been since the start of Fisher’s tenure, one would think that the coach planning the running attack would call the plays. If nothing changes with Boras making the decisions, it should be interesting to see how many offensive coordinators the Rams are willing to go through before a change is explored within another area.