Aaron Donald
Eric Dickerson's feud with Jeff Fisher could undermine the Rams' long-term success in L.A.
Aaron Donald

Eric Dickerson's feud with Jeff Fisher could undermine the Rams' long-term success in L.A.

Published Dec. 9, 2016 1:01 p.m. ET

The Rams organization was given — or rather bought — something incredible 11 months ago: the second-largest media market in the United States. And they had it all to themselves.

Los Angeles didn't have an NFL team for 20 years, and then the Rams were handed an opportunity to win over the 13 million potential fans in the Southland. The billboards went up everywhere, the team carved out a massive media presence, and they went out and got the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft, which they used to select a Golden State quarterback straight out of Central Casting — Jared Goff's nickname might as well be Kid Hollywood.

The Rams did everything they could to win over the Los Angeles market in an effort to reverse two decades of free agent fanhood and unite Southern California behind their new NFL team, and by all accounts, they were making progress: 90,000 fans showed up for the team's first preseason game, a record, and the excitement for the season opener had the town buzzing.


In the three months since the start of the season, though, the Rams have done something even more incredible — they've completely squandered most of the goodwill they were given and eliminated much of the progress they might have made with their new potential fan base.

You don't talk about the Rams in L.A. these days unless it's to make fun of their dysfunction.

And boy have the Rams given Angelenos a lot to talk about this week.

Eric Dickerson was the face of the Los Angeles Rams even when the Rams weren't playing in Los Angeles anymore. When the Rams returned to L.A., he was one of the voices on the local news and sports talk radio shows drumming up excitement for the team. He's not on the team payroll, but he sure was working for the Rams.

Dickerson does a two-hour radio show on an L.A. sports talk station on Mondays, and this week, the Hall of Fame running back revealed that roughly two weeks ago, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher called him and said that if Dickerson continued to be critical of the team on his show and in the media, he could stop expecting favors like sideline passes at the L.A. Coliseum. Dickerson claims Fisher told him that Rams players and coaches were uncomfortable with him being on the sidelines.

Dickerson also said he believes that Fisher was instructed to make the call by Rams executive Kevin Demoff.

The failing head coach of a mediocre team in its first year in town calling up the face of the franchise to personally ban him from the sidelines? There are a lot of creative writers in L.A., but not even they could come up with a story that good.

Fisher, for his part, was clearly puzzled in his post-practice press conference Tuesday about how his call to Dickerson has become such a big story.

Fisher did the "respect for the Hall of Famer" song and dance Tuesday, but he isn't wrong to be bewildered.

While Dickerson has the right to criticize the Rams organization for putting a lackluster product on the field and completely botching the Goff situation, the Rams, and particularly Fisher, have the right to not give him sideline passes. It's petty and small, but if Fisher doesn't want him on the sidelines because he can't handle the heat of Dickerson's criticism, he can absolutely keep him off the field. Even if it's just a power play by the coach (a great use of energy, by the way), he's not banning him from the stadium — the luxury boxes at the Coliseum are surprisingly nice.

And more than that, Dickerson hasn't exactly avoided matching that pettiness in the last 48 hours. He's done a ton of media appearances since Monday – he's as omnipresent as when it was announced the Rams were returning — and he's been nothing but self-serving. Did you know Dickerson is a Hall of Fame running back? If not, he'll let you know, repeatedly, on any kind of L.A.-based media you can find.

Dickerson knows this story will put him back in the spotlight — it's a big one.

And that's what Fisher doesn't seem to understand. There have been four big Rams stories in the last year  — things that people actually talked about around L.A., because it hasn't been the games: the team moving back, the trade for the No. 1 pick, the mishandling of Goff, and this.

You can see the downward trend.

And believe it or not, the Dickerson story is challenging to be the biggest one to date. People in L.A. can't get enough of it, and if it's not resolved soon — and there's no indication that Dickerson wants that (a sign that this whole thing might be totally contrived) — it will be the defining story of the Rams' first year in Los Angeles.

It could go down as the defining story of the Rams for longer than that.

Los Angeles could have two NFL teams soon. The Chargers have a one-year option to move to L.A. after this season and considering that the team has no prospect for a new stadium in San Diego at the moment, the chances are high that option is used. (The Chargers have already picked out the spot of their new facility in Orange County, where they say 25 percent of their current season-ticket base is located.)

The ownership might be reprehensible, but the Chargers are a competent team on the field — particularly when compared to the Rams. The Chargers have a Hall of Fame quarterback (seriously), an exciting young running back, and an offense that moves the ball with the best of 'em. And have you seen Joey Bosa play? He's spectacular.

Also, do you think the Chargers would ban Dan Fouts from the sideline of a game?

The Rams have some positives, to be fair — Aaron Donald is astounding — but there's no doubt the Chargers are the more exciting team between the two. And they might be playing in the same stadium — or at least in the same media market (the Chargers might play at the intimate 27,000-seat StubHub Center, home of the LA Galaxy) — next year.

If that comes to pass, and the Los Angeles Chargers are contending for the playoffs, as they probably should, next season, the Rams, who are probably going to be mired in the same mediocrity as 2016, are going to become something they never imagined they might become when they were handed the golden ticket of exclusivity to the L.A. market:

The Clippers of the NFL.

Dickerson might be using Fisher and the Rams as a booster seat for his media ambitions, but right now the Rams are letting him do it.

And ultimately, this is a story that stinks. It's going to be hard to wash out that stench. Add in some competition, and there's not much reason for fans to hang around the Rams. Can you become a die-hard fan in a year? Not with this team.

The California honeymoon is over for the Rams, and if they don't find a way to reverse course fast, any fans the team might have won might be looking to file for divorce in the near future.

They should have given the man his sideline passes.


Aaron Donald
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