ST. LOUIS — The St. Louis Rams fired coach Steve Spagnuolo and general manager Billy Devaney on Monday, a day after the team wrapped up a 2-14 season tied for the NFL's worst.
The Rams made a six-win improvement last season and played for the NFC West title in the finale, but were just 10-38 overall in three seasons with Spagnuolo and Devaney calling the shots. Devaney joined the front office in 2008, but in his four years as GM, the Rams were 12-52.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke fired both men with one year remaining on their contracts, and with fan interest dwindling. The Edward Jones Dome was been about half-filled much of the year.
"No one individual is to blame for this disappointing season and we all must hold ourselves accountable," Kroenke said in a statement issued by the Rams. "However, we believe it's in the best interest of the St. Louis Rams to make these changes as we continue our quest to build a team that consistently competes for playoffs and championships."
Next April, the Rams will have the second pick of the draft, the fourth time in five seasons with No. 1 or 2 selection. The premium picks, including quarterback Sam Bradford, have not been enough to make up the frequent miscues and a puny offense run by first-year coordinator Josh McDaniels.
Names of potential replacements for Spagnuolo began to surface weeks ago as the season unraveled, with Jon Gruden and Jeff Fisher linked as naturals given their relationships with chief operating officer Kevin Demoff and agent Marvin Demoff. Other coaches already fired this season included: Todd Haley in Kansas City, Tony Sparano in Miami and Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville.
Spagnuolo was criticized for devoting too much time to the cosmetics of the job. He pushed for a $1 million renovation of the stadium locker room the team uses 10 times a year, and surrounded himself with a new trainer, public relations head, building operations manager and equipment manager.
Spagnuolo was considered a defensive whiz after an impressive performance by the Giants in a Super Bowl upset of the unbeaten Patriots in 2008, and got a four-year contract for his first head coaching job. The Rams were 1-15 in 2009 while undertaking a massive overhaul, then made a six-victory improvement in 2010, and entered this season viewed as NFC West contenders.
Instead, they were swamped by a difficult schedule, losing their first six in a row, and also by injuries at quarterback, the secondary and the offensive line.
"It's been one of those type of years where it seemed like everything bad that could have happened, happened," safety Quintin Mikell said.
Players stuck with the relentlessly upbeat Spagnuolo, who never singled out anyone for criticism, and believe they're not far away from another turnaround.
"Honestly, I think the foundation is here," running back Steven Jackson said.
Defensive end Chris Long, among the league leaders with 13 sacks, said the 49ers' quick turnaround can serve as inspiration. San Francisco made a seven-victory jump and is the No. 2 playoff seed in the NFC after going 13-3, including a season-ending win in St. Louis.
"You're never as far away as you think in this league," Long said. "It's super competitive. They came out of nowhere and now they're in the playoffs and have a shot."
Devaney loaded up with free agents last summer in an effort to augment a team that was in the division race to the end but had too many misses.
The offense was the NFL's worst, with or without Bradford. The defense was the NFL's worst against the run, threatening the franchise record for yards allowed. A pair of special teams failures were devastating, a blocked field goal on the potential game-winner and a 99-yard punt return, in an overtime loss at Arizona.
The Rams put everything together once for a 31-21 upset over the 13-win Saints, even with backup A.J. Feeley calling the signals. Jackson became the seventh player in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards in seven straight seasons despite the personnel upheaval, and Long and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis also had good years.
But the team's depth was tested immediately when leading wide receiver Danny Amendola and top cornerback Ron Bartell were lost for the year in a season-opening loss to the Eagles.
"We've got a lot of guys that unfortunately were banged up," Laurinaitis said. "I think a full offseason together will help. I don't think 2-14 reflects this team if everyone is healthy. We'll see."