EARTH CITY, Mo. -- After a series of close calls and blown opportunities that led to a 6-10 season, St. Louis Rams general manager Les Snead still finds himself waking up in the middle of the night thinking about what could have been.
"I'll be honest, there'll be many nights that a lot of people in this building, especially myself, I'll wake up and lose sleep," Snead said. "Hey, I have replays in my mind."
Snead proceeds to tick them off like items on a grocery list. The 21-0 lead that vanished into thin air against the Dallas Cowboys. The last-second interception in San Diego with the Rams on the verge of a game-winning touchdown. The near-comeback in Philadelphia that came up just short. Having the ball with a chance to win on the final possession of a six-point game against the Arizona Cardinals.
To name just a few.
"All of those things could have gone the other way so you're going to lose sleep over that," Snead said.
As one of the people tasked with the rebuilding project that began in 2012, Snead has been part of an ongoing process that's seen the Rams rise from the bottom of the NFL barrel to somewhere in the middle. Undoubtedly, a pair of seven-win seasons and even a disappointing six-victory performance in 2014 represent progress over a team that averaged three wins per season in the five years preceding Snead and coach Jeff Fisher's arrival.
"I think what we did do was move the needle to respectability," Snead said. "I think there''s more than hope and that's the progress that was made."
It's also simply not good enough and as the fourth year of the Snead and Fisher era comes, it's fair to wonder if that duo can elevate the Rams to the next level, the level of contender that actually matters.
Heading into the offseason, Snead faces one of the most difficult tasks of his time in St. Louis, namely he and Fisher have repair the Rams' quarterback situation, a question for which there is no obvious answer. The plan as it stands is to bring back Sam Bradford and find a legitimate option from outside the building.
It's a plan that would have made more sense last year when the Rams still had extra picks from the trade with the Washington Redskins and faced a similar situation with Bradford coming off injury. That's just one of the things on an offseason checklist that figures to be offense heavy and also includes yet another reconstruction of the offensive line.
As Snead and the Rams head toward that offseason, they must attack it like a group that's running out of time.
"It makes you angry," Snead said. "I always say it's good to be angry because that means there's something to be angry about. It's not despair, it's not 'Hey, we're an aging team now and we were in a window and now we're leaving it.' For us to fight back like we did out of the holeb it was fun to see those guys do it. I know we're in a results business and the final math means something but to see a young group of kids going through some adversity and to fight back is kind of rewarding. It's kind of what you live for, instead of just waking up and looking at the math."
Ultimately, it's the math that matters most, which makes this the most important offseason of Snead and Fisher's tenure in St. Louis.