Rams executive excited, optimistic about 2017
It’s become something of a ritual each time Kevin Demoff boards a flight bound for LAX.
The Rams’ chief operating officer and executive vice president for football operations asks the pilot if he knows on which runway the plane will land, the better to situate himself for a birds-eye view of construction progress on the $2.6 billion Inglewood stadium due to open in 2019.
Demoff estimated that he has been on more than two dozen flights since last November’s groundbreaking.
“We’re at the site about once a week but it’s a way to check it from the air,” Demoff said Monday during an interview at the NFL’s owners meetings. “You feel like a little kid at times. … It’s a great site to see. It’s a work in progress.”
So, it appears, is a Rams team coming off a 4-12 season.
The Rams hired a new coach, Sean McVay, to turn around a franchise that ranked last in the NFL in offense the last two seasons and has not made the playoffs since 2004.
Without the uncertainties and distractions of relocation that the franchise navigated last season, Demoff said he was confident the Rams would show improvement in 2017.
“We had a successful year off the field in Year One — obviously, we’d like more success on the field,” Demoff said. “Now you can really be focused on that element rather than on the logistics of relocation.
“It’s been all football and I think the team will benefit from that.”
The Rams have signed six free agents — including former USC receiver Robert Woods and veteran left tackle Andrew Whitworth — and they are expected to make more moves before training camp begins this summer.
During his introductory news conference, Whitworth said the team has “all the talent that it needs. We just need to get things going in the right direction, and play good football.”
But the Rams have holes — at receiver, tight end and center among others — that must be addressed through the next month’s draft or other free-agent moves.
Last year’s trade that enabled the Rams to select quarterback Jared Goff at No. 1 overall cost them a first-round pick in this year’s draft. But they have at least one pick in each of the next six rounds and extra picks in the fourth and sixth rounds.
The new coaches and players, Demoff said, should improve the product on the field.
Fans can only hope.
In 2016, the Rams said they sold 70,000 season tickets at the Coliseum, their home for the next two seasons as well.
The Rams won only once in seven games at the stadium, and by the end of the season there were canyons of empty seats.
Demoff said the Rams have “no concerns over our season-ticket base” and that he was looking forward to “starting the process of converting current season ticket-holders and those that are on the wait list into the new stadium,” which is scheduled to open in 2019 and will be shared by the Chargers.
“I expect later this year, we’ll start to get into the [personal-seat license] specifics or whatever program we decide to use,” he said.
The Rams this month announced a modification of their home uniforms – they will wear blue helmets with white horns and incorporate a blue stripe on their white pants – but there will be no other changes in the next two seasons.
The franchise remains pointed toward a rebrand in 2019, and the Rams have begun to work with the NFL and Nike on a new uniform, Demoff said.
“We’ve had a few focus groups with fans and we’ll continue to do that,” he said.
In the background, stadium construction at the Hollywood Park site continues. The large hole in the ground has been dug and construction cranes have been installed.
Demoff will get another aerial look at the site when he returns to Los Angeles later this week.
“It’s only going continue to get better and more exciting,” he said.
And the team?
“This team has to be in a continual state of improvement — on and off the field,” he said. “We have a year’s worth of feedback now.
“I think we’re all excited to take advantage of that.”
Follow Gary Klein on Twitter @latimesklein
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