Why bad teams stay bad: Tavon Austin edition


The Los Angeles Rams signed wide receiver Tavon Austin to a massive contract, further demonstrating why they cannot seem to ever finish above .500.

Have you ever noticed that some teams simply cannot get out of their own way? One bad decision leads to another, and any momentum that might have been pushing things along is suddenly gone.

The Rams (then of St. Louis) made one of those decisions when they wasted the 8th overall pick in the 2013 draft on a wide receiver who didn’t know what a route was. Three years later the Rams (now in LA) have doubled-down on their previous error by making another one.

I’m not sure how to explain how bad of a contract this is. I’m not sure there are words in the English Language to appropriately do so.

Austin is a gimmick player. He’s not a good wide receiver. They have been forced to give his tiny frame snaps at RB simply because otherwise they can get the ball to him. He’s essentially a smaller and less-athletic version of Percy Harvin.

Austin’s routes are terrible. His hands are average. He has can’t get off the line against the press worth a damn. He’s also tiny for the NFL. (Have I mentioned that already?) The statistics bear all that out. For all his pre-draft hype, Austin simply isn’t a good player.

It is obvious where Austin’s contract numbers came from. The Rams clearly based the terms of Austin’s deal on the contracts of Doug Baldwin and Randall Cobb. I’ve included the terms of the contract in the table below so you can see for yourself.

Here’s Austin’s 2015 key stats next to those of Baldwin and Cobb. It is pretty hilarious when they’re placed side by side.

Tavon AustinDoug BaldwinRandall Cobb
Catch %59.77%75.73%61.24%
Money$42 M$46 M$40 M
Guarenteed$25.5 M$24.25 M$13 M

Yep, you ARE reading that correctly. The Rams just gave more guaranteed money to Austin for half of Doug Baldwin’s production. They gave Austin double Randall Cobb’s guarantees for about two-thirds of his production.

Even if you add in rushing yards (because hey, someone has to get those jet-sweep carries) Austin still ends up significantly behind the others in terms of overall production.

And before you ask, 2015 was Austin’s best year in the NFL by a wide margin. His other two seasons were even more disappointing. Take a look at this lovely fact I dug up from Pro Football Reference:

The Rams have now committed a sizable portion of their salary cap to an extremely replaceable player. That is the type of thing that keeps a bad team from becoming a good team. Or, as I like to say: “That’s why bad teams stay bad.”