Super Bowl LIII is this Sunday and it a nightmare of a matchup for football fans in St. Louis. It is the Los Angeles Rams against the NFL evil empire New England Patriots. It is either root for the team that ditched town three years ago or root for the habitual cheaters of the NFL who started their reign of cheating against the St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI 18 years ago. Take your pick.
But all throughout the 2019 NFL playoffs I have been hearing in the national sports media how miraculous it is that the Rams went from being a cellar dweller in the NFL standings for years to now one of the top teams in the league and a Super Bowl contender. You can flip to any NFL talk show on ESPN, Fox, CBS, anywhere and they are all saying it. I am just dumbfounded at this. We are really sitting here acting like this turnaround is a surprise?
Sean McVay is being heralded as a coaching prodigy and now teams are trying to copy the McVay effect, hoping to have a similar result (i.e. the Arizona Cardinals and Kliff Kingsbury). Now look, I truly do believe McVay is a fantastic coach and will be a mainstay with the team for years. However, he is being credited with the turnaround of the Rams “from a team that went 4-12 two seasons ago and has now won two division titles and is in the Super Bowl two seasons later.”
Are you serious? Stan Kroenke hired a coach in Jeff Fisher in St. Louis back in 2012 to LITERALLY drive the team into the ground to make sure they would not be successful. When the Rams hired Fisher, they told him of the plans to move and that they did not want the team to be very good, that way fans in the stands would continually decrease. When the Rams got to LA, they could have literally hired any coach besides McVay in the coaching pool and would have been successful. When your job is to literally NOT drive the team you are coaching into the ground like the previous coach, you are bound to have success in that situation.
Let’s talk about the players. The Rams tried to stick with injury prone quarterback Sam Bradford for years, meaning most years the majority of Rams games were started by guys like Kellen Clemens, A.J. Feeley, and Shaun Hill. They got to LA and decided to actually make a big move by acquiring the number one pick in the draft to select the best available quarterback, Jared Goff. A number one overall drafted QB made the offense better? Could not have seen that coming.
Remember those elite receivers they had in St. Louis? Guys like Brian Quick, Chris Givens, Brandon Gibson, Austin Pettis, Tavon Austin, etc.? Oh right. None of them are on the Rams anymore. Of that list only one of them is still in the NFL, being Tavon Austin who if not for his kick return ability, probably would not be in the league either. But remember the actually good receivers the Rams had like Danny Amendola and Brandon Lloyd? Oh right, the Rams let both of them get away in free agency. Oh, so you mean trading for a receiver like Brandin Cooks, signing a quality receiver in Robert Woods, and drafting one of the best collegiate receivers in Cooper Kupp actually made the offense better? Wow! I would have never guessed.
But what about the great running backs the Rams drafted and used in the backfield for years. Guys like Zac Stacy, Tre Mason, Darryl Richardson, Isaiah Pead, etc. Oh right, neither of those four are in the NFL anymore either. The Rams did draft Todd Gurley in their final season in St. Louis but he was not a staple in the backfield until after the fourth game of the season. But you mean an RB drafted tenth overall and who was one of the best RB’s in SEC history developed into one of the best running backs in the league? No way.
So, wait. The Rams did not have great quarterbacks or quality skill position players. At least they were solid up front on the offensive line, right? Oh yes. Throughout the years they selected guys such as Alex Barron with the 19th pick, Jason Smith with the second overall pick in the draft, and Greg Robinson with the second overall pick as well. Those guys were great right, having been selected that high right? Nope, every single one of them were busts. So, they were not good at drafting OL, that at least means they spent big money in free agency to get quality OL and protect the QB and RB’s right? No sir. They would draft linemen in the 5th round and beyond and throw them into the fire immediately. Or they signed guys like Jake Long and Harvey Dahl who were good OL back in the day, but by the point they were signed were already past their primes and injury ridden. So, you mean signing an All-Pro left tackle in Andrew Whitworth and quality veteran center John Sullivan helped stabilize the offensive line? Who would have known?
I think you get the point I am making. When you actually spend money and/or trade for quality players, your team is going to get better. The St. Louis Rams front office never was willing to spend money or give up draft picks for guys such as a Ndamukong Suh, Aqib Talib, or Marcus Peters either. All part of the master plan, I guess. But look, I still root for some of the STL era players like Aaron Donald, Gurley, Michael Brockers, special team gurus Johnny Hekker and Greg Zuerlein and the like. But for the national media and sports personalities to act like this Rams turnaround is miraculous or something out of the blue, it is just asinine. They hired Jeff Fisher to literally keep driving the team down and refused to allow GM Les Snead to spend money or draft picks for good players.
They get to LA and then get a new coach, and then they go out and sign and trade for big time players and all of a sudden, they are in the Super Bowl. This is not a coincidence. This is how it was always supposed to go. This should not be a surprise to anyone. It is just ridiculous. You could have put a 15-year-old kid who is an expert at Madden as GM of the Rams once they got to Los Angeles and they could have literally turned around the team in a near similar fashion. This was not a hard process.