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L.A. Rams: McVay The Builder?

Los Angeles Rams Introduce Sean McVay - News Conference Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images

Team needs for the Los Angeles Rams aren’t hard to spot. The methods of attaining what this NFL franchise are going to be interesting to watch unfold in 2017. The rub here, is how team general manager Les Snead and new head coach Sean McVay will mesh with L.A. circumstance. Every Rams fan may assume there’s a single - and immediate - purpose heading into the 2017 NFL season: Winning games.

Yet, taking a broader view may be worth a peek. The Los Angeles market is about to be split between two NFL teams: The Rams, and the now, Los Angeles Chargers. I have little doubt there’s machinations-o’-plenty for Stan Kroenke and Dean Spanos - the owners of the respective teams - to ponder going forward. In a rich man’s chess game, the Los Angeles market represents a race for a mother-lode measured in the $$billions.

Kroenke has more riding on winning the L.A. sports-fan-hoards right now than Spanos. The Chargers owner shocked many by moving north into a small stadium, as he bides his time for the incredible Kroenke facility to be finished. Personally, I think Spanos played this perfectly. His concept is simple: get a toe in the market, and accept smaller crowds in stadium seats. All the while, he’ll bank on his team being closer to being a winner than Kroenke’s. To be honest, I think this is true at the moment. He’s going to let fans leak his way, and live off the NFL TV contract money - which means far more than game day attendance income. He may even be banking on - what many feel - the future rising trend toward larger stadiums one day becoming obsolete, with online streaming lending some interesting possibilities down the line. Let’s face it, the cost of attending an NFL game has risen beyond what most fans can afford...

Forgive the long winded tangent. The idea here, is to try and glean the mission ahead for the Rams, and to do so throwing the Chargers in the mix represents a valid component. If - and I stress the IF - winning now - or at the very least “holding the line” - is the leading edge of Kroenke’s concerns, following a traditional approach of building through the NFL draft becomes more tenuous. What’s more, it increases pressure on Snead, McVay, and young players like Jared Goff and Todd Gurley.

What led me in this rather obscure direction, is the Rams seeming sudden attraction for former USC stars in free agency. Battered by less than spectacular NFL career starts thus far, bringing them back to the L.A. home crowd isn’t a bad marketing plan. Still, if the Rams are trying to squeeze out any remaining promise from the Jeff Fisher built roster, they have to find a way to stave off having a season like 2016.

McVay is the wildcard here. Long a source of frustration for Rams fans, the team’s offense has more portent than dread heading into 2017. This offense should have a different look, regardless of player talent at suspect positions. I don’t think it will be as flashy as some, but it will be fast-paced. All eyes will be on Les Snead when the NFL Draft comes around. The lack of a 1st round pick looms large, and Snead was a part of dealing it away. Rumors floating about that Fisher pushed hard for Goff over Snead’s doubts don’t really hold water for me. In fact, I don’t think Jeff Fisher or Snead were all that excited about taking a quarterback, or giving up all the team’s draft day capital. I’d put my money on a directive coming from Stan Kroenke for the team to “make a splash.”

Not unlike the scene from the movie “Draft Day,” where Browns owner Frank Langella tells Kevin Costner, the L.A. Rams needed to make some kind of statement to keep fans and sports media interested. How McVay will spin what’s been left behind from Jeff Fisher, to a team worthy of keeping the L.A. market in play for Stan Kroenke is anyone’s guess?

In the coming 2017 NFL Draft, hitting on key position choices will be a linch-pin going forward for Les Snead. Without the “Rams normal” draft day riches he’s become accustom to, the later rounds will tell an interesting tale. Will Snead and McVay be able to hold-pat at corner back in defensive coordinator Wade Phillips scheme? Can they make the offensive line strong enough with aging free agent acquisitions Andre Whitworth and John Sullivan? To me, this seems more attempt at building a dam to stop the leaking, than pressing forward towards a post season berth...

Given all this, what possible reason could the Rams have for not trying to vastly improve over their 2016 record? I can’t really think of any off hand, but the off season moves by Snead and McVay thus far haven’t really inspired me to dream big for L.A. Rams, and the 2017 NFL season...