On Wednesday, we covered ESPN’s “too early” power rankings for the 2018 season that had the Los Angeles Rams in the top 10 setting a new bar for expectations among fans but also hinting at an era with a level of success we haven’t enjoyed in a long, long time.
Some other pieces though look at the longer tail of the era beyond 2018 to wonder just how long the Rams could stretch out that success.
Over at the Ringer, Danny Kelly looked at the most stable teams in the NFL sliding the Rams into the top 10 and only ostensibly not in the top 5 due to the sheer weight of impending free agency decisions:
7. Los Angeles Rams
L.A. lost offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur to the Titans, but head coach Sean McVay’s still going to be calling plays for an offense that returns quarterback Jared Goff, running back Todd Gurley, most of the offensive line (center John Sullivan is a free agent), and its top two wideouts, Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Defensively, L.A. must lock up Aaron Donald for the long term (a no-brainer), and must address the secondary, with cornerbacks Trumaine Johnson and Nickell Robey-Coleman and safety LaMarcus Joyner all set to become free agents. The Rams were the most improved team in 2017—and the foundational pieces are there for their continued ascent into the NFC’s elite.
Personnel-wise, the Rams have a TON of work to do this offseason. Unlike last year where the Rams had nowhere to go but up (and credit to General Manager Les Snead and the rest of the front office for nailing those decisions to help the team actually make that ascent on the field), there’s much, much, much more risk this offseason. Still, the Rams are set up well nonetheless.
Longtime NFL front office leader Gil Brandt, now an NFL Media analyst, looked at which teams had the biggest Super Bowl “window”, defining it as:
The concept of a Super Bowl ”window” is somewhat fluid, given the frequency with which playoff teams -- even good ones! -- turn over from one year to the next. All it takes to throw a seemingly unstoppable juggernaut into disarray is a catastrophic injury here or a personnel misfire there. That said, I thought I’d try to examine which of the 32 teams in the NFL have the biggest identifiable Super Bowl windows -- that is, the longest period of Super Bowl contention -- from right now moving forward. Each of the teams below should be squarely in the hunt for the Lombardi Trophy for the foreseeable future, meaning at least the next two seasons. Teams are ranked from the biggest windows to the smallest.
Brandt has the Rams in fine position:
2) Los Angeles Rams
It’s hard to do much better than having the Offensive Player of the Year (Todd Gurley), Defensive Player of the Year (Aaron Donald) and Coach of the Year (Sean McVay). Los Angeles is stacked with young talent and a strong coaching staff that also includes Wade Phillips, who is always going to be put together a good defense. Quarterback Jared Goff, meanwhile, will only improve. The Rams are in a similar place to the Eagles, only Goff isn’t quite at Wentz’s level.
Not much to argue with. The Rams are young, have a great coaching combo at HC and DC and have a franchise QB to groom. As the new contract for San Francisco 49ers QB Jitzy Gartuttolo only reinforced, the 2018 season is going to largely revolve around that grooming of Goff.
Bleacher Report’s Mike Freeman helped kick that narrative into drive with a macro look at 2018 that said this about the Rams and Goff:
The challenge for them is getting Goff to play at an even higher level. We saw the Eagles pry that out of Carson Wentz (and later Nick Foles). Can the Rams do the same with Goff? If they can, look out: L.A. may be the center of the NFL universe for years to come.
That’s the real question at the heart of this though. How many years? How long will this window last?
I think there are three key factors.
Yeah, this one’s pretty obvious. Talked about it in the thread yesterday.
I don’t think it’s quite as simple as saying “So goes Goff, so go the Rams,” but there are finite limitations to the Rams’ success (or lack thereof) that will depend on Goff’s performance and growth (or lack thereof...).
2.) Competitive balance
The NFC West is quickly re-shaping itself into a very new group. The Arizona Cardinals are heading into 2018 with a new QB and a new head coach. The San Francisco 49ers are gearing up to fuel a new era of a Rams-Niners rivalry. I’m not really sure what the hell the Seattle Seahawks are, but they’re still an NFL team. Will any stand as a long-term threat in the NFC West?
It’s hard to stave off the feeling that the Seahawks’ best days are behind them coming out of 2017 and specifically out of Week 15. It’s also hard to worry too much about the Cardinals given how new they’ll look come August. Or May, really. And for all the hype for the 49ers given how they finished last year with Garparpapar, they’ll have to prove it over the course of a full season and not just in garbage time.
Always the dominant factor, much will depend on the sheer ability to stay healthy at key positions. Injuries can derail the best laid plans. Let’s hope the Rams’ good fortune on this front continues...uh, forever.
It’s hard not to be stoked for the outlook of this franchise. As all of the recent pieces above indicate, we’re set up for an extended run of success.
And by the end of 2018, we’ll likely know the full extent of just how successful the Rams can be.