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The Los Angeles Rams’ offseason fits the ambitions of the new NFL

Teams are going all in. And for good reason.

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Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles lifts the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII
Philadelphia Eagles QB Nick Foles lifts the Lombardi Trophy after winning Super Bowl LII
Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States and the largest development in New York City since Rockefeller Center. The site will include more than 18 million square feet of commercial and residential space, state-of-the-art office towers, more than 100 shops including New York’s first Neiman Marcus, and a collection of restaurants curated by Chef Thomas Keller. The urban development will include approximately 4,000 residences, The Shed, a new center for artistic invention, 14 acres of public open space, a 750-seat public school and an Equinox® branded luxury hotel with more than 200 rooms—all offering unparalleled amenities for residents, employees and guests.

The first sentence is, as first sentences tend to be, the important one.

“Hudson Yards is the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States.”

I took my wife and daughter to New York City last week. I took them there in December to take in NYC during the holidays, a thing that has been packaged and prepared for yearlong delivery but somehow takes on additional merit leading into Christmas. The tree at Rockefeller Center. Random twenty/thirtysomething people in ready-made Santa suits for the Santa Suit Run. The Saks Fifth Avenue façade and their window stories about Snow White. Rockefeller Center.

It’s...a thing. Much like the NFL offseason.

Every year, the opportunity of free agency, the spectacle of the NFL Draft and the sheer weight of the parity offered by the NFL is enough to bring every fan back into the fold. And well it all should. The last few years have shown as much.

The 2017 Los Angeles Rams turned everything around on a dime. The Buffalo Bills made the playoffs for the first time since the 1999 season. Same for the Tennessee Titans after a decade’s absence.

We’re seeing a new NFL crop up that’s built around the possibility of fixing what ails you and doing so quickly. And then striking HARD while the iron’s hot:

Thomas Dimitroff, the Atlanta Falcons general manager, sees an unmistakable shift.

“I was in the hotel lobby restaurant/bar last night and I’m seeing a lot of younger guys as head coaches and general managers, too,” Dimitroff said. “The cast is changing and the views and the cultures are, too. A lot of old perceptions are gone. It’s a win-now drive. There is nagging pull across this league to be good and get there fast.”


This is an NFL landscape where Kirk Cousins was sent packing by Washington. Where Odell Beckham Jr. trade talk bubbles. Where Dez Bryant could be booted from Dallas.

It is one where draft trades up and down in the first-round selection spots will likely unfold in dramatic ways.

This new NFL is pushing limits that in previous eras were untested. The old NFL was comfortable in its dominion. As the premier entertainment entity in the United States, teams were comfortable with the status quo. Go along to get along. It worked fine.

It’s not any longer.

Rams owner Stan Kroenke is building a small (or not small) city in and of itself in Inglewood, a project that has seen its cost escalate from an initial $2.6b cost to nearly doubling that as of now. And the entire NFL Media circuit will be moving to the project when it’s finished.

The spectacle is growing. The sport is getting more flamboyant. Teams are getting less comfortable with going along to get along.

Everyone wants to build their own Hudson Yards.

When I went to New York in December, I took my daughter to the NFL Experience in Times Square, the version of the NFL that the NFL wants you to adore, a version that takes the NFL and boils it down for hours until the pure essence of the NFL’s NFL is condensed into a commodity that is at its most garish, obnoxious and wonderful all at once.

Of course, we loved it.

And somehow when we returned to the city, it was the one thing she kept mentioning.

The NFL is still hooking eight-year olds one at a time with a product that is still growing and changing to meet the demands of a new economy in which there are far too many options at far too easy access. I don’t mean that in an Old Man Yells at Cloud way but moreso that there’s just so...much...stuff. The challenge of the new NFL isn’t to get football fans to buy in. If you’re reading this in March, you’re already in.

The challenge of the NFL is to get the next fan to pay attention. To get the fans’ neighbors and the fans’ friends and the fans’ children to pay attention. And as their own Hudson Yards is being built in Los Angeles, teams like the Rams are following suit by remaking the rules on the fly.

The Rams have added CB Aqib Talib, CB Marcus Peters and DL Ndamukong Suh to a team that won 11 games last year after going 4-12. They’ve brought those talents on to a team that had the 2017 Offensive Player of the Year and the 2017 Defensive Player of the Year and the 2017 Coach of the Year. And they’re still facing an NFC loaded with plenty of competition that doesn’t ensure any kind of success for the Rams in 2018.

I took my daughter to the biggest city in the United States and stood at the base of the largest private real estate development in the history of the United States.

She just wanted to watch football with her dad.

This NFL, and the ambition of teams like the Rams, are giving her reasons why.