The Los Angeles Rams are suffering from a case of misplaced confidence.
Yes, the offensive line is in shambles. Yes, Jared Goff has struggled. Yes, the mysterious status of Todd Gurley’s knee is causing a once soaring offense to sputter.
But those are effects of a larger cause born in the George Costanza-ism of “it’s not a lie if you believe it.”
That’s not to suggest that Sean McVay and Les Snead are being deliberately dishonest when it comes to evaluating this team in the aftermath of losses like Sunday’s toothless offensive display against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
But the rosy narrative set on paper in an offseason where the Rams brain trust largely stayed the course on offense is hollowed out week-by-week when subject to scrutiny on the field.
After Rodger Saffold left for Tennessee and Brian Allen took over for John Sullivan, the Rams projected confidence in handing the keys to a younger, less expensive group. In theory, internal improvement could be expected and keeping both bookend tackles would stabilize the transition. In practice, the Rams have dealt with injuries, extreme inconsistency and regression from Andrew Whitworth and Rob Havenstein that has rendered every piece of McVay’s offensive approach broken.
After Todd Gurley’s knee was revealed to have an “arthritic component,” the Rams spent a top-100 pick on a talented running back in Darrell Henderson, kept Malcolm Brown as an insurance policy and stuck steadfast to managing Gurley’s health. In theory, this would allow them to preserve Gurley for a deep playoff run, add layers to an already strong run game and keep balance in an offense that relies heavily on run success establishing the pass. In practice, Gurley’s status is murkier now than ever, none of the running backs have established any semblance of rhythm and the play action identity has been nonexistent.
After Jared Goff led this team to the precipice of a Super Bowl title last season and helmed an electric offense, the Rams committed to him long-term and signed him to a huge money extension. In theory, this reset the quarterback market in the team’s favor, ensured stability at the game’s most important position and gave McVay a sure answer under center. In reality, Goff has not elevated his game to compensate for the offensive line’s struggles or Gurley’s lack of presence, has turned the ball over on bizarre fumbles and interceptions, and looks to be lagging far behind his 2018 form.
These problems are all intertwined and compounding, but the root is a misplaced confidence in continuity. That early extensions for Goff and Gurley were the absolute correct move when the team could have capitalized on flexibility and time. That first round picks traded in “win now mode” are justifiable on a team now obviously aching for depth. That coaching and internal improvement can paper over cracks, imperfections and inefficiencies.
Staring at a 5-4 record in an NFC West division that is rapidly accelerating past Los Angeles, the time to reevaluate and reset may have already passed for 2019.
That mirror in the offseason that reflected back nothing but confidence is cracked – and depending on your perspective – shattered altogether.