Sometimes, one play, one moment, one decision can change everything — or maybe only a little bit. Either way, it can be fun to imagine the various timelines if one thing had gone differently. SB Nation NFL is looking at those hypotheticals, alternate universes, and made-up scenarios in our second annual “What If?” week. You can follow along with every story here.
- What if they had called pass interference on this play in Super Bowl LIII?
- What if Sam Bradford never re-injured his knee in 2014?
The 2016 NFL Scouting Combine was a turning point in the history of the Los Angeles Rams.
It was the first major event on the NFL calendar after the conclusion of the 2015 season following the approval of the relocation of the Rams back to LA. It was where General Manager Les Snead famously said that retaining the pending free agents in the secondary constituted “Priority A” (spoiler: the Rams would sign 0 of the four members to a contract extension).
And it was where the Rams fortuitously were assigned a suite at Lucas Oil Stadium next to the Tennessee Titans’ suite allowing Snead to fake trips to the restroom to meet with Titans GM Jon Robinson to hold preliminary discussions about the potential for a trade that would send the #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft from the Titans to the Rams.
Over the course of the next-month-and a-half, those talks would come to fruition when the two teams agreed on a deal that would send six picks from the Rams to the Titans for three in return that included the #1 overall pick.
The Rams, despite some dishonesty in the lead-in, ultimately selected QB Jared Goff with that pick.
What if the Rams had never traded up to #1 in the 2016 NFL Draft to take QB Jared Goff?
What if the Rams’ suite in Indy was instead next to, well, anyone else? What if the Rams hadn’t been able to make a deal happen?
It’s worth remembering that the timeline to this pick really began in earnest in 2013 when then-Rams QB Sam Bradford tore his ACL midseason. The Rams opted not to invest in a legitimate backup the following offseason; when Bradford re-injured the ACL the following preseason, the Rams were hard up at the position. The following offseason, they responded with three moves to remake the QB depth chart: trading for QB Nick Foles, trading for QB Case Keenum and drafting QB Sean Mannion. The immediate failure to make any of those options work was what led the Rams to make a deal for Goff.
Any of those milestones on the timeline could have been different and would have altered the course toward trading for Goff. Where might we be had any of them turned out otherwise?
Could Nick Foles still be the Rams’ quarterback? Could Sean Mannion have developed into a credible starter?
I often think about how current Rams Head Coach Sean McVay would have fared with the Rams’ offensive rosters in 2015 and 2016. Remember that the Rams’ 2015 offense was one of the two worst in the NFL; their 2016 offense was one of the worst of the previous 30 years in the entire NFL. Would he have been able to put together a top-16 offense with those offensive depth charts and with those offensive lines? A more capable offense likely would have scuttled the motivation to trade up for a new quarterback.
The path to trading for #1 to select Goff was a long one. Any deviation from that path would have led us to a different outcome.