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What was Rams’ biggest misstep in 2020 offseason?

And what should they learn from it?

Chicago Bears v Los Angeles Rams

I actually think the LA Rams had a successful 2020 offseason given their lack of options in free agency and the draft. For the Rams to improve their win-loss record and make it to the NFC’s “final four” despite not having a first round pick or much salary cap space to retain a number of key starters who left in free agency, Les Snead and Sean McVay deserve credit for finding a way to the divisional round.

But they also take blame for not finding a way to the Super Bowl.

What were LA’s most significant missteps in 2020 and what should they have learned from it when it comes to the 2021 offseason ahead?

No backup or succession plan at quarterback

Unless you choose to believe that McVay really believes in John Wolford, then the Rams essentially said “No, thank you” and “Not an issue” when it came to securing a fallback option should Jared Goff get injured or fail to rebound from his 2019 season.

He failed to rebound, and then he got hurt. The Rams may have felt comfortable with starting Goff against the Packers in the divisional round, but they had little choice anyway. McVay was forced to start Goff and his broken thumb in Green Bay and that was in part impacted by the decision to leave “well enough alone” at QB.

Now, unless the Rams wanted to make it clear that Goff’s time was finished and sign Tom Brady or Philip Rivers, there weren’t many notable options on the free agent or trade market. However, they did have one decision to make when it came to the future at quarterback and it’s hard to fault them for it, but it was a decision nonetheless:

The Rams drafted Cam Akers one spot ahead of quarterback Jalen Hurts.

Regardless of how you feel about Hurts as a prospect or the season he just had (not even Philadelphia is comfortable with the idea of Hurts being the starter next year, it would seem), it was still Snead’s choice to either take Akers or somebody else. We can’t even say for sure that LA wouldn’t have taken Hurts at 57, were he still available.

But that is not a decision that fans will call “obvious” if it comes down to a similar scenario in the 2021 NFL Draft. What if the Rams are on the board at 57 and there’s an available quarterback who seems a fit?

I wouldn’t say that the late second round is even a good spot for a quarterback, few mid-to-late second round quarterbacks have had notable careers, but that could be LA’s best chance at getting a backup who has upside that they can actually afford.

That is assuming that the Rams haven’t already made a change at quarterback or brought in serious competition before then.

A “minor league kickers” competition

I think we can understand why the Rams didn’t spend $5 million on a kicker, but it was a “You get what you pay for” competition between Sam Sloman, Lirim Hajrullahu, and Austin MacGinnis. Sloman “won” but was cut after Week 7. Oddly enough, he returned for the Titans in Week 17 and went 5-of-5 in extra points, 2-of-2 on field goals.

But nobody else even called up Hajrullahu or MacGinnis for trials.

Eventually the team went with Matt Gay and seemed immediately comfortable with him, which leads to the question, “Well, then what was the competition for?”

Not keeping or replacing Cory Littleton

I can sense people laughing off the idea of the Rams re-signing Littleton based on the 2020 he just had with the Raiders, but let’s not ignore the impact that he had in Los Angeles or the fact that they could have still chosen to keep Littleton if they had made some other sacrifices.

Even if you really liked what Floyd did for the Rams last season, and his value is certainly up for debate, he’s most likely going to be playing for another team (I’m guessing: the Chargers) in 2021.

And the Rams will still have multiple holes at linebacker to fill.

Instead, the team pinned its hopes on Travin Howard, Micah Kiser, and Troy Reeder and while the latter two players had some good days, it was a predictably mixed bag for a unit that might have the greatest needs in the 2021 offseason.

Drafting another clone of Robert Woods

What I’ve gathered from you in our TST Reverse Q&As is that the problem with Van Jefferson isn’t necessarily his lack of rookie production (though in a sea of talented first-year wideouts, that is unfortunate) but the fact that he looks and plays too much like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Why didn’t the Rams go out and get somebody more like Brandin Cooks or Sammy Watkins?

Chase Claypool was in reach of a small trade up. Denzel Mims was on the board. Quality players have emerged from day three also.

Instead, the Rams picked Jefferson — the oldest receiver in the draft — presumably because he’d be as “pro ready” as any rookie during the most unpredictable and unusual offseason in league history.

Not only are the Rams moving forward with Jefferson as their number three option, but they extended both Woods and Kupp for unknown reasons and will again be forced to make the offense work with much of the same personnel that they’ve had in 2019 and 2020 — with undesirable results.

I’m not against Woods and Kupp as starting receivers, but then I look at the Bills and think that the Rams are still missing the “Stefon Diggs” option and that’s one hell of a piece to be without.

Was Kevin O’Connell the right choice for offensive coordinator — OR — should McVay have given up more control of gameday duties?

I’m not calling out O’Connell as being “the wrong choice” and I realize that LA’s offensive coordinator position doesn’t have the same responsibilities as most, but most will probably choose to overlook what should be an obvious question:

If Matt LaFleur and Zac Taylor were valuable offensive coaches who helped the Rams succeed, and if the Rams haven’t had as much success in the last two years, then would it stand to reason to think that they might not be as potent if they didn’t replace those coaches with similar value?

I don’t think of coaches as blank sponges who do nothing for teams, only to carry over what lessons they learned from their previous head coach. That’s kind of a simple and rudimentary way to look at the world, isn’t it? I also think that Sean McVay and Jared Goff not only learned from those coaches too, but that they helped them prepare for games week-to-week.

We know that McVay chose O’Connell in some part because of their connection to Jay Gruden in Washington. Did that close his eyes any to some other coaching options out there who have been, or soon will be, hired as offensive coordinators and head coaches?

I have nothing bad to say about Kevin O’Connell. (I will rarely have anything that positive or negative to say about a coordinator or assistant coach ever, for what that’s worth. Not enough is known about their actual impact.) But I have plenty of criticisms for the Rams 2019 and 2020 offenses.

No matter who holds the “offensive coordinator” title, McVay must answer as to why the offense hasn’t been as dangerous. Knowing how desirable it is to work for McVay these days, did the Rams miss any opportunities to swoop up a talented assistant on the market?

On another note, what if O’Connell is the right choice for OC, but McVay hasn’t given up enough control of that job over the last two years?

That’s a question for 2021.

Poll

What was Rams biggest misstep in 2020 offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 24%
    No QB search
    (172 votes)
  • 16%
    Bad kicker comp
    (120 votes)
  • 20%
    Left ILB alone
    (143 votes)
  • 16%
    Wrong WR pick
    (116 votes)
  • 11%
    Different OC/more OC control
    (85 votes)
  • 10%
    OTHER
    (73 votes)
709 votes total Vote Now