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Rams can’t let playoff race cloud their judgement on long-term plan

Rams are in the thick of the NFC playoff race, but they can’t let that cloud future judgement

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Cleveland Browns v Los Angeles Rams Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams are one of eight teams who sit at 6-6 after 13 weeks. Not many expected this Rams team to be in this spot. Certainly not before the season when the team was seen as tanking and certainly not when they were 3-6 and on a three-game losing streak.

There’s little doubt that this Rams team has surprised a lot of people. Sitting at 6-6 with games against the New Orleans Saints, Washington Commanders, and New York Giants on deck, it would not be surprising at this point if they did end up making the postseason.

The Athletic’s Randy Mueller who is a former NFL executive assessed all eight 6-6 teams in the NFL and here’s what he had to say about the Rams,

“I know what the most impressive part of this Rams team is. I’m just not sure how they are doing it. Being 6-6 is one thing, but producing the other numbers above, with marginal talent in several position groups, is hard to square...I like the Rams to make the playoffs if they can keep Matthew Stafford upright. It’s as simple as that. They, like many, have to solve for their QB of the future, but they have an identity with an uptick in their run game that could benefit them for future years. They flew the flag of picks not mattering, but they have actually done a good job in the draft, and I like the out-of-the-box approaches that GM Les Snead has adopted. They are in good hands for the long haul.”

For as much as the Rams were criticized for their approach this offseason, they should be commended for how they’re handling it. Hand this roster to most organizations and the result is likely what many thought it would be. Instead, the Rams have defied the odds and have an unlikely group of players performing above expectations.

However, while it’s important to celebrate what the Rams are doing this season, it’s also important to keep in mind what they are and where they’re at in the current team-build. The Rams are ahead of schedule and that can sometimes lead to making ill-informed decisions.

A prime example of this is the New York Giants. Last season, they were seen as a team entering a 2-3 year rebuild. The Giants went 9-7-1 and made the postseason despite ranking 23rd in DVOA. There is something to be said about exceeding expectations in a rebuild or re-tooling year. With that said, it’s crucial not to let the unexpected affect the overall plan.

Prior to the beginning of the 2022 season, it was thought that Daniel Jones would end up being replaced by the current regime. Instead, they signed him to a four year, $160M contract that ties him to the Giants at least for the 2023 and 2024 seasons. If you had flipped this season’s Giants team with last year’s team, there’s little doubt that they would have made the correct decision and drafted or made a move to draft a quarterback such as CJ Stroud or Anthony Richardson. Making an emotional decision, they extended Jones despite him ranking 18th in DYAR.

The worst thing that the Rams can do is follow that example. They made that mistake in 2022 when they made an emotional decision to sign Allen Robinson to a lucrative contract as an example. They were so focused on “Run it Back” that they made decisions they may not have otherwise.

Something that Mueller said really stuck out, “They, like many, have to solve for their QB of the future.” The quarterback part of that isn’t necessarily relevant, but it hits the overall point. The Rams can’t let an unexpected good season cloud their vision when it comes to the overall plan. The plan has always been with eyes on 2024 and specifically 2025.

It’s important to remember what this season was and that is a reset. Sure, the Rams are 6-6 and fighting for a playoff spot, but that doesn’t take away from the fact of what the goal was for this season. That goal was to reset their cap and re-gather assets so that they can make a final push with Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald.

When Jason Myers’ kick went wide of the goalpost as time expired, the focus immediately shifted from top-5 pick to final wild card spot. There’s nothing wrong with that. Again it’s important, however, not to forget who they are as a team. This is still a young group that is better suited to compete for a championship in 2024 and 2025.

Using the left tackle position as an example, the Rams can’t let the last three weeks cloud their judgement on that position. While Alaric Jackson has performed better over the past few weeks, ranking eighth in run-blocking via PFF, he’s still a liability on the left side. Jackson ranks 29th in that same period in pass-blocking and ranks 50th overall out of 63 tackles for the season. It’s true that Jackson has performed better, but it’s also true that doesn’t mean they still don’t need an upgrade.

The same goes for the edge rusher position. While Michael Hoecht has played better over the last few weeks, it doesn’t necessarily mean that the Rams don’t need to upgrade there or add depth this offseason.

Winning is a good thing, but it can also have a tendency of covering up issues that are more noticeable in losses. The Rams need to be smart this offseason. Just because they may be a step further in the re-tool than they expected, Les Snead and co. can’t let that cloud their judgment moving forward.