When the Los Angeles Rams traded Jared Goff and two first round picks for Matthew Stafford in early 2021, the reaction from most fans was something akin to “Why?”
The trade implied that the Rams felt they were one quarterback upgrade away from the Super Bowl and been okay-not-great since losing the Super Bowl two years earlier to the New England Patriots. Many fans of other teams felt that it was just a desperate move for a franchise that had traded up for Goff, overpaid Todd Gurley, and disrespectful of first round draft picks.
Therefore, it must have stung all the more for those fans to watch the L.A. Rams win the damn Super Bowl in their own damn stadium a year after the Stafford deal.
I’m still a bit shocked that the Rams were as bad as they were in their attempt to run it back. Even before injuries piled up in the second half, L.A. was in no shape to make a run for the Super Bowl. The team that brought back Stafford, Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Jalen Ramsey never appeared like one that could have competed against the likes of the deep and talented Philadelphia Eagles.
The Rams were 2-3 after five games and 3-9 after 12 games. L.A. was 3-6 with Stafford and 3-6 when Kupp was on the field. I felt that the Rams had good odds to get back to the Super Bowl but even their best selves would have done no better than a quick playoff exit in the wild card round.
With the Eagles now days away from attempting to capture their second Super Bowl championship since 2017 against a Chiefs team looking to win for the second time in the last four, it’s a chance for us all to reflect on the year that was for the defending champions.
The Rams are still the defending champs. For a few more days.
So I’m asking you to tell me what you will remember most from the day after the Super Bowl to today: The celebrations, free agency, the draft, coaching changes, injuries, heart ache, and a few good times. Yes, there were good times.
For me, I’ll always remember Baker Mayfield.
Apart from the final records and how the seasons ended in such different ways, many of the players from 2021 to 2022 were the same. Sean McVay was the same. Stafford, Kupp, Donald, Ramsey. But what separates 2021 in many ways was the surprising presence of Von Miller and OBJ.
Therefore, what separates 2022 is the even more shocking appearance of Baker Mayfield in a Rams jersey.
Mayfield is also in many ways a microcosm of the season: He represents the injuries, the rollercoaster ride of thrilling or complete wins over the Raiders and Broncos, but also the low-lows of L.A.’s many blowout losses in 2022. More than anything though, Mayfield represents the final desperate acts of a league that scheduled the Rams for premiere contests against the Chiefs, Raiders, Packers, Broncos, and Chargers, only to have the defending Super Bowl champions fall apart.
What else did we have to watch on Thursday Night Football against Las Vegas, Monday night against Green Bay, or Christmas Day against Denver if not this random and unprecedented appearance of a former number one overall pick at quarterback filling in for not one, not two, but three players who all either went down with injury or were benched for poor play?
Baker Mayfield gave Rams fans something to follow and the NFL had to scramble to figure out what that would be after the team was stripped down to bare bones in December and January. And at times, Mayfield perfectly delivered.
I also asked the Turf Show Times staff what they will remember about the last 12 months and here are some of their answers.
Really just injuries. The Super Bowl was awesome, and it really carried me through this season as the team struggled with so many unfortunate events.
- Cliff Jackson
I’ll remember how difficult it is to end up as the sole team remaining as Super Bowl Champions. The Rams reloaded and expected to compete in back to back years, but the NFL is a league of parity and is always going to try and pull you back towards average. It’s not usually the best team overall that wins championships, it’s the best team left after attrition sets in. Most years you will be on the wrong side of that.
- JB Scott
What I’ll remember on the negative end is injuries galore, hampering any hope at a repeat. Also, Allen Robinson being a major bust as well. On the bright side, Bobby Wagner was a wise investment and Tutu Atwell might have a place in this offense after all.
- Evan Craig
I will remember a team that stuck together despite a laundry list of obstacles facing them during the regular season. The Rams did not not have any sideline headlines of players yelling or fighting each other despite a season that was not up to the lofty “run-it-back” expectations set during LA’s championship parade. A part from some drama surrounding Cam Akers, Sean McVay’s culture stayed intact. While so many others teams may have crumbled, the Ram’s organization has proven resilient and has set itself up for another run at it next year.
- Dylan Deines