Sean McVay is an NFL head coach in the city that makes and breaks movie stars. When he took time to consider his next step this past January and ultimately decided to return to the L.A. Rams for another run, maybe he chose to borrow a page from Hollywood’s biggest success story. Perhaps the news of the Rams reinventing the roster with major cuts like Bobby Wagner and potential trades of Jalen Ramsey, Allen Robinson, is all part of the grand master plan to become...
Tom Cruise is the most bankable movie star in the world today. Let that sink in for a moment. A 60-year-old who first became a superstar with 1986’s Top Gun, Cruise “saved theatrical movies” according to Steven Spielberg by helping create 2022’s...Top Gun 2.
It’s not just unbelievable because of Cruise’s staying power—at 60, he’s still the top action star in Hollywood and getting ready to make a movie in space (when Paul Newman was 60, he was still co-starring in movies, fittingly in The Color of Money with Tom Cruise, but he wasn’t riding as many horses)—but also because of how unlikely it was at times that he’d be accepted back into the industry.
You don’t last 40 years in Hollywood without a few comebacks and makeovers.
Despite how untouchable Cruise seemed in 2006 coming off of War of the Worlds and Mission: Impossible III as his latest two films, it only took one awkward appearance on Oprah for people to second guess his personal life and to derail the most successful movie star in the world. His career went from “Every Tom Cruise movie is supposed to be number one at the box office” to a supporting role in Lions for Lambs and Valkyrie.
Cruise’s power is the fact that people somehow continue to forget that he’s “Tom Cruise” when the movie starts and are transported to another world. When people started thinking about the “off-field concerns” instead, that crushed his power. He needed a rebuild. He needed a makeover. He needed to tear everything down about Tom Cruise and to come back reborn again.
He needed “Les Grossman”.
It’s very hard for movies to get greenlit in Hollywood. Even if you’re Ben Stiller. Despite coming off Meet the Fockers and Night at the Museum, Stiller was struggling for financing when he wanted to make Tropic Thunder. Execs love it when a movie has a bankable star like Stiller, but they also don’t forget when you make The Heartbreak Kid and Envy. Stiller doesn’t have an impeccable track record. Cruise’s is much better.
So I think it’s notable that when Cruise’s career momentarily tanked, he read Stiller’s script for Tropic Thunder and said, “I like it, but you know what it needs? Me playing a foul mouthed executive with fat hands who dances.”
I’m not making that part up. It’s what Tom Cruise said:
I said, ‘This is fun.’ I said, ‘Do you mind Ben? I want to play this character.’ I said, ‘I want to have fat hands and I want to dance. And he looked at me; he was like, what? I remember Ben and [saying] ‘No, no. Ben. I want fat hands. And I’m gonna dance.’ He said, ‘Look, are you sure? Why don’t you just be you.’ I said, ‘No, no, no. I’m sorry man. I don’t know how else to play this character.’ So then I did the makeup test and we tested the fat hands and the whole look. So, we were doing the wardrobe and there was no music and I was just like, ‘Look, I want to do some moves for you.’ So I just started working on Les. He picked the music out, he edited it together, he was just pissing himself.
Ben Stiller understandably had the response of “You’re Tom Cruise. Can you please look like Tom Cruise and allow me to put “Tom Cruise” on the poster somehow?”
But that wasn’t what Cruise needed at the time. He needed people to forget that he was Tom Cruise, he needed them to see a funny character who they couldn’t associate with “Tom Cruise, that weird guy in Scientology”, and he needed them to watch him dance because then maybe you’d think, “Oh that’s just him, he’s goofy, Oprah had it all wrong!”
Cruise’s power is that you forget that he’s Cruise. That was an impossible mission in 2008, so Cruise became unrecognizable, made you laugh, and danced. Oh my God, did he dance.
Though Cruise’s next movie was the forgettable box office flop Knight and Day, he was still “back” after a four-year break from starring in films. He then made Ghost Protocol, Jack Reacher, and Edge of Tomorrow and was truly back. Despite a few flops in between (Rock of Ages, Oblivion, The Mummy), Cruise is somehow more untouchable than ever because fans know that if you give him a chance, he will give back a franchise film that’s worth the rising price of admission.
The first 30 years of his career were what made him “Tom Cruise”. But it was that one turn as Les Grossman—the least recognizable role of his career; not just because of makeup but because he was able to make a fool of himself and become the complete opposite of a movie star to show fans that he’s willing to beg for their forgiveness...”I’ll dance for you!”—that gave him longevity that would make Tom Brady jealous.
Top Gun: Maverick is literally the biggest hit of his career. Does Sean McVay feel like he can “put on fat hands and dance” for a year just to come back shortly thereafter and deliver the Rams his magnum opus?
It would seem to make more sense than the idea that L.A. sees themselves as Super Bowl contenders next season.
The Rams are officially cutting Bobby Wagner in a week. Though Wagner is 33 and not adept at covering the entire field like he used to be, he was also L.A.’s “MVP” last season and the savings are good, but not great. The Rams will next part with Allen Robinson, that’s not something that I feel even needs to be speculative like it is with Jalen Ramsey’s probable departure; Robinson is as good as gone. That might be addition by subtraction given Robinson’s poor debut in L.A. (consider him the “Cocktail” of Les Snead’s imdB resume) but the Rams are choosing to lose money rather than seeing if more time with Matthew Stafford will fix his issues and to save money by doing so.
The team is also likely to cut Leonard Floyd, only for $3 million in savings this year, much more in 2024. Floyd has been one of the most overpaid edge rushers in the NFL over the last two seasons, but still L.A.’s only viable option at the position that we know of. And Ramsey’s departure feels like a tale all too familiar to think that it won’t end in him on another team.
Even that move only saves $5 million immediately and the Rams may be willing to accept a second round pick just to get the drama over with.
How far this breakdown of the roster will go is anyone’s guess outside of the organization. It’s perhaps even harder to understand what Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald think this will mean for their immediate futures given that none of them would seem to be guaranteed another two or three years in the NFL.
Although perhaps it’s fitting, given that all three signed contract extensions/re-dos in 2022 that have helped create this salary cap nightmare; I’d say that Stafford and Donald are “un-tradeable” because of their contracts but if the team is making these moves with Robinson and Floyd, nothing can be ruled out.
However, their presence on the Rams can be easily explained: Either they would have had to retire and lose a bunch of money or they could return and collect the checks. Stafford and Donald have openly expressed commitment to getting things right in 2023. But all three seemingly had little choice, “Les” they give up their bonuses.
McVay’s is much harder to understand on the surface. He could have made more money if he left the Rams for TV. He’s also in on “the plan” with Snead and ownership, so obviously none of these moves are coming as a surprise to him as they are hitting the players. Whatever L.A. plans to do in the next few months, McVay’s had full awareness of it.
There’s no chance that Sean McVay came back for one more 5-12 ride.
There are only two roads that make sense: He expects the team to be 5-12, but he wants to be with the Rams when they make a high draft pick in 2024. He expects the team to be 12-5.
I can’t rule out either option entirely. The Rams can still create salary cap space and given their abundance of room opened up in 2024, they can now fit players under the cap with backloaded deals again. It’s possible.
What’s more likely though is that the Rams are going to be an “all effort” team in 2023 and try to do their best with up-and-coming players. McVay had to let go of all ego—maybe giving up some playcalling duties last season was the first step towards that—and show fans that he’s “willing to dance” and make a fool of himself if it will help earn back some trust, similar to the time that he took over a 4-12 roster and made them 11-5.
Whether he will become Les Grossman next season or if he thinks he’s already past that moment, I don’t know, but this is the time to be willing to fail as long as you’re willing to try. To have left the Rams at their worst without trying to improve first, what would that have left on his resume as a legacy? You can’t jump off the couch and say, “It’s your fault for laughing at me, not mine!”
You need get off the couch and start laughing with them.
Make them forget who you are. Then remind them.