The Los Angeles Rams are only 14 months away from winning the Super Bowl in thanks to a bold strategy by Les Snead, Kevin Demoff, and Sean McVay to trade first round picks for star players, including Jalen Ramsey and Matthew Stafford. But the Rams are only two months separated from being one of the worst teams in the NFL and they are paying the piper this offseason, parting with virtually ever member of that roster who they’ve been able to part with, including Ramsey.
Should Snead and company continue on this path and look even more deconstructed by Week 1, accusations of “tanking” will be widespread and often criticized. But not by me.
And not by most of you.
If the Rams could be trusted to go against conventional wisdom to win a Super Bowl in the face of criticism once, why not go the other way and try to do it again? This time with the intention to get high draft picks and then actually use them on blue chip prospects, perhaps as early as 2024.
I ran a poll asking Rams fans what would be preferable if you had to choose between these two outcomes: An 8-9 record in 2023 or a 2-15 record in 2023? The answer was resounding.
Almost two-thirds of respondents, 65-percent, voted that a 2-15 record would be better for the Rams than going 8-9. Last season’s worst record belonged to the Chicago Bears at 3-14, so 2-15 stands good odds to land the number one pick and right now almost everybody agrees that will be USC quarterback Caleb Williams.
He won’t even have to move.
The Bears were able to use the number one pick to trade down with the Carolina Panthers for pick nine, a 2024 first round pick, and receiver D.J. Moore among other things. The key being that Chicago still gets a good prospect this year, has two first round picks next year, and gets a receiver for their hopes to bring Justin Fields to another level as a passer.
L.A. has many needs. In another poll this week, 55% of Rams fans voted that the cornerbacks group is among the bottom-three of their position group in the NFC after trading Ramsey for just a third round pick and a backup tight end. Apart from Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp, it will be interesting to see where you vote the Rams’ other position groups and that’s assuming that L.A. is done with their roster deconstruction.
The term “tanking” has negative connotations. Many fans associate the word with intentionally losing games on Sundays. It doesn’t work that way. Players have everything to fight for and that’s why the Houston Texans are picking second instead of first. Coaches have nothing to lose, although McVay probably returned this year because he’s guaranteed to be a part of the long-term vision no matter what happens in 2023.
Everybody that’s a part of the Rams next season will try to win every game. That’s not what “tanking” means. It’s not how hard the team will try that matters; it’s who is on the team that matters. That’s the question that leads many to believe that even if L.A. wanted to create a competitive roster this year, they couldn’t and they haven’t.