It would be more than fair to have a sour taste in your mouth when it comes to the Los Angeles Rams and Sean McVay following the 2022 season. For the first time since 2016, the Rams had a losing record. On top of that, McVay was mentally checked out and seriously considered broadcasting.
Instead of making the big, splashy moves that they have typically made since moving to Los Angeles, the Rams stood pat and instead released some of their big stars. Leonard Floyd was cut along with Bobby Wagner. Jalen Ramsey was traded away to the Miami Dolphins.
The Rams didn’t do much to get better for the 2023 season and instead have a clear focus on 2024. Because of this, there are low expectations for this team heading into the season. ESPN’s Mike Clay has the Rams projected win total at 4.9. NFL.com’s Cynthia Frelund is a little higher on the Rams, projecting them at 6.9 wins. Frelund’s projection lines up more with Vegas which has set the Rams win total at 6.5.
It’s the bleakest outlook for the Rams since McVay took over.
These win totals seem to be an overreaction on the 2022 season. That overreaction is fair, but let’s not forget that the Rams were consistently one of the best teams in the NFL under McVay in the five years prior.
One thing that tends to get forgotten quite often is that coaching in the NFL matters. A good head coach can make a big difference. Good coaches typically find ways to put out competitive teams and win games. Look no further than the Seattle Seahawks last season.
After trading away Russell Wilson and cutting Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks were projected to have 5.5 wins in 2022. It was as if the media and analysts forgot that Pete Carroll had gone to the playoffs with a 35-year old Matt Hasselbeck and won a playoff game with Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback in 2010. Wilson wasn’t a top draft pick and instead was selected in the third-round. Carroll helped develop Wilson into a top quarterback in the NFL.
With Geno Smith who had been considered a draft bust and career backup, the Seahawks nearly doubled their projected win total and finished 9-8. Their season came to an end in the playoffs against the San Francisco 49ers.
Despite starting a washed up Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky, and rookie Kenny Pickett, Mike Tomlin still has never had a losing record with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
There are other examples as well where good coaching prevailed.
Very few fanbases should understand the importance of coaching than the Rams. After over a decade of losing, McVay came in during his first season and led the Rams to the playoffs. He helped revive Jared Goff’s career after a poor rookie campaign and Todd Gurley won Offensive Player of the Year in 2017. Gurley probably wins it again in 2018 if he doesn’t get hurt.
McVay is certainly in the upper echelon of NFL coaches with Carroll and Tomlin. Yet, it’s expected that the Rams have repeat of 2022.
This isn’t to say that the Rams are going to make the postseason in 2023. While coaching matters, at some point you still need talent. As it stands, it can be argued that the Rams are one of the least talented rosters in the NFL.
However, there are some projection models that have the Rams with less than five wins and a 50 percent chance at a top-10 pick. Will a Sean McVay coached team really finish with a top-10 pick in back-to-back seasons? That seems unlikely even with the current roster.
It took a historically injured offensive line along with injuries to Matthew Stafford, Cooper Kupp, and Aaron Donald for it to happen once. Will those circumstances repeat themselves? Again, it seems unlikely.
The public is very down on the Rams heading into the 2023 season and for good reason. However, don’t be surprised if the Rams do exceed expectations. The only direction for the Rams to go after last year is up. It would take an awful lot for the same set of circumstances that plagued the Rams in 2022 to repeat themselves. Sean McVay is still in charge and in the NFL, a good coach and culture can make all the difference.