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Will Rams bounce back from Super Bowl slump or continue downward fall?

Are the Rams set up to bounce back or head in a downward spiral?

Los Angeles Rams v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steph Chambers/Getty Images

The Los Angeles Rams 2022 season didn't go quite as planned. Following a Super Bowl victory, Los Angeles finished 5-12 and became arguably the worst defending champion in the history of the NFL.

Now, the Rams are looking ahead to 2023 and with the moves that they’ve made, you could make the case that they’re actually looking ahead to 2024 and 2025. Heading into the year, many media outlets have predicted the Rams to pick inside the top-5 and to have one of the worst rosters.

For this to happen, it would be another unprecedented milestone that the Rams have hit. While teams and rosters in the NFL do change quite regularly, it’s very rare for a team to win the Super Bowl and then pick in the top-5 two years later. However, no team had gone 5-12 just one year after winning the Super Bowl either.

In the history of the NFL, only 17 teams have completely missed the playoffs the year after winning the Super Bowl. Much like those other 16 teams, the Rams currently sit at a crossroad. Do they try and get back to competing for championships immediate, or do they tear it down and build a new foundation?

The Rams need to decide if the entire house of cards was knocked over and needs rebuilt or whether the foundation is still standing upright and the cards just need put back into place.

Out of the previous 16 teams to miss the playoffs following their Super Bowl win, exactly half of them failed to make the postseason again the next year. Only four of those teams finished with a worse record than they did the first year of missing the playoffs.

The history is exactly 50-50 when it comes to team making the postseason the year after missing the playoffs following their Super Bowl win. This is almost a perfect representation of being at a crossroad.

When discussing the worst defending Super Bowl champions in NFL history, the 2013 Baltimore Ravens immediately come to mind. They finished 8-8, but were back in the postseason the following year, making it to the divisional round.

Meanwhile, teams like the San Francisco 49ers in the 1980s followed up their Super Bowl season by going 3-6. They were back in the NFC Championship game the next season. The New England Patriots won the Super Bowl after missing the playoffs and the Pittsburgh Steelers played in the Super Bowl in 2009 despite not making the postseason in 2008.

It is worth noting that out of the eight teams that missed the playoffs a second straight time, five returned after two years. After winning the Super Bowl in the 1979 season, the Steelers missed the playoffs in 1980 and 1981. They returned in 1982, losing in the first round. While that group didn’t win another Super Bowl, they made three consecutive playoff appearances.

A team like the New York Giants in the late 1980s might be a similar timeline that the Rams take. The Giants missed the playoffs in 1987 and 1988 after beating the Denver Broncos. In 1988, they finished 10-6, but that wasn’t good enough to make the postseason. They returned in 1989, losing in the divisional round before making it back to the Super Bowl and upsetting the Buffalo Bills in 1990.

Washington did the same thing, missed the playoffs twice before returning to the postseason and then winning four years later in 1991.

That leaves three teams that took longer than three years to return to the postseason and two of them have a few things in common. Two of those teams underwent quarterback changes, coaching changes, or both.

After winning the Super Bowl in 1968, Vince Lombardi retired as the head coach of the Green Bay Packers. The Packers didn’t return to the playoffs until 1972. The Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2015 and Peyton Manning rode off into the sunset. Gary Kubiak then retired the following year. The Broncos are still looking to return to the postseason.

This offseason, the Rams avoided that kind of turnover which bodes well for a playoff return this season or next. Sean McVay decided to stay in coaching and despite trade rumors, Matthew Stafford remains the starting quarterback. Even if the Rams miss the playoffs or do worse this season, as long as those two core pieces are in place, they’ll be in a good spot.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers went 5-11 after missing the postseason at 7-9 following their Super Bowl win. They were back in the playoffs in 2005 with an 11-5 record.

It will be interesting to look at these past trends and try to predict which direction the Rams go. The NFL tends to be cyclical and trends repeat themselves. While the Rams may miss the playoffs again this season, they are set up nicely for 2024. With over $60M in cap space, they should be able to bring in some high-level free agents.

As long as they can keep their core pieces in place, the Rams should be able to get back to a competitive level in 2024. They may not get to the same level of Washington or the Giants who won another championship. At the same time, it’s also hard to see a Broncos-like slump in which they’re still looking to return to the playoffs eight years later.

We’ll have to wait and see which direction that the Rams go, but history says they should be bounce back within the next two years.