Hollywood’s newest release will premiere tonight at Levi Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. — the post-trade deadline Los Angeles Rams. They dealt for former All-Pro Denver Broncos pass rusher Von Miller, who did not play in their loss to the Tennessee Titans immediately following the deadline, and the following week they signed free-agent wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. after he was released by the Cleveland Browns.
The Rams already gave a fading-but-recognizable star a chance this season: wide receiver DeSean Jackson, who, after a three-catch, 120-yard performance against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, caught three passes for 80 yards in his next four games, and was released. Prior to the start of the 2021 season, the Rams traded their former No. 1 overall pick, quarterback Jared Goff, to the Detroit Lions for Matthew Stafford — who, at 33 years old, is having the best season of his career in Los Angeles. They also traded for one of the NFL’s best cornerbacks, Jalen Ramsey, in 2019. The Rams have the superstar cast, some might call it a “super team,” but can they finish at No. 1 in the box office, unlike other teams that have gone this route and ended the season short of the ultimate prize?
The most famous example of an NFL team trying to win a Super Bowl with a bevy of high-profile signings is the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles. They were coming off of a 2010 NFC East title and were one late interception away from advancing to the second round. The Eagles had already drafted Jackson, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, and former All-Pro running back LeSean McCoy, plus they signed cornerback Asante Samuel after his 2007 first-team All-Pro season. They had signed Michael Vick in 2009, and in 2010 when an injury to Kevin Kolb forced Vick into a starting role for the first time since 2006, the result was the best season of his career.
Since the Eagles had exceeded expectations in 2010, they made a Super Bowl push in the offseason. They signed running back Ronnie Brown, who had never averaged less than 4.2 yards per carry and never had more 240 carries in a season, as well as former Pro Bowl cornerback Dominique Rogers-Cromartie, former All-Pro cornerback and current thespian Nnamdi Asomugha, and defensive end Jason Babin, who was coming off of a career high with 12.5 sacks, and 2006 Offensive Rookie of the Year. Vince Young served as a backup for the oft-injured Vick.
During training camp Young called the group a “dream team,” and it turned out that Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson they were not. They got off to a 1-4 start and finished the season 8-8. Vick’s performance came back to Earth and their “wide nine” defense was a constant source of criticism, as was Asomugha’s performance in zone coverage. The next season they went 4-12 and that “dream” turned out to be nothing more than a product of Young’s REM.
Another example is almost the complete opposite of the Eagles’ high-profile failure, yet it was a team that still fell short of the success the Rams are seeking at this moment. The 2007 Patriots weren’t 16-0 in the regular season simply because Tom Brady and Bill Belichick mind-melded to perfection that season. That team was built in the offseason with trades for wide receivers Randy Moss and Wes Welker, and a monster free-agent contract for outside linebacker Adalius Thomas — Belichick’s own words on the signing were that owner Robert Kraft “backed up the Brinks truck.” As good as the Patriots were in 2007, their margins of victory tightened during the second half of the season and they were pushed in both of their playoff wins before their perfect season ended stuck to David Tyree’s helmet. They moved on from both Thomas and Moss by Week 5 of the 2010 season.
The Rams have not been gunshy since returning to Los Angeles. They signed Goff and former star running back Todd Gurley to major contract extensions after their 2018 Super Bowl appearance, and have already moved on from both players. The Ramsey trade cost them two first-round draft picks.
For anyone to make it in Los Angeles, they have to find a way to make themselves stand out in a crowd that is trying to do the exact same thing. The Rams have changed their style, their home, and are now trotting out an all-star cast to try and win a Super Bowl as well as the interest of Angelenos. A for effort, absolutely, but as past teams have shown, it takes more than an eye-popping depth chart to end the year at No. 1.
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