The Rams never won more than seven games in a season during Jeff Fisher's tenure as coach from 2012-216. And you have to go back to the 2003 season for the last time they had a winning record. That all changed in 2017 when Fisher's replacement, 31-year-old Sean McVay, led the Rams to an 11-5 record and an NFC West division title.
But the organization isn't content with just one year's success amid a desert of losing. The plan is to build on last season, when the team made the playoffs for the first time in 13 years but lost to the Falcons in the wild-card round. It's one thing to say "we want to get better," but it's something else entirely to have a plan.
Which brings us to general manager Les Snead, who so far this offseason has acquired two of the league's best cornerbacks in Aqib Talib and Marcus Peters, and signed one of the league's best defensive linemen in Ndamukong Suh. They join a defense that ranked sixth last season, according to Football Outsiders, to go along with a top-10 offense that just added wide receiver Brandin Cooks. There's good reason to really like the Rams in 2018, not only in their division but to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Turns out, it's the defending Super Bowl champs that inspired Snead to be so bold this offseason.
"...I don't think you can ever be reckless because -- let's go way back to 2012," Snead told TheMMQB.com's Peter King. "You know we traded the No. 2 pick overall to the Redskins that ended up being known as the [Robert Griffin III] deal, but the whole purpose of that was to acquire as many draft picks as possible.
"We got to build a young core because at that point it's nearly, let's call it 26 players of the 53 who finished on that 2011 Rams team never played in the NFL again, so you knew we had we had to replenish this with a good core, and over the years you draft it, but last year we tipped into let's call it being a 'legit contender.' So at that point, you're well aware, wait a minute, we want to sustain this, we want to keep contending. And, I'll always say this, I got a simple rule: You can't be scared in this league.
"Look at Doug Pederson this year and, it wasn't reckless but it took courage and guess what? They won a Super Bowl on some of those fourth-down plays. So you try to do that as a general manager, but I also think, and this is long-winded answer, some of the analytics that you have now to really look at what historically draft picks bring you in reality over time …"
In terms of roster-building, the Eagles and the Rams are taking a page from what the Seahawks did early in Russell Wilson's career: Take advantage of the fact that the franchise quarterback is still on his rookie deal and use all the extra cap space to add players around him that put the team in win-now mode. Of course, this requires that you've correctly identified your franchise quarterback -- Seattle, L.A. and Philly can all tick that box -- but it also means you have a small window to win with the roster. In 2-3 years, the team is going to have to pay that young quarterback more than $25 million annually, which means less money for key players at other positions.
Which brings us back to Snead and the Rams, who appear perfectly positioned for a Super Bowl run right now. There's a cautionary tale in Seattle, however, where Wilson got that big second contract but the team is now in rebuilding mode. Last season, they missed the playoffs for the first time in five years and there's a good argument to be made that the Seahawks are the worst team in the NFC West. But they also had a great run; they won a Lombardi Trophy (and should've had another if they'd just given the ball to Marshawn Lynch) and went 56-23-1 from 2012-2016.
Put another way: Five years from now, Snead would love to have these problems.