I wrote a couple of weeks ago that the Los Angeles Rams should make a splash in Free Agency, especially at wide receiver as they are sorely lacking at that position. To date, it’s been not “splashy,” but “still waters.” Nonetheless, when all is said and done, the Rams will have added pieces to the puzzle that won’t necessarily generate headlines, but may help with identity and maybe more wins.
Case in point, linebacker and former Eagle Connor Barwin, and running back Lance Dunbar via the Dallas Cowboys. Both signed by the Rams this week.
No, both transactions are much more important than that.
But the Los Angeles Rams do find themselves in the interesting position of need, desperate at some positions (center, wide receiver), and short on resources. Cap space isn’t terribly friendly, and if you are hoping on the 2017 NFL Draft, allow me to reacquaint you to 2016 and second year quarterback Jared Goff.
The game plan in Los Angeles is the last name of the previous paragraph: Jared Goff.
Jared Goff will be the footnote, the asterisk by which offseason plans are made and drawn back to. That’s the price for going all in on a top pick that is a would be “Franchise Quarterback.” When the organizational plan becomes a redux of the previously failed one, aka the San Bradford disaster, resources become a scarce commodity: be them draft picks, or cap space.
In Los Angeles, it’s both.
Since Kurt Warner and the “Greatest Show On Turf,” the Rams have been a day late and a dollar short twenty years running.
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The New England Patriots, a consistent model of greatness and year to year competitiveness is akin to capturing lightning in a bottle everywhere else. The Patriots seem to have a business model so impervious to failure, an ‘off season’ is missing the AFC Championship.
Now overlay such a plan to what is happening in L.A?
The greatness in New England is generational. In my lifetime, it’s been only a handful of teams who compare. Standard bearers like Pittsburgh, Dallas, San Francisco, or Green Bay are all staring up at the Patriots. When comparing franchises like Los Angeles/St. Louis over the past 20 seasons, it’s startling to note the consistency of both: one a perennial contender, the other a perennial failure.
This isn’t to say all is lost with the Rams. Not by a long shot. But it’s a reminder, a cautionary tale of two franchises and the business models they’ve deployed over that time and where it has led them respectively.
The arrival in consecutive seasons of Todd Gurley, Jared Goff, and now head coach Sean McVay may, MAY indicate a team on the road back. But the cost of the Fisher’s years won’t be absolved by the status quo and hope of .500 next season. But if 8-8 is a baseline of better things, then perhaps the signings of less than noteworthy names like Dunbar and Barwin are pieces that actually lead to better than 8-8 and the prospects of post season play.
By contrast this offseason, in New England it’s the small pieces that merely stock the shelves. It’s the ancillary piece that is part of the bigger picture. A stone’s throw that merely ripples the pond but is still meaningful.
The Rams just don’t have that luxury. Dunbar and Barwin can’t just have the impact of a stone rippling the pond. Fair or not, their contributions need to lead to wins. Which is still the sole metric failure and success is judged by.
Stocking a roster in New England, where still waters run deep, is just different than it is in Los Angeles.
The last twenty years in both cities easily tells the story why.