The Los Angeles Rams entered the 2019-20 NFL season out to prove they were not overnight sensations nor flukes. After losing to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII, this season was to be their coronation atop the NFC standings. But that’s why they play the games on the field and not on paper.
If the salary cap and names on the back of the jerseys were all it took, then the Rams could have easily been the team fighting for a championship in Miami. But it just so happens, the Rams couldn’t keep their magic alive.
So, what happened?
To be brutally honest, there was no heart. Yes, these are grown men who play with pride but pride is not enough to win in a league where the opponent is playing with the same intensity. The Rams are young. Their core has been built from the ground up and they take their cue from one of the youngest coaches in NFL history. But that same flash they had in 2018-19, was missing this season.
Some will call it a Super Bowl hangover. Or, maybe the Rams actually peaked too soon. But one thing we do know is that the Rams are loaded with superstars or at least players who are paid like one.
Jared Goff, by the books, is considered an elite player. He took home $10M this season but signed a new four-year deal worth $267M in 2019. The same goes for Todd Gurley who took home $9M with another two years left on his. Wide Receiver Brandin Cooks and his annual salary of $15M places him in that elite company and Aaron Donald took the Rams to the bank himself with his 2019 withdrawal of $17M.
Big numbers and nothing to show for it but, well, numbers.
Goff passed for 4638 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions. His completion percentage was average at 62.9 percent. But there were games where he and the offense struggled. Gurley, for all his bravado, is on a decline. In his early stages, Gurley was set to put the NFL on notice that he was Marshal Faulk 2.0. However, in 2019, he rushed for 857 yards with 12 touchdowns. Where did he disappear to?
Donald, arguably the best defensive player in the league, played well with 12.5 sacks. After holding out, Donald got the deal he felt he deserved but the same one many analysts scoffed at. He’s good, but is he change the mindset of an entire defense good? Jalen Ramsey, once considered one of the best shut down CBs in the NFL, lost his magic. But he’s set to take home $13.7M in 2020.
All that money for top-tier talent and the Los Angeles Rams didn’t make the playoffs. Some fans will say it was a fluke year, the ball didn’t bounce their way when in reality, they got big heads.
Goff, once considered a bust, broke out and earned his payday. Gurley has held his own when healthy but lately, he’s done more harm than good to the Rams’ offense. Cooks is a good receiver but the Rams showed they may have better players at that position in Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. As for Donald and Ramsey, they can take over but only in spurts. One good season changed everything. And in a league where stars are born every week, players’ stock can also take a dip.
The Rams drunk the kool-aid but they weren’t alone in the kitchen. Most NFL analyst picked them as a favorite to come out of the NFC. With their talent on both sides of the ball and led by a young and hungry coach, how could they not? But it was clear from the beginning of the season that something was off.
The offense that took the league by storm last year, was hesitant. The defense, which drove opposing offenses crazy in 2018 forgot the fundamentals. And to make matters worse, other teams in the division went into the offseason with plans of improvements while the Rams figured if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
If the core is young, the smart thing to do is lock those players up. And that’s exactly what the front office did. But now, did they handicap themselves for the future? Great success came in 2018 then followed by epic failure. So, which team is the real Los Angeles Rams?