The Rams stink, but their approach was completely worth the pain


There are 12 teams that have never won a Super Bowl: the Vikings, Bills, Bengals, Falcons, Panthers, Cardinals, Titans, Chargers, Browns, Lions, Jaguars, and Texans.

The Jets haven’t won since the 1968 season. For the Dolphins it’s 1973. Teams like the Raiders and Bears haven’t won since the 1980s. Even rock-solid franchises like the Packers and Steelers have gone more than 10 years since their last championship.

You probably know a fan of one of those teams (or are one yourself). Give them a call and ask a simple question: Would you trade a few years of absolute misery for one Super Bowl title? Don’t worry about the answer, because we know what it is already. Just time how long it takes for them to answer yes. It won’t be long.

Social media isn’t the right place to get rational conversation most of the time, but it’s still weird to see some people dunking on the Rams for trading all their picks. Yes, the pick they sent to the Lions would have been third overall if the season ended Sunday night. Given the sad state of the 2022 Rams, it seems likely it’ll be a top-five pick.

And while it stinks in the moment — their 26-10 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday was miserable to watch — it’s hard to believe they’d do anything different. The Rams went all-in to win a Super Bowl, and it worked. There is a high-wire act involved with the “f— them picks” approach and we’re seeing the downside of it this season. The Rams are a top-heavy roster and a couple injuries and personnel losses decimated them fast. It’s not like they didn’t know that risk existed.

But what would you rather have? A Super Bowl championship and all the history and memories that come along with it? Or the third pick of a draft? If you chose the pick, you’re doing this wrong.

The Rams are going to have a horrible final stretch to this season. There’s no reason to rush back injured stars like Matthew Stafford or Cooper Kupp. Receiver Allen Robinson is done for the year. It could get even worse for the Rams if defensive tackle Aaron Donald misses time with an ankle injury. They’re probably going to have the worst record of any reigning Super Bowl champ ever. Because they have traded so many picks, building back up could take a few years. Though don’t overestimate the timeframe of a rebuild; the Rams are a smart organization and unlike other sports, NFL turnarounds can happen fast.

It’s bad now, and jealous fans and NFL observers who will push back on any innovative approach will get off their jokes and criticisms for the rest of the season. But here’s what the Rams and their fans will do: They’ll go to their DVR and rewatch the Super Bowl. Or they’ll go to a game and stare at the banner in SoFi Stadium a little longer. Players and staff will check out their rings again. Fans will find one of their “Super Bowl Champions” shirts and not really care that Bryce Perkins is their starting quarterback this week.

Last season’s Rams playoff run was magical. There was the long pass to Kupp that set up the game-winning field goal against the Buccaneers. Then it was a fourth quarter comeback on the rival 49ers in the NFC championship game. The Rams had a drive for the ages to beat the Bengals in the Super Bowl. That’s what everyone will remember 20 years from now. Not what happened to the draft picks that brought them the star players who earned a championship.

Yeah yeah, Sean McVay and the Rams are having a tough time this season thanks in part to their all-in gamble. It did win them the Super Bowl, though. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Yeah yeah, Sean McVay and the Rams are having a tough time this season thanks in part to their all-in gamble. It did win them the Super Bowl, though. (AP Photo/Reed Hoffmann)

Here are the power rankings after Week 12 of the NFL season:

The Texans’ season is just going to keep getting worse, it seems. The first half against the Dolphins, when they were down 30-0, was embarrassing and an indictment of the franchise. Bryce Young is the presumed No. 1 overall pick, but I worry about any QB prospect going to play for Houston. It’s going to be a tough road.

The problem with the Broncos is they’re absolutely unwatchable. It’s not just a bad team. It’s a team that is hard to watch because the offense can’t execute simple things. Defensive lineman Mike Purcell yelled at quarterback Russell Wilson coming off the field, which both downplayed and the whole exchange is probably being overblown, but who would blame any Broncos defensive player for being frustrated?

Ultimately, it was the right decision to sit Justin Fields, who has a shoulder injury. But that meant for an ugly day of football after a surprising start with Trevor Siemian. It’s just time for them to be very safe with their personnel decisions the rest of this lost season.

We’ve heard a lot about how the Rams’ offense has been surprisingly bad. The defense hasn’t been great either. It ranks 16th in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and a troubling 26th in passing defense. Jalen Ramsey was beat by a long touchdown by New Orleans’ Chris Olave two weeks ago and was cooked by Travis Kelce for a TD on Sunday. If Aaron Donald misses time with an ankle injury, the defense might drop near the bottom of the league.

It’s not like Sam Darnold did much on Sunday. He completed 11 passes for 164 yards. But he was fine, and it helped that Carolina was playing the Broncos. I don’t know why he wouldn’t keep starting even if PJ Walker is healthy again. Baker Mayfield isn’t an option.

The Saints’ leading rusher Sunday was Andy Dalton, who had 21 yards on four carries. There’s a lot wrong with the Saints’ offense, and it’s a guarantee they won’t score much if their leading non-Dalton rusher has 13 yards.

Josh Jacobs had 303 yards from scrimmage, including an 86-yard walk-off touchdown in overtime. That’s tied for the eighth-most yards from scrimmage in any game. The list of players ahead of him, from top to bottom, is fun: Flipper Anderson, Billy Cannon, Calvin Johnson, Adrian Peterson, Stephone Paige, Priest Holmes, Antonio Brown. There are some really good players on that list. Jacobs’ career has gone to another level this season and the free-agent market for him will be interesting.

You can try to make some argument that not calling timeouts was the right call by the Colts — they might have wanted to hurry up on third down and catch the Steelers with a run play while the defense was reeling — but it was pretty bad game management by Jeff Saturday on Monday night. That will happen when you hire a coach with no experience above the high-school level.

Kyler Murray‘s explanation of what happened on a fourth-and-1 interception — “schematically, we were kind of f—ed” — got a lot of attention and allowed people to pile on Kliff Kingsbury. Maybe that was Murray’s intention, but it’s reasonable to think it was just Murray’s colorful way of saying the play design got blown up and he had no choice but to throw a desperation pass to DeAndre Hopkins. The play was a run-pass option, and the Chargers took away the run. At that point Murray is supposed to have tight end Trey McBride open in the flat, which should have been his throw but the Chargers covered it very well. The Chargers played it so well that the Xs and Os for the Cardinals were kind of, well, what Murray said.

These things happen in the NFL. Team can blow up well-intentioned plays. But that won’t be the reaction to Murray’s words.

The Steelers obviously believed in Kenny Pickett. They drafted him 20th overall. If you made that investment, then watch Pickett make the strides he has the past few weeks, you have to feel very good that you made the right pick. Pickett isn’t great yet but he’s giving the Steelers plenty of hope.

The 129.8 passer rating Trevor Lawrence posted on Sunday was the best of his career. It’s the first time he has posted a rating of 100 or better and also threw for more than 262 yards. It was the first time Lawrence has led a game-winning fourth-quarter touchdown drive in his NFL career. (He gets credit for one other against the Raiders, but the Jaguars scored the go-ahead TD four seconds into the fourth quarter.) It’s quite possible the Jaguars’ win Sunday was a landmark day for Lawrence and the entire franchise. But he has to build on that great performance.

The Packers aren’t going to step in and tell Aaron Rodgers to take a seat if Rodgers believes he can play through a rib injury. It’s just not realistic, no matter how much this seems like a great time to see if Jordan Love can play. So we’ll see how Rodgers feels as the week goes on.

The Lions wanted a better result on Thanksgiving, but being in a position to beat the Bills right until the end is ultimately a good thing for Detroit. Like last season, they’re playing better as the season goes on. They have some cornerstones like receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown. The trick will be finishing well and then not starting slow next season.

The Browns go from the likable Jacoby Brissett to Deshaun Watson at quarterback this week. There will be plenty said about Watson’s return from suspension this week, but from a strictly football sense, it will be interesting to see what Watson looks like. He hasn’t played a regular-season game since the end of the 2020 season. He is in a new offense with new teammates and had just a few preseason snaps. Watson is undeniably talented, but how good can he possibly be right away?

Now that Kyle Pitts is out for the season, we can complain how Drake London isn’t getting enough targets. After a great start to London’s career, he hasn’t had more than 40 yards in a game since September. London was the eighth pick of the draft, the Falcons are desperate for playmakers on offense, and yet they can’t get him involved. It doesn’t make much sense.

With 32 seconds left in regulation in a tie game, a screen pass to Rachaad White got just 1 yard. But the Buccaneers didn’t use a timeout, despite having all three available. There there were 15 seconds on the clock when the next play was snapped, and Julio Jones gained 26 yards. There was not enough time left after that gain to do much more. The Bucs lost in overtime. Todd Bowles was asked about that no timeout sequence afterward and said perhaps Tom Brady might have thrown an interception. Brady has two interceptions in 470 attempts this season. Bowles was in a tough spot coming into the season, taking over for Bruce Arians with a suddenly aging quarterback and a supporting cast that had injuries and couldn’t carry the team anymore. But Bowles is not having a great year either.

If the Chargers don’t get that two-point conversion with 12 seconds left and win, Brandon Staley would be getting a lot of criticism. Staley was known for his gambling nature last season, and many of them didn’t work out. This season he seemed indecisive on what do to in certain situations and that has led to some bad decisions. A miss in that situation, leading to a loss, would have cranked up the heat on him.

If the season ended today, all four NFC East teams would be in the playoffs. For weeks, we knew the Giants were a team that was fortunate to have its record. They’ve been joined in that group by Washington, which is battling hard and is well-coached, but it’s hard to buy them as a strong playoff team. But any playoff spot would make it a great season for Washington.

It’s a little surprising that the Giants aren’t getting more out of Saquon Barkley as a receiver. In the last six games Barkley has 17 catches for 80 yards. Barkley posting 13.3 receiving yards per game over that stretch is a reason the offense hasn’t been better. We know Barkley can have a huge impact in the passing game too.

The Seahawks have lost two in a row and you have to wonder if they’re fading a bit after a surprising start. The good news is their next two games are against the Rams and Panthers. If they lose one of those two, then there’s a problem.

Before we get too crazy about Mike White’s 315-yard game, let’s acknowledge that the Bears defense is really bad, especially since trading Roquan Smith and Robert Quinn. Still, the Jets offense looked much different. The ball was coming out fast. Playmakers who were being entirely underused before emerged with White at quarterback. We’ll see what it means for White the rest of the season, but the Jets offense clicking like it did Sunday is certainly not a good look for benched Zach Wilson.

Mac Jones throwing for 382 yards might say more about the Vikings defense. But it was still a positive performance for Jones and the Patriots offense. And Hunter Henry caught it.

The Titans rely on Derrick Henry, so his last three games are a bit concerning. His yards per carry over the last three weeks: 2.8, 3.1, 2.2. I don’t want to make the mistake of claiming Henry is in decline, but Tennessee needs him to play well or their offense is going to struggle.

A strong win at Tennessee and the Ravens’ loss to the Jaguars was a great combination for Cincinnati. They’ll be getting Ja’Marr Chase back soon too. The Bengals will probably have to beat Baltimore on Jan. 8 to win the division, but they’re coming on strong.

The Ravens offense needs some more pop. They ended up with 27 points Sunday but if you watched the game you saw an offense that didn’t score a touchdown until the fourth quarter. They could have put the game away long before the Jaguars’ last-minute comeback. The lack of any explosive playmakers on offense will probably be the difference between simply making the playoffs and making a playoff run.

The Vikings’ defense probably isn’t good enough to win a Super Bowl. They have given up the second-most yards in the NFL this season. Mac Jones looked like a Pro Bowler against them. It has been a great season for the Vikings, but to make a playoff run they’ll need to create a lot of turnovers on defense. They can’t count on getting stops.

DeMeco Ryans has to be a top coaching candidate this upcoming offseason. He is doing a great job as the 49ers’ defensive coordinator, his energy is infectious and he is young enough to relate to players. As Charles Robinson pointed out on the latest “You Pod To Win The Game,” podcast, he’s also a Texans legend and Houston might have an opening after the season. Hmm.

A tight win over the Lions isn’t what championship dreams are made of, but the Bills dealt with a lot over a week’s time and got two wins before mini-bye. Let’s assume with some time to rest and reset, they’ll be fine.

Mike McDaniel almost pulled Tua Tagovailoa too early. Tagovailoa came out of the game in the third quarter, with the Dolphins leading 30-6. The Dolphins ended up winning 30-15 but there were some moments in which it looked like Houston could cut it to a one-score game. That second half means little; the 30-0 first half was a measure of how good Miami is right now. However, left tackle Terron Armstead missing some time with a partially torn pec — likely a reason Tagovailoa was pulled when he was — is a potential problem.

Ezekiel Elliott gets too much criticism. Is Tony Pollard better? Probably. Is Elliott’s salary too high? Yes. Does Jerry Jones say some ridiculous things about Elliott’s importance to the team? Without a doubt. But some people seem to think the Cowboys would be better off if Pollard got 30 carries and Elliott was sent packing. Elliott had 92 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against the Giants. He’s still a good NFL back. Put the contract, the Pollard love (perhaps fueled by fantasy football hopes) and Jones’ nonsense aside and give Elliott credit for being a key part of a good Cowboys team.

The Eagles ran for 363 rushing yards, their most as a team since 1948. That won’t happen every week, but it’s a reminder that the Eagles can beat you in different ways. The defense has to get out of its slump though.

The Chiefs were sleepwalking through the Rams game and it’s tough to blame them. It was clear from early in the game they were in no danger of losing. And they still won by 16.

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