The Super Bowl Champion Rams and the Shift in NFL Strategy

Colin McGee ’22

After over five long thrilling months of NFL football, a Super Bowl champion has been crowned. The Los Angeles Rams are once again on top of the football world with a 23-20 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI. Despite trailing for the majority of the second half, the Rams were able to storm back and take the lead for good with a late touchdown in the fourth quarter. This game lived up to the hype and proved to be an instant classic.

The construction of this Super Bowl champion began back in 2014 when the Rams drafted their cornerstone piece, defensive end Aaron Donald, back when they were still the St. Louis Rams. Donald has consistently been one of the best players in the league as well as the best player on the Rams since he was drafted. 

Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp was another vital draft find by the Rams in the 2017 draft. Donald and Kupp were both crucial to this team becoming a champion. However, unlike many other Super Bowl champions before them, the majority of the Rams superstar talent came from free agency and trades. 

Quarterback Matthew Stafford was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Detroit Lions last offseason; cornerback Jalen Ramsey was part of another trade in 2019; star linebacker Von Miller was traded to the Rams from the Denver Broncos back in November; Key contributors to this Rams team were signed from free agency such as Odell Beckham Jr. and Andrew Whitworth. 

The philosophy behind building an NFL champion has always been to build from the draft and then develop those players. Conversely, Rams general manager Les Snead has gone against this mantra in favor of an aggressive approach. The first-round draft pick is considered to be the most valuable asset in football. Yet, due to all of these trades to build a Super Bowl champion, the Los Angeles Rams are projected to not make a first-round selection until 2024. The last time they made one was in 2016. That 2016 first-round pick, Jared Goff, was the product of another aggressive trade in which the Rams traded future picks for the right to select Goff.

This approach was not only taken by the Rams in 2021 but also by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020. The Buccaneers made huge moves such as signing Tom Brady and Leonard Fournette as well as trading for Rob Gronkowski. These moves, like the Rams, were an all-in attempt to win a championship. Also, like the Rams, the Buccaneers were successful by defeating the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9 in Super Bowl LV. 

Moves of this magnitude appear to be a new constant. On March 8, 2022, the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks agreed to a monster trade. This trade sent superstar quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver in exchange for a load of assets. The Denver Broncos are now immediately viewed as a Super Bowl contender, which they were nowhere near before. Denver, much like Los Angeles and Tampa Bay before them, views now as their time to win. 

The fact that the two previous Super Bowl championships took this approach shows that this may be the start of a new trend. It is fair to expect many teams to attempt this way of building a champion soon. Despite past examples would indicate that those experiments would be destined to fail. Thanks to the Los Angeles Rams and Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the way that an NFL front office conducts its business may be changed for a long time.