The party is over and any dream to make the playoffs much less finish above .500 is dead for the Los Angeles Rams. It’s a tough beat but it was a beautiful ride. There are seven games left and that means seven more weeks of fans grinding axes they’ve held for seasons, whining about everything that the team gave up for the “F— Dem Picks” Super Bowl title, and becoming more satisfied with being “right” about how they see the Rams than the team winning. Sounds fun right?!
Hangovers suck and the only real cure is time, so unfortunately the next seven weeks are going to largely be spent watching an atrocious offense and getting furious at a defense that gets worse as the game goes on because they spend over half the game on the field.
Cooper Kupp won’t be back for at least four weeks if at all. There isn’t a running game, nor solid line play, and the backup QBs have less spark than the world’s worst blind date. None of this is fun and yes every game someone will remind the audience that the Lions have the 2023 first-rounder and that the Rams have no picks (not true but hey). So what’s the silver lining? Believe it or not, there are some good things to watch for as the season enters the home stretch.
The Rams Silver Lining
It’s awful that Cooper Kupp is out presumably for the rest of the year. He accounted for 34.1 percent of the offense this season. With him putting up those numbers they’re a bottom-three offense. So now it’s time to experiement. Sean McVay is now forced to see what else he’s got starting with Allen Robinson. Instead of grumbling about his existence on the roster in the first place, embrace him being an actual focal point. He can’t do the same things as Kupp but now they can tailor things to his skill set. Also, Van Jefferson will get more involved and assuming healthy, can get his legs underneath him.
The younger guys like Tutu Atwell (viewed as Les Snead’s greatest sin), Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris, and preseason legend Lance McCutcheon can get honest looks.
There aren’t any real stakes beyond making the Lions pick not sting that much. McVay has an opportunity to let loose and find the testicular fortitude and creativity he was beloved for. As good a coach as McVay is (and he is) one of his flaws is he gets super conservative in pressure-cooker situations. Now he can get his mojo back and figure out exactly what he has beyond Kupp. He can also stop worrying about making Cam Akers happen. Sadly, he’s fetch.
Darrell Henderson can take the load of the carries while rookie Kyren Williams can get reps and audition to be the lead back after Akers is cut and Henderson becomes a comp pick. If Henderson flourishes then, sure, a lot of people might be inclined to be annoyed that it took this long but, hey, at least they’ll have vindication.
Furthermore, the offense can do all of this by letting Bryce Perkins take the reigns and see what they have. Stafford can get healthy and the Rams can see if Perkins is a viable backup. John Wolford isn’t worth keeping around beyond the season but perhaps Perkins can be. He’s mobile yet raw. Take this opportunity to develop him and perhaps they won’t have to trade three future firsts, additional picks, and Jalen Ramsey for Lamar Jackson in the off-season (more on this later).
This all sounds impossible considering the line just lost Alaric Jackson to blood clots and Chandler Brewer is on IR. The line won’t get better BUT they can dig deep into their reserves and see who is worth keeping. Perhaps Oday Aboushi? There’s nothing they can do with the line at this point as they’ve clearly been given the “Drag Me to Hell” curse so now’s the time to at least figure out what non-Bobby Evans options (because he’s NOT IT) they have that are worth keeping around when the inevitable roster purge comes.
None of these things are likely to be watchable but when healthy they weren’t watchable either so might as well turn every stone and find out if the picks they didn’t “f—” have any value.
Defensively, there is some stuff to find out as well. The Rams were thirsty for a pass rusher. Fortunately, the Panthers were too dumb to take two firsts for Brian Burns (more Christian McCaffrey for that matter), so the future remains intact. Presently, their non-Aaron Donald options exist in the same way 90% of Netflix originals do in that they don’t.
Leonard Floyd has shown flashes but isn’t consistent. Terrell Lewis is made of glass and can’t be counted on to generate consistent pressure. Daniel Hardy is on IR. So what does that leave them with? not a lot. Still, they might as well try and get one more year out of Justin Hollins.
Up front, Greg Gaines has regressed so why not experiment with Bobby Brown? Bobby B has been in the doghouse all season but now’s the time to see if there’s anything of value there. The secondary has a lot of young talent to try out. David Long and Taylor Rapp are comp picks in waiting so why not promote Robert Rochell, Derion Kendrick, and Cobie Durant to bigger roles?
Jordan Fuller won’t be back until next year so why not really test Quentin Lake and Russ Yeast? They have shown hints of promise so give them all the reps they can handle. Meanwhile, Nick Scott can either audition to be a full-time starter or become a comp pick.
Does this all sound like grasping at straws? Sure is. But it’s better than stewing for weeks and staying in the same rage cycle. It’s not cathartic or satisfying it just makes things worse. This season has been the other end of a monkey’s paw agreement. Fine. No one can take away the fact that the Rams won a title last season and every team would do the same thing if they knew it would yield them a title.
What’s funny is that this season has not only revealed a lot about the Rams roster and staff but the fans as well. The old heads who have been on the train since St. Louis or even going all the way back to LA 1.0 are bummed about this title defense (or lack thereof) but it’s not that new of a feeling, they’re built for this.
Meanwhile, those that weren’t born in darkness are losing their minds. They want McVay fired, Raheem Morris barred from coaching ever again, Les Snead fired and brought up on war crimes, and they want to go full Namor and wash out the entire team. If that seems dramatic, check out the online discourse (or don’t, please don’t).
It’s been a powder keg for years and seemed ready to explode following the Stafford trade but they won a title so the detractors had to chill. Now that things are free-falling Tom Petty style, those detractors can crow and even argue whether or not the title was worth it because of all the pain now.
It’s not as binary as “F— Dem Picks” was a failure or not either. There are factions that want to trade stars for picks and others that think they should hit the ATM and make one last attempt to win big before Aaron Donald retires. Their cap space is super limited because of some questionable extensions and free agents, a Les Snead staple, (put a pin in this for the end-of-season autopsy).
Looking To The Future
So 2023 could be about restocking the roster with younger talent and purging as much bad roster space as they can before really going for it in 2024. The Rams need to regroup and figure out how they can evolve as the league has moved past what made them special. The trade deadline underlined that more teams were willing to out Ram the Rams. Their strategy of “F— Dem Picks” has been adopted by other teams so now they’re no longer taking advantage of a market inefficiency.
This is the time to pivot but given the talent on this roster, they won’t be in the basement again if healthy. They’ll have a fourth-place schedule so they could still make the playoffs next year (no really) and then make the BIG move in 2024 if possible.
Now to dispel a RamAnon idea. There is no way to conceivably get Lamar Jackson. Even if the Rams found a way to clear cap space and offer the Ravens a package of picks, players, etc, the Ravens wouldn’t take that deal. They’ll resign Lamar to a massive deal and won’t allow him to hit the open market. It sounds like fun but it’s not grounded in reality so anyone seriously thinking that’s possible can take off the tinfoil hat and join reality. But they can do something big to make Aaron Donald‘s last dance as spectacular as possible.
If that sounds like hopium, then fine, fair enough, but it’s never as dire as it seems especially with this team, which always finds the money in the banana stand. Right now, they’re waking up after winning a title and driving through Springfield Elementary, not remembering the night before and blaming punk kids for trashing their car.
It’ll be a long recovery period but it’s not one that will take everything back to 2009 nadir. In the meantime, let all the haterade out, start clocking draft picks, make lists of the players that deserve to stay on the roster, and get ready to regroup for next year. Hangovers suck but the good news is that they end.