When a Los Angeles Rams official told The Athletic’s Jourdan Rodrigue that the team was “using the last bullet in their chamber” to get Von Miller at the NFL’s trade deadline, Rodrigue, who has her fist on the team’s carotid, learned a valuable lesson for the rest of us to heed: There are always more bullets if you want them to be.
In signing Odell Beckham Jr. to make Matthew Stafford the little kid whose parents get him three ponies for Christmas morning, the Rams did what they always do in contravention of every tightarsed general manager who think that the salary cap is made of metal and is screwed into a convict’s skull right before the switch is turned, and in trading for Miller also did to their draft board what every power nerd who think football only happens in April thinks is a crime against the Geneva Convention.
In short, Les Snead is the guy we all wish we had the nerve to be when we abandon the joys of normal living with love and friends and domesticated animals who pretend they like us in exchange for snacks and comfortable furniture and alcohol and grilled foods and miscellaneous other forms of joy, and fantasize instead about running a football team. He sits back, tells the accountants to leave the office for a couple of hours, fires down three G&Ts and says, “Strap in. Worrying about tomorrow is for candyasses.” And the next thing you know, Odell Beckham.
Now we don’t know if Beckham or Miller will work out for the Rams as the secret ingredient that turns them from Super Bowl contenders to Super Bowl winners. But it is a monument to positional excess that comes as close as any team can come to winning the mostly unmotivatable Los Angeles football fan. Beckham is pre-categorized as a malcontent with Pops as his wingman, and he moves into a unit that is already loaded with producers. Miller joins Aaron Donald, who is Aaron Donald.
This isn’t even about the Rams winning the Super Bowl, although February football is never a bad thing. This is about the Rams becoming the one thing Los Angeles craves most of all: the early-’80s screw-everybody-we-got-Marcus-Allen Raiders. The Raiders when Al Davis was on his J and was the owner every superb and attitudinal player wanted to work for. The Raiders who overfilled the void left when the Rams decided to flee to the antiseptic world of Anaheim. The Raiders who colonized Los Angeles even while the Dodgers and Lakers and USC football and UCLA basketball and Mater Dei and Long Beach Poly kicked butt, took names, and then nailgunned the list of names on the chests of the fallen, were in full flower.
These Rams go cartoonishly big, the way those Raider teams did … at least until Davis lost his way, his mind, and his mojo and decided to fight a war he couldn’t win with Allen. That war effectively rendered the Raiders dead in Los Angeles, and then in Oakland, and until further notice in Las Vegas too. Since Allen left, the Raiders have a better record than only Cincinnati, Washington and Detroit. The Rams since returning from Anaheim by way of Missouri are 54-35 with a new stadium but still haven’t taken over the town in a way befitting the town’s view of itself. The Lakers have done that mostly by making sure the roster has at least one megastar and, whenever possible, more.
So maybe the Rams are trying to be the Lakers rather than the Raiders. Fine. Have it your way. Either way, the Rams are operating the way you’d want your favorite team to operate if you were silly and vapid enough to have a favorite team—by reloading behind the barn and coming out firing knowing everyone else in town is firing back. In reality you die within seconds because there’s more of them then there are of you, you idiot. In the movies, you live forever, because everyone else’s aim blows.
Snead doesn’t worry about tomorrow because as we approach the midterm elections, there may not be a tomorrow. California is in a drought, and fire season starts at 2:30 in the afternoon and lasts until you’re a charcoal briquet on the roadside. Tomorrow is a vague promise, so Snead wants to win before midnight. He might not manage it; Beckhams and Millers and even Staffords come with risks, and everyone is an ACL away from being a lawn ornament in the park. But Snead just lit another cigarette, stuck it behind his ear without stubbing it out, and went big again. He is Al Davis, only without the hair, the jumpsuit and the Radio Shack office equipment catalog. And the next time someone from the team tries to tell Jourdan Rodrigue that the Rams have fired the last bullet in their chamber, she can say with confidence, “My ass. Where’d you hide the other guns?”