Some people are fans of the Los Angeles Rams. But many, many more people are NOT fans of the Los Angeles Rams. This 2022 Defector NFL team preview is for those in the latter group. Read all the previews so far here.
Your team: Los Angeles Rams.
Your 2021 record: 12-5. Super Bowl champions. FEEL THE EXCITEMENT, LOS ANGELES!
Keep in mind that this team was from LA before they moved back here. It’s not like they fled St. Louis to become the Salt Lake Grizzlies. The Rams have a history in LA that dates back to 1946. And yet, this 2021 team served as the answer to the question, “What if you won a Super Bowl and no one showed up?” They played both the NFC title game and the Super Bowl in their own stadium, and in both instances the visiting fans were louder than the home supporters. Perhaps it’s because Angelenos know that these Rams only play unwatchable Super Bowls, or perhaps they just wanted to go hang at the mall instead. Or perhaps, and this is likeliest of all, they knew that this team, despite winning it all, wasn’t very good.
Because really, what will you remember about last year’s Rams? Are they gonna stick with you like the ’85 Bears, or the 90s Cowboys, or the Brady Patriots, or the 2020 Chiefs have? Fuck no, they’re not. Everything the Rams accomplished last season they accomplished because other teams did them a favor. Their character had nothing to do with it. The Cardinals did them a favor in the Wild Card round by not showing up. The Bucs staged a 27-3 comeback against them in the following round and then forgot to play deep coverage in the waning seconds. The Niners dropped a layup of a pick against them in the NFC title game. And the Bengals forgot to dress any offensive linemen for the Super Bowl. That’s how a forgettable, mistake-prone bunch fell ass-backwards into a title run that they’ll never be able to replicate.
And even if they could replicate it, who’s gonna notice? Their agents? Their parents? The Rams had more fans in Detroit a season ago than they did in LA. I can’t believe this shitty, shitty team won a ring.
Your coach: Sean McVay, who, like his Hall of Fame defensive tackle, coyly hinted at retiring this offseason, and secured himself a fat raise by doing so. I’m being genuine when I tell you that McVay is at the forefront of a coaching revolution whose methods and approach will become the norm very soon, if they haven’t already. Thanks to McVay, NFL head coaches are, against all odds, getting better at their jobs. As that’s happened, I have come to believe, for just a moment, that McVay also represents a new generation of coaches who actually LIKE the job when many of their older peers clearly do not.
This profile of McVay, by ESPN’s Seth Wickersham, proves me wrong 50 times over.
“I’ll be sitting here when I’m 60,” he says during another quiet moment, with deep resignation. “And we’ll be saying, how the f— are you still coaching?”
Rams executives were stunned at how McVay, after being jovial all offseason, seemed to switch personalities as soon as the games began. If a staffer or executive stopped by his office, McVay sometimes said, “What the f— do you want?”
“You know what?” McVay replied. “I f—ing hate this job. I’m f—ing quitting. F— this s—. I hate myself. I hate that I’m treating you like this …”
The Rams went 9-7. It was McVay’s worst season. “So miserable,” he says.
After losses, Veronika would drive Sean and his parents home, his mood so dark it became atmospheric. “Worrisome for a parent,” Cindy says.
“It was a f—ing joke how pissed and how — I can’t even articulate. The disgust. The sickness. The constant pit in your gut. You have to fight what you’re feeling. You have to get up and lead and really authentically be able to demonstrate the strength that I think is a responsibility and necessity for a good leader — while not minimizing that I’m a human being too, and I f—ing hate this s—.”
As you can see, Sean McVay is just like the rest of them: another tortured-ass coach who CAN’T STAY AWAY FROM THE GAME and spends all night studying tape through a pair of binoculars. But hey, maybe getting married this offseason will chill him out a bit …
This man could have quit his job and spent the rest of his life making millions up in the TNF booth for Amazon. Instead he’ll be dead of an exploded aorta by age 48. NO OTHER JOB LIKE IT!
Your quarterback: Matthew Stafford, and if you expect me to feel happy for Stafford for winning a ring after spending his career languishing in Detroit, well then you haven’t seen any TV ads since he won it. For the past seven months, I’ve been ambushed at regular intervals by brands who are convinced that Matthew Stafford is now America’s sweetheart when he’s actually a charisma-free turnover machine married to a lady who probably voted for Trump nine times. With Tom Brady unretired, I wouldn’t count on Stafford pulling Cooper Kupp out of his ass the next time the Rams piss away a four-touchdown lead.
And oh, would you look at that? Turns out he’s hurt again.
Also I’ll call him Matt if I want to, Kelly. Fuck you both.
What’s new that sucks: When you mortgage your future to win a Super Bowl, you do eventually have to pay that mortgage. That invoicing process begins now, as the Rams watched rental edge rusher Von Miller, punter Johnny Hekker, wideouts Odell Beckham and Robert Woods, running back Sony Michel, defensive tackle Sebastian Jones-Day, emergency safety Eric Weddle, and three of their cornerbacks all leave via trades or free agency. Beloved left tackle Andrew Whitworth also retired to the TV studio, and I have a feeling that he’ll end up being just as horrible on camera as Mark Schlereth currently is. Durrr back when I was playing we played TOUGH! Awful. Whitworth will be replaced by Joe Noteboom, whose name sounds like someone in witness protection.
With hardly any draft capital to stanch the bleeding, the Rams had to scrounge around the free agent bin for past stars like Allen Robinson and Bobby Wagner. That FUCK THEM PICKS T-shirt that GM Les Snead rocked after their title run will prove less and less charming as the roster around him continues to erode over the next five years. Stafford, Aaron Donald, and Cooper Kupp all got fat contract extensions this offseason, which means the Rams have already transitioned from We’re going all in! to Let’s keep all the famous guys around so that fans will still think we’re good. Losses will steadily mount until they’re all that’s left.
What has always sucked: Do you know who the real winner of that Super Bowl was? This guy:
That’s Rams owner and Fred Armisen character Stan Kroenke. You might remember Kroenke from last November, when he found himself on the wrong end of a $790 million settlement with the city of St. Louis for fucking them over in the re-relocation process. That lawsuit, at one time, threatened to break the NFL apart and lay bare all of its nastiest secrets: where Goodell hides the bodies, how much Dan Snyder skimmed off the top, Stephen Ross’s favorite gay jokes … all of it.
But you already know what happens to bad guys in this country: nothing. So Kroenke got his aggressive wrist slap (he’s got plenty more money where that came from), all of the dirty laundry got secreted back into an airtight island vault, and his Rams capped 2021 with one of the more cynically acquired titles in modern football history. Stan Kroenke won. Make all the toupee jokes you like. He can’t hear you from his megayacht. Another ugly lawsuit is already headed Kroenke’s way, and he’ll brush that one off his shoulder the same way he’s brushed off all of the others. He beat you. It’s his world now, and we’re all just living in it. That’s not a metaphor.
This Rams’ Super Bowl victory is an omen, not a triumph. It represents the NFL’s successful transition from America’s favorite sport to America’s favorite background noise. Not only have other teams already started to copy LA’s personnel acquisition model, but—and this is more important—they’re also already copying Kroenke’s successful gambit to put a team where no one wants it. The Bears are going to leave greater Chicago. The Commanders are already out of DC proper, but can’t wait to move even farther away. Ten years from now, there’ll double the number of $5 billion stadiums in the NFL. No real fans will live close to these stadiums, nor will they be able to afford any tickets. The people that DO attend these games will be fans in wardrobe only. They’ll all be well-to-do football tourists who go to the stadium FOR the stadium. They’ll nosh on shrimp cocktail at the overpriced, club-level steakhouse. They’ll buy a shirt at the Brooks Brothers outlet in the concourse. They’ll gawk at the tasteful artwork adorning in the escalator atriums. They’ll stare up at the giant Jumbotron and go, Wow that’s big! And then they’ll fuck back off to whatever cul-de-sac they came from.
Somehow all of this will make the NFL billions upon billions of dollars as they take the game further away from those who love it and turn every franchise into its own Davos conference. So fuck Kroenke with a Walmart greeter’s cane, fuck Roger Goodell, fuck Les Snead, fuck Matt Stafford, and fuck McVay with his own beard trimmer. Football is too good of a sport to waste on any of these people.
All of their running backs are still dogshit.
Ratto says: Stan Kroenke threatened to sue the other 31 owners to cover his lawsuit costs in the St. Louis case, and got them to blink even though his net worth is only one-fifteenth as much as the other 30 owners. We say 30 because Rob Walton, who like Kroenke is part of the Walmart planet eaters, is worth $70 billion by himself, meaning that Rob can buy Stan seven times over at Thanksgiving dinner, which given the people around the table would be a snapshot of Satan’s version of hell.
What might not suck: I earnestly love Los Angeles. It’s the best. The city’s indifference to both the Rams and Chargers proves that the people of LA know how to live their lives.
HEAR IT FROM RAMS FANS!
C’mon beating the Bengals isn’t a real Super Bowl.
I’m from St. Louis. I hate that the Rams abandoned me, and I hate even more that after they got out of STL, they started to win. But what I hate most is that, in an act of supreme emotional masochism, I can’t stop watching them. I still wear my Rams shirt, but I delude myself that by having bleached KROENKE SUCKS into the back I am somehow retaining my dignity. I am not.
The memory is forever seared in my mind of a guy at a preseason game getting so wasted that he puked on himself and passed out. Later on I looked back towards his section and he was making out with someone. You can’t unsee that.
Fuck Jeff Fisher with a michelada.
The uniforms are what you’d find in a Carter’s baby clothing outlet. I am now as insufferable as any fan of any successful franchise, and regression to the mean will be a bitch in ’22.
Winning a Super Bowl is one of the worst things that can happen to an NFL franchise.
Success never makes an organization better. It only reinforces the idea that their way of doing things never needs to change. The Rams won a title by swinging big on blue chip players and loading the rest of the roster with middling draft picks. You can do that when Aaron Donald’s on your D-line, but he’s going to retire soon. This won’t stop the Rams from continuing this strategy long after it’s effective, culminating in some other massive trade and contract extension for a player who is almost guaranteed to be a bust.
Other teams are at the backend of this fate and I see our terrible future in the eyes of their beleaguered fans. I’ve watched the Packers waste Rodgers’ prime. The Seahawks have doubled down on Pete Carroll’s run-run-pass cult. The Giants’ tradition of having a bumbling idiot at QB and an open contempt for every player on their roster has kept them in the sewer for a decade.
This is what we have to look forward to. There is nothing else to hope for anymore. The magic already happened. Now we have only the pathetic decline that comes with trying to capture that lightning in a bottle again. It won’t happen.
We had HOME FIELD for the Super Bowl and yet both on the field and in the stands, we were the road team. Bengals fans flooded the stadium, howling like they owned the place with their dumbass “wHo dEy” chants. This is a city with less than 10% of LA’s population that is known only for killing Harambe and literally nothing else. This is what filled our stadium more than our own fans.
I learned that day that the Bengals have a fight song, which their fans knew all the words to. Meanwhile Rams fans were still learning the words to, “Whose house?! Rams house!” I remember a guy in my section desperately trying to get fans going and it was a teacher trying to get kids excited about mitochondria. Pregame Rams fans looked like they were showing up for a mandatory companywide meeting.
I was so happy after we won, and I expected the reaction from other Rams fans to be equally ecstatic because WE WON THE FUCKING SUPER BOWL. But the reaction was closer to finding out you were paid an extra $5 in change at a food truck. I’ve seen more excitement at a minor league baseball game. I felt conflicted knowing full well the city of Cincinnati deserved a championship far more than this spoiled shithole of a city.
Fuck Stan Kroenke.
Fuck Tye Hill.
They once traded for fucking Wayne Hunter.
Seconds after we won, I ran outside to the corner of a busy intersection, waving a full size Rams flag on a flagpole for 15 minutes. In that time span, only a single car honked in recognition.
My dad lived in St. Louis his whole life. He started deteriorating pretty rapidly last year. He was forgetting to pay his bills, and his car was pockmarked with dings and dents from where he didn’t properly judge where his car ended and curb the began. It was getting to be a safety concern. He didn’t want me helping with the bills or taking away his car keys, but I really didn’t have a choice; he was going to lose the house or hurt someone. So I had to go to court to take over guardianship.
Dad was NOT happy about this; he wanted to go to court to testify about how he was still competent to make his own decisions and drive. By extension, he wanted to talk a little shit about me as well. The best evidence he had against me: I continued following the Rams after they moved to Los Angeles. The judge agreed with him on that, but gave me guardianship anyway.
Thank you to all the readers and Defector staffers who contributed to the series this year. Take a bow, gang. See you at kickoff!