Since winning 42-7 in December at the Clink in the most dominant manner ever witnessed over a Pete Carroll-coached Seahawks team, the Los Angeles Rams have added premium veteran defenders Ndamukong Suh, 31, Aqib Talib, 32, Marcus Peters, 25, and Sam Shields, 30.
Wednesday, they traded with the Patriots for WR Brandin Cooks, 24, one of the NFL’s fastest players and a replacement for the loss in free agency of WR Sammy Watkins.
Not sure these moves guarantee a championship. But I know who I’m taking in a bar fight.
And who I’m taking in the NFC West.
Not a risky call there, given that the Rams are the defending champs with an 11-5 record and the league’s highest-scoring offense in 2017.
They retain QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, the NFL offensive player of the year, on rookie contracts, and Sean McVay, NFL coach of the year, is beyond his rookie season.
And I have yet to mention NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald, who is to Russell Wilson’s sleep as a bowling ball is to plate glass.
No team in NFL history has won the top three individual awards in a single season. If Santa had this many presents in his sleigh, he’d need a hundred reindeer.
Yes, the Rams lost their playoff opener to the Falcons, 26-13. They’re better now.
Accepting his honor at the NFL awards show, McVay, at 31 the youngest coach in modern NFL history, looked at Gurley, Donald and Goff in the audience and said, “The future looks bright with these guys leading the way. This is a credit to you.”
And a credit to nearly historic ineptitude — the Rams hadn’t had a winning record since 2003 (remember coach Jeff Fisher, the King of 7-9?) The league-mandated parity has been looking for the Rams for a long time, and finally found them.
Of course, the team’s followers are entitled to feel it’s about damn time. Except nearly all of them live in St. Louis, abandoned by the franchise two years ago. The Midwest bitterness can fill a month’s worth of cargo ships passing through the Panama Canal.
The club’s rapid assembly of all-stars now plays in front of an audience full of MAWs (model/actress/whatever) and restaurant valets reading scripts. But even in LA, 16-0 is enough to put down the arugula-and-kale yogurt and look up.
A downside for the Rams is that acquiring Cooks meant giving up the 23rd pick in the first round to the Patriots. That means at the moment the Rams have eight picks in the draft: One in the third round, three in the fourth and four in the sixth.
To which the Rams respond: So what?
You know the attitude. The Seahawks often adopted it when they were riding high, happy to trade out of the first round for additional lower picks.
But not now. The divisional game has changed; the Seahawks are looking up at the Rams, and should be looking to trade up for difference-making talent.
Depth is nice, but when Carroll himself said that their best get in free agency was Barkevious Mingo, whom they hope is in the Cliff Avril/Bruce Irvin/Chris Clemons hybrid category of edge rusher, the news did not send taser jolts through Seahawks opponents.
Said Carroll of Mingo at the league meetings: “Right off the bat he is going to be a core special-teams guy . . .We are going to start him at (strongside) linebacker.”
So Mingo replaces LB Michael Wilhoite, the least valuable among Seattle’s starting 11 defenders in 2017. Defensive help makes some sense considering in that Dec. 17 game, Gurley gashed for 152 yards in 27 carries. On the other hand, Wilson completed just 14 passes for 142 yards, half of which was negated by seven sacks costing 71 yards.
Against the Rams in that game, Seahawks failures were as numerous as they were grievous.
Carroll recognized it and fired six assistant coaches, including the top three, and parted ways with defenders Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead, and on offense WR Paul Richardson and TE Luke Willson.
The draft looms, but without picks in the second and third rounds, the Seahawks are little better in terms of ordnance than the Rams, who no longer have to care. Which explains much of why the Seahawks are entertaining offers for their most valuable remaining defender, FS Earl Thomas.
If the Seahawks don’t think the NFC West hole is deep into which they have fallen, all they need to do is note the melting of their cleats by heat from the earth’s molten core.
The most recent playoff game the Rams won was in early 2004 when, led by the less than legendary QB Marc Bulger, they beat the Seahawks 27-20 in Seattle (at Qwest Field, no less). That was so long ago, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice even played in the game.
Apparently, the Rams plan to play catch-up all in one season.