Super Bowl 2022: All-in Rams a win away from showing you can buy a championship
One by one, the star players joined together in hopes of winning a Super Bowl title, defying the suggested it is impossible to buy your way to a Vince Lombardi conventional wisdom that Trophy.
The best cornerback in the game. A Pro Bowl running back. A brilliant defensive tackle. A terrific pass-rushing defensive end. And a quarterback who chased his dream of walking off the field on the last Sunday of the NFL postseason bathed in confetti for a postgame celebration.
They called it the "Dream Team," a collection of talent from just about every corner of the NFL, gathered in one spot to make a title run.
In the end, the dream fizzled beneath the weight of expectation.
The 2011 Eagles, predicted by many to make a Super Bowl run, finished 8-8, missed the playoffs and watched in disgust as the Giants won their second championship of the Tom Coughlin-Eli Manning era by beating the Patriots in Super Bowl XLVI.
Andy Reid’s team — featuring quarterback Michael Vick, who had supplanted Donovan McNabb as the starter, cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, defensive tackle Cullen Jenkins, defensive end Jason Babin and other mercenaries who came for money and glory — became the latest example of failure. And the latest evidence that only through patient drafting, prudent free-agent decisions and other more conventional roster-building tools could you expect to become a champion.
A decade later, and a year after Tom Brady took his talents to Tampa to win a Super Bowl, the Rams are challenging that very notion that you can’t buy success in the NFL.
Call Los Angeles the Dream Team 2.0.
With coach Sean McVay and general manager Les Snead forming a go-for-broke partnership, the Rams are one victory from proving that yes, you really can buy a championship.
Take a look at the way they’ve built this roster and you’ll see that spending big on players and surrendering future draft picks for current stars has paid off in a big way.
Want proof? The Rams are in the Super Bowl for the second time in the last four years, and this might be their best chance to deliver a Lombardi Trophy for the first time as a Los Angeles team (they won the Super Bowl in January 2000 when they were based in St. Louis).
You can see McVay’s aggressiveness any time you watch a Rams game. He’s a non-stop bundle of energy, pacing the sideline with his play sheet and delivering instructions as the team’s offensive play-caller. And behind the scenes, it’s the hyper-aggressive maneuvering of Snead that has given McVay the tools to succeed.
Just consider the dizzying sequence of transactions that are at the heart of this year’s NFC championship team:
- Despite getting to the Super Bowl in February 2019 with No. 1 overall draft pick Jared Goff, McVay and Snead felt they had to upgrade the position. The Rams sent Goff and two first-round picks to the Lions for strong-armed quarterback Matthew Stafford. The top pick out of Georgia in 2009 had never won a playoff game in Detroit, but he already has three postseason wins to get the Rams in position for a title.
- After running back Cam Akers went down in training camp with a torn Achilles, Snead acquired former first-round running back Sony Michel from the Patriots. Not only did Michel fill in well, but Akers made a rapid recovery from an injury that often requires a year of rehab. He’s back in the starting lineup.
- When the Broncos made veteran pass rusher Von Miller available in a trade, Snead pounced and acquired the former All-Pro. Miller had seven sacks in his last seven games in the regular season and has been a terrific complement to perennial All-Pro defensive tackle Aaron Donald, one of the team’s few homegrown stars.
- Just days after Miller got to the Rams, Odell Beckham Jr. was released by the Browns. The timing couldn’t have been better, as the Rams’ No. 2 receiver Robert Woods went down with a season-ending knee injury. Beckham has been mostly terrific with the Rams, flashing the form that made him one of the NFL’s top receivers with the Giants. He has 23 catches for 264 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs. All-Pro Cooper Kupp, another homegrown star, again has a fine receiver on the other side after Woods’ injury.
- After injuries hit the safety position last month, Snead reached out to former Chargers and Ravens safety Eric Weddle, who hadn’t played since the 2019 season. Weddle has fit right in as an important contributor in the playoffs.
- Snead has added other important pieces along the way via trade or free agency, including former Jaguars first-round cornerback Jalen Ramsey, now the team’s top pass defender; former Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth, 40, who will face his old team next Sunday; pass rusher Leonard Floyd and defensive end A’Shawn Robinson.
Snead has gambled away plenty of draft capital in the process. The Rams don’t have a first-round pick until 2024, and the Rams have gone five straight years without a first-round pick.
But if they come away with a title, it will have been worth every lost pick and every last million spent on the best collection of players this team has seen in years.
And if they can follow up the championship won by a Bucs team that included Brady, Rob Gronkowski, Antonio Brown and a few other added pieces, they will continue to rewrite football’s conventional wisdom that it’s impossible to buy a championship.