Nothing says Spring like the flowers blooming, snow flurries turning to rain showers (here in the Midwest at least), sunshine lasting until almost 8pm, and……..the NFL Draft. I’m almost ashamed to admit how much the National Football League grabs ahold of me and doesn’t let go. Ever. Not a week after the Super Bowl, not a month after, and not what has now been nearly 3 months after when all of us sports fans should be in the throes of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey and the NBA Playoffs. But let’s face it – the NFL has surpassed all other sports in America and Roger Goodell isn’t taking his foot off the gas anytime soon. (Not to mention, the NHL lost me years ago after a work stoppage made me realize I didn’t need to spend time following a league that seemed less and less interesting every time I caught a glimpse of Olympic Hockey. Oh, and the NBA Playoffs appear to be just the lead-up to a Finals rematch between Golden State and LeBron’s Cavs. And baseball? Yeah, call me when games aren’t being postponed because of cold temperatures or snow.) So that leaves the NFL. And without any games to focus on – and do not tell me about the 2016 NFL Schedule Release Party you and your friends had — we sit reading mock draft site after mock draft site while listening to Mel Kiper, Jr. and Todd McShay and Mike Mayock tell us about how this quarterback has small hands but a quick release and how that center ran the fastest 40-yard dash and has a high Football IQ. We listen, we read, we pay attention – more than we should. Even when we know it and admit it, we can’t stop. I admit it – I’m ashamed. But it won’t stop me from mocking my own draft and listening to all the talking heads explain Wunderlik Scores and escapability.
This year’s draft, like them all, promises to surprise and shock us and some teams will leave us shaking our heads – Cowboys, Browns I’m looking directly at you. The first of the shocks and surprises and head shaking came pre-draft day this year, when the brand new, back-again Los Angeles Rams traded up with Tennessee to get the number one overall selection. Who didn’t think the Rams would do something to grab everyone’s attention? Rumors surfaced not long after the Broncos’ Super Bowl victory that Peyton Manning was considering transplanting himself in La-La Land to end his career. Of course that was unfounded; but it did remind people that an NFL team in Los Angeles was not like any other city earning a franchise. It’s LA for God’s sake!!! The City of Plastic, the City of Stars, Hollywood. You think that Sam Kroenke and the Rams were just going to quietly hang out in LA and just be??? Hardly. The city forced the Rams to do something big. The Rams had no choice but to make a splash – sorry Case Keenum, I said splash not a squirt. Think of the competition the Rams were feeling (I’m not talking about other NFL teams either). The Clippers are a soap opera – and if they’re the soap opera in LA then what do we call what’s happened with the Lakers??? The Rams aren’t the only show in town, but they have a shot at being the most relevant team and the franchise that people can take the most seriously. And while LA hasn’t been completely devoid of football, college football in LA hasn’t exactly captivated fans’ interest since Pete Carroll exited stage right for Seattle – USC can’t get a coach straight and UCLA has not lived up to all the expectations placed on the Bruins when Jim Mora took the reigns.
The time appears to be right for this move. A SoCal guy at the helm in Jeff Fisher, who is likable, honest, blunt, and a long-established “football guy”. He understands the league and he understands what this relocation means to the city and what it means to the NFL. The Los Angeles media will not be bored at his pressers. As for the on-field talent, look no further than the star running back. Todd Gurley represents a position in the league that has been on life support – not the RB position itself but the idea that one guy can own the position for a team. Gurley is not part of a running back by committee. He IS the committee. He was the steal of the 2015 NFL Draft and now he is the face of the Rams and, more importantly, the face of the NFL in LA. In addition, Aaron Donald is a monster on the defensive line and is a guy who can alter an opposing team’s gameplan – he’s that impactful of a player. So what’s left that the Rams could possibly need? Oh, that’s right – a quarterback!! Let’s face it – no disrespect to Case Keenum or Nick Foles – if you’re doing this whole LA thing, you better get yourself your franchise QB. And the Rams have positioned themselves to get him. Like the trade or not, agree or disagree with the cost – but if you need a guy, you better put yourself in position to get the guy. And no one can say the Rams haven’t positioned themselves to do just that. Had they stood pat at 15, who knows who is there for them – not likely Jared Goff or Carson Wentz – but possibly Paxton Lynch, probably Connor Cook, and most certainly Christian Hackenburg (I think). But if they see one of those top 2 QBs being a franchise player, a QB who can lead them to a championship, then you have to make the move. And when they do settle on one (they say they don’t know who they prefer yet – believe that or don’t, I don’t), their choice will instantly reach celebrity status. You’re quarterbacking the NFL team in Los Angeles with a coach who’s been to the Super Bowl and lost by a single yard, a running back who is the best young RB in the game, and a defensive player who is a game changer. This young signal caller will be put in a position to win, and if he does, the fame and stardom could be nothing like we’ve ever seen.