Are the Rams everything the Seahawks want to be but can’t?
That’s the question I pose as Los Angeles prepares for its second Super Bowl appearance in the past four seasons after beating the 49ers on Sunday.
You have one team that has emerged as a dominant force in the NFC West — posting a winning record in each of the past five seasons and nabbing playoff wins in the past four. You have another team that just went 7-10 and has won just one playoff game in the past five seasons.
Perhaps this is a different conversation had Niners safety Jaquiski Tartt reeled in what looked like a gimme interception and gotten the win for San Francisco. As for now, though — the Rams are the organization looking like it has done everything right.
For starters, their big swings all seem to be paying off. See what L.A. gave up for quarterback Matt Stafford? In addition to losing former quarterback Jared Goff, the Rams gave Detroit a 2021 third-round draft pick and first-round picks in 2022 and 2023.
How about cornerback Jalen Ramsey? In exchange for the five-time Pro Bowler, L.A. sent Jacksonville two first-round picks and a fourth-rounder. Pass-rushing prodigy Von Miller? For him, the Rams gave Denver a second-round and third-round pick for 2022.
That’s a lot of picks. High picks, too. But each of the aforementioned players has been crucial in getting L.A. to the Super Bowl. The Rams also took a flyer on Odell Beckham Jr. after he cleared waivers, and the receiver caught nine passes for 113 yards in Sunday’s 20-17 win.
Going all-in is often necessary if you want to win a ring. But teams have to go all-in wisely. The Seahawks? One can question their wisdom in this department.
The draft capital they relinquished to acquire safety Jamal Adams from the Jets was steep — two first-round picks and a third-rounder. Then, last offseason they made Adams the NFL’s highest-paid safety. Worth it? Well, despite tallying 9.5 sacks in 2020 — the most ever for an NFL defensive back — Adams was ranked 53rd out of 94 safeties by Pro Football Focus two years ago. This season, after hurting his shoulder 12 games in, he had no sacks and ranked 63rd of 91 safeties.
One bad deal (and this one might still turn out OK) won’t make or break a team. But when it comes to trading for big names (see: Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin), the Seahawks have a history of falling short.
Then, of course, there is the draft. According to Jason Fitzgerald of overthecap.com, the Rams rank sixth in homegrown talent — referring to players still on the teams that drafted them. The NFL Network ranked the Rams tied for fourth in homegrown talent in 2020.
Look at some of the names. There’s three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, a defensive lineman who might be the greatest defensive player of his generation. There’s wide receiver Cooper Kupp, whose 145 receptions and 1,947 receiving yards led the NFL this season.
And then there’s a host of other players — including former Huskies Greg Gaines and Taylor Rapp — who might not have the fame of those other two guys but have made solid contributions.
The Seahawks have solid contributors, too. And since 2014 (when the Rams drafted Donald), they’ve had a handful of Pro Bowlers such as DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Michael Dickson and Shaquill Griffin (who made it as an alternate). But true, game-changing draft picks in that time span? Hard to find on Seattle’s roster — at least not at the level of Donald and Kupp.
It’s not as though the Seahawks are the only team that has fallen short of what the Rams have accomplished in recent years. In fact, given that they just had their first losing season since 2011, it would be fair to call the Seahawks one of the more successful NFL franchises in the past decade.
But something has been off about this team for a while. The fear they once inspired in their opponents is absent. They’re not thought of too kindly by oddsmakers, either. Bovada has them at 35 to 1 to win next year’s Super Bowl, which is tied for 17th in the league.
Perhaps quarterback Russell Wilson returns to his otherworldly ways next season and Seattle becomes a championship contender. Teams are constantly rising and falling in the NFL.
For now, though, the Rams look like the model of how to put a winning group together. The Seahawks might want to take note.