Column: Rams’ Hollywood ending proves ‘all-in’ approach can work

Von Miller #40 of the Los Angeles Rams holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy after Super Bowl LVI at SoFi Stadium on February 13, 2022 in Inglewood, California. The Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals 23-20. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Of course Super Bowl LVI was played in Los Angeles. Where else would a game like Sunday’s take place?

A close game with an epic finish. A perfect halftime show widely lauded as the best in Super Bowl history. A statement victory worthy of the Hollywood backdrop that could signal a shift in pro football’s conventional wisdom.

In the NFL, it’s a widely-held belief that teams have to build through the draft to enjoy the ultimate success. This is tried and true. After all, we here in Washington saw up close the Burgundy and Gold’s 2000 team flame out spectacularly and who could forget Vince Young proclaiming the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles a “Dream Team” that ended up with only eight wins.

But it has also been proven time and time again that using free agency to accessorize (rather than customize) the roster is every bit as necessary.

The Rams owe their second title in franchise history (and first in L.A., as St. Louis fans are quick to point out) to stars discarded by other teams (Matthew Stafford, Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller) as much as they do their homegrown football celebrities (Aaron Donald and Super Bowl MVP Cooper Kupp).

Last week, ESPN delivered two stats that undermine the notion that the Rams count as a “Dream Team” assembly like Washington’s “Fortune .500” team 22 years ago and those underwhelming Eagles: The Rams got the NFL’s most snaps out of players still on their rookie contract in 2021 and spent the fewest dollars in free agency the last two seasons.

Will the Rams go at least seven straight drafts without a first-round pick? Yup. But does that ultimately matter? Nope.

Kupp just had unquestionably the greatest season ever from a wide receiver. He was a third-round pick. Starting running back Cam Akers was a second-rounder. Rookie Ernest Jones had one of the Rams’ Super Bowl record-tying seven sacks — he was selected in the third round of the 2021 draft.

As the Rams proved with the acquisitions of Stafford and Jalen Ramsey, a team that can multiply its picks and drafts well in later rounds has the flexibility to make a blockbuster deal or two to get the game-changers they need.

The Washington Commanders would be wise to pay attention to how things unfolded in Los Angeles. I’ve said on multiple occasions Washington needs to model its rebuild after San Francisco’s but that foundation has basically been laid already.

Terry McLaurin, like Kupp, is a clear-cut No. 1 WR selected in Round 3. Ditto for Antonio Gibson at running back. Fifth-rounder Cole Holcomb led the team in tackles in 2021 and Kam Curl is a seventh-round pick who’s developed into a strong starter in the secondary.

Nobody is Aaron Donald but Washington needs former first-rounders Jonathan Allen and Chase Young to be elite game changers on defense to make whatever blockbuster deal for a QB worthwhile.

So now is the time to swing for the fences like the Rams. If Russell Wilson costs three first-round picks, do it. If Deshaun Watson’s character checks out and his legal issues are resolved, there’s a way to get him in Burgundy and Gold without crippling the franchise.

Washington’s offensive line ranked ninth in pass block win rate in 2021 so adding a weapon to compliment a healthy (fingers crossed) McLaurin and Curtis Samuel should be a draw for any top-shelf quarterback looking to become the missing piece for a team on the cusp of contention like Tom Brady did in Tampa Bay in 2020 and Stafford just did in L.A.

Furthermore, the Commanders have over $30 million in cap space for 2022 and, because they play in the worst division in a wide open NFC, a clear path to the Super Bowl with the right kind of quarterback to lead a well-built roster.

Washington can’t have homefield advantage at a new state-of-the-art stadium like Los Angeles and Ron Rivera is a lot of good things — but a young, superstar coach like Sean McVay isn’t one of them.

But here’s how the Commanders can follow the Rams’ lead: Stop waiting for a miracle. Go all-in.

Rob Woodfork

Rob Woodfork is WTOP's Senior Sports Content Producer, which includes duties as producer and host of the DC Sports Huddle, nightside sports anchor and sports columnist on

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up