theThe Los Angeles Rams earned their most complete win in Week 7 against the Arizona Cardinals. Their offense proved dominant, with Todd Gurley leading the way on the ground and Jared Goff providing support through the air. Their defense also dominated, shutting down Adrian Peterson literally for the first time in franchise history. Los Angeles also held Carson Palmer or Drew Stanton from making anything happen in the passing game. The special teams stepped in when needed, with Greg Zuerlein going four for four on field goals.
So who do we crown as the winner when the entire team performs flawlessly as a unit? Is it the head coach? It could be Sean McVay, but how about the guy who hired him? This week’s winner is general manager Les Snead.
We’ve criticized Snead many times during his tenure, and most of the time it was justified. He drafted Greg Robinson second overall. Snead traded up to draft Tavon Austin and then overpaid him. He let Jeff Fisher hand around a year or two longer than he should have. The Rams’ long-time general manager is far from perfect. However, the three major reasons the Rams have been successful this season are a result of his boldest decisions.
Reason #1: Hiring the youngest coach in modern NFL history.
I wrote up a Rams coaching search handbook back in December. I didn’t include Washington’s 30-year-old offensive coordinator. When rumors began circulating that McVay was the favorite for the job, it was surprising to many of us, but he made a ton of sense when you dug deeper into the decision. McVay was different. He was a young, up-and-coming offensive mastermind, who elevated Kirk Cousins into a borderline elite quarterback. McVay was the perfect candidate for this team, especially when Snead then paired him with Wade Phillips.
This was Snead’s first head coaching hire; the Rams signed him after Jeff Fisher took over as head coach in 2012. If McVay didn’t work out, Snead’s tenure with the Rams was over. We don’t have to worry about that now. McVay was a home run hire and has this team firing on all cylinders. It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to feel this good about a Rams head coaching.
Reason #2: Drafting talent over need.
Entering the 2014 NFL Draft, the most solidified position on the depth chart in St. Louis was the defensive line. The last thing the Rams needed was to waste a first round pick on a defensive tackle, but Snead decided to throw his needs out the window and select Aaron Donald, the best player on the board. Later in this draft, the Rams selected Auburn running back Tre Mason. Mason was expected to be paired with incoming starter Zac Stacy, but he took over the starting job with a promising rookie campaign. Mason performance is why it was surprising when the Rams selected another running back in the first round the following year.
It’s hard to believe that Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley were risky picks. In a way they weren’t, but neither player was what the Rams needed on paper. It’s a good thing games aren’t played on paper. Donald and Gurley have been the anchors on their respective sides of the ball. They’ve been a key factor in every win this season (minus Donald’s absence in Week 1).
Reason #3: Trading up for a quarterback.
When Snead made the decision to trade up for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, he was investing everything he had in that pick. Nothing he did in the past mattered: the RG3 trade, the Donald selection – none of it. Snead was handcuffing his career and his legacy to this selection, because it would be all anyone would remember if it worked or if it failed. You can win a championship without a good quarterback, but its a lot easier to win one with a good quarterback. The Rams traded up and handed California-grown Jared Goff the keys to the kingdom.
The move looked like a disaster just a few months ago. Fisher chose to start Case Keenum over Goff, and when Goff finally stepped on the field he struggled to do anything in Fisher’s “middle school” offense.
It’s crazy how quickly things can change. Goff is just as responsible for the team’s success as anyone. He’s limited turnovers, he’s made great throws when he needed to, and he’s finally made the passing game a threat again. Goff finally looks like a guy that deserved to be drafted No. 1. The Rams have finally found their guy.
McVay, Donald, Gurley, or even Goff could have been named the winner for this week, but it’s time we give Les Snead the credit he deserves. He’s collected a talented roster of players and finally has a coach who can get the most out of them. I’m glad Snead is still our general manager.
Steve Rebeiro is a staff writer and podcast host for Rams Talk. He graduated from Marquette University in 2016. For more of his opinions, follow him on Twitter here.
Week 5: John Johnson
This is a series of articles crowning a winner for the Los Angeles Rams each week of the 2017 season. For a description of what it means to “win” the week, see the first article here.