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Remember that for all the star power the Los Angeles Rams had collected, it almost wasn’t enough against a team with six victories in two seasons prior to this one.
Had the Cincinnati Bengals won this Super Bowl – and they nearly did – against a more talented opponent playing in its home stadium, conversations in other NFL markets today – including ours in Nashville – would be more complicated about what it takes to win it all.
But the Rams won. That’s easy. It's a simple narrative to understand in any sport: The team with the best players wins. While you may not like it, the NFL’s newest champion looks a lot like the majority of champions in the NBA or Major League Baseball.
What was nonetheless so intriguing about this Super Bowl – in spite of the loaded team winning it – is that it actually highlighted the NFL's parity because of how close the other team got. The Bengals were a delightful story. No one saw them coming.
Everyone, on the other hand, saw the Rams coming.
They didn’t dominate this Super Bowl or this season, though. They were a No. 4 seed. They lost three games in a row at one point. In the regular season, they were 10-0 against teams that didn’t make the playoffs and 2-5 against teams that did. In the playoffs, they were fortunate the Packers lost to the 49ers, allowing them to play the NFC title game at home in SoCal rather than frigid Lambeau Field.
They've got the Lombardi Trophy, though, which tends to be all that matters in a copycat league like the NFL.
The takeaway here is that there’s more than one takeaway.
Bad teams can still study lessons from the Bengals’ turnaround.
Good teams – looking at you, Tennessee Titans – can learn from the Rams.
1. Devaluing draft picks
The Rams haven't had a first-round NFL draft pick since 2016. They won’t have another until at least 2024.
Their eagerness to trade first-round picks for proven stars is the first bullet point in how Rams general manager Les Snead built this champion.
Snead, though, hasn’t devalued first-round picks as much as he has devalued LOW first-round picks. That's an important distinction. The Rams have long expected to be good and thus selecting near the end of the first round each year. Would whoever they ended up drafting in the mid-to-low 20s or early 30s be as good as Jalen Ramsey or Matthew Stafford? Probably not.
Since trading the Rams that 2016 pick, Titans GM Jon Robinson has drafted seven first-rounders: OT Jack Conklin (8th overall), WR Corey Davis (5th), CB Adoree’ Jackson (18th), LB Rashaan Evans (22nd), DL Jeffery Simmons (19th), OT Isaiah Wilson (29th) and CB Caleb Farley (22nd).
Only one home run in the bunch: Simmons. There's a good chance Evans won’t be back, meaning only two of those seven – Simmons and Farley – will even be on the roster in 2022.
Other than Simmons, the Titans’ top drafted talents – Derrick Henry (2nd), A.J. Brown (2nd), Harold Landry (2nd) and Kevin Byard (3rd) – weren’t first-round picks.
If you are a good team that expects to be good each season, the facts support the Rams' zigging in the draft while others in the NFL keep zagging.
2. The splashy moves
The Rams have been that “all-in” operation for years now. More than any team in the NFL, they've been eager to add huge names and huge egos.
From Ramsey to Stafford to Odell Beckham Jr, the Rams have become a home for disgruntled stars seeking a fresh start. They are the grease for the squeaky wheels, no matter the risk to their own team chemistry.
“There’s definitely risks, and we like to refer to it sometimes as being bold,” Snead has said. “But being bold is a little bit more than just gambling.”
Some of the star-hoarding has probably been to boost the Rams' interest in glitzy Los Angeles, but it has mostly come across as a team on the doorstep that was dead serious about kicking down the door.
While I’ve criticized the Titans in the past for a reluctance in doing the same, I can’t do that as much in 2022. Say what you will in hindsight about the Julio Jones trade, but that was a win-now move. Adding Zach Cunningham on waivers was, too.
The Titans aren't a destination team like the Rams, but they could be. Nashville is becoming a more attractive option in NFL free agency, and it’s not just because of the lack of income tax in Tennessee. It’s because of Mike Vrabel – who just enjoyed the advantage of getting to coach the AFC’s Pro Bowl team.
Did you happen to see the clip from Patrick Mahomes at that Pro Bowl? The star quarterback was conversing on the sideline with Maxx Crosby and remarked, “I bet Vrabel would be an awesome coach (to play for).”
— NFL (@NFL) February 10, 2022
3. The right quarterback
Have I mentioned yet that the last two Super Bowl champions had a first-year quarterback?
Yes, Tom Brady and Stafford were each playing Super Bowls at home, and each happened to have a nasty defense and pass rush on their side that made a huge difference. But since the Titans just lost a playoff game in which they had nine sacks and threw three interceptions, I'd call this a pertinent topic.
The Rams’ trading Jared Goff for Stafford, while costly, was the move that got them over the hump.
It feels like you’re wasting your breath to delve into scenarios for the Titans right now. They sound very much settled on Ryan Tannehill for another season.
But of all the notes the Titans can take from this Rams championship, the upgrade at quarterback is one that shouldn't be ignored.
Reach Gentry Estes at email@example.com and on Twitter @Gentry_Estes.
This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Three lessons Tennessee Titans can take from L.A. Rams' Super Bowl win