BY Art Thiel 05:56PM 04/04/2018

Thiel: If you thought last Rams game was bad . . .

If the 42-7 loss in December wasn’t bad enough, the Seahawks can only watch as the division champ Rams load up on awards and talent in the off-season.

Jeff Fisher, Seattle misses you. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

Since winning 42-7 in December at the Clink in the most dominant manner ever witnessed over a Pete Carroll-coached Seahawks team, the Los Angeles Rams have added premium veteran defenders Ndamukong Suh, 31, Aqib Talib, 32, Marcus Peters, 25, and Sam Shields, 30.

Wednesday, they traded with the Patriots for WR Brandin Cooks, 24, one of the NFL’s fastest players and a replacement for the loss in free agency of WR Sammy Watkins.

Not sure these moves guarantee a championship. But I know who I’m taking in a bar fight.

And who I’m taking in the NFC West.

Not a risky call there, given that the Rams are the defending champs with an 11-5 record and the league’s highest-scoring offense in 2017.

They retain QB Jared Goff and RB Todd Gurley, the NFL offensive player of the year, on rookie contracts, and Sean McVay, NFL coach of the year, is beyond his rookie season.

And I have yet to mention NFL defensive player of the year Aaron Donald, who is to Russell Wilson’s sleep as a bowling ball is to plate glass.

No team in NFL history has won the top three individual awards in a single season. If Santa had this many presents in his sleigh, he’d need a hundred reindeer.

Yes, the Rams lost their playoff opener to the Falcons, 26-13. They’re better now.

Accepting his honor at the NFL awards show, McVay, at 31 the youngest coach in modern NFL history, looked at Gurley, Donald and Goff in the audience and said, “The future looks bright with these guys leading the way. This is a credit to you.”

And a credit to nearly historic ineptitude — the Rams hadn’t had a winning record since 2003 (remember coach Jeff Fisher, the King of 7-9?) The league-mandated parity has been looking for the Rams for a long time, and finally found them.

Of course, the team’s followers are entitled to feel it’s about damn time. Except nearly all of them live in St. Louis, abandoned by the franchise two years ago. The Midwest bitterness can fill a month’s worth of cargo ships passing through the Panama Canal.

The club’s rapid assembly of all-stars now plays in front of an audience full of MAWs (model/actress/whatever) and restaurant valets reading scripts. But even in LA, 16-0 is enough to put down the arugula-and-kale yogurt and look up.

A downside for the Rams is that acquiring Cooks meant giving up the 23rd pick in the first round to the Patriots. That means at the moment the Rams have eight picks in the draft: One in the third round, three in the fourth and four in the sixth.

To which the Rams respond: So what?

You know the attitude. The Seahawks often adopted it when they were riding high, happy to trade out of the first round for additional lower picks.

But not now. The divisional game has changed; the Seahawks are looking up at the Rams, and should be looking to trade up for difference-making talent.

Depth is nice, but when Carroll himself said that their best get in free agency was Barkevious Mingo, whom they hope is in the Cliff Avril/Bruce Irvin/Chris Clemons hybrid category of edge rusher, the news did not send taser jolts through Seahawks opponents.

Said Carroll of Mingo at the league meetings: “Right off the bat he is going to be a core special-teams guy . . .We are going to start him at (strongside) linebacker.”

So Mingo replaces LB Michael Wilhoite, the least valuable among Seattle’s starting 11 defenders in 2017. Defensive help makes some sense considering in that Dec. 17 game, Gurley gashed for 152 yards in 27 carries. On the other hand, Wilson completed just 14 passes for 142 yards, half of which was negated by seven sacks costing 71 yards.

Against the Rams in that game, Seahawks failures were as numerous as they were grievous.

Carroll recognized it and fired six assistant coaches, including the top three, and parted ways with defenders Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Sheldon Richardson, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead, and on offense WR Paul Richardson and TE Luke Willson.

The draft looms, but without picks in the second and third rounds, the Seahawks are little better in terms of ordnance than the Rams, who no longer have to care. Which explains much of why the Seahawks are entertaining offers for their most valuable remaining defender, FS Earl Thomas.

If the Seahawks don’t think the NFC West hole is deep into which they have fallen, all they need to do is note the melting of their cleats by heat from the earth’s molten core.

The most recent playoff game the Rams won was in early 2004 when, led by the less than legendary QB Marc Bulger, they beat the Seahawks 27-20 in Seattle (at Qwest Field, no less). That was so long ago, Hall of Famer Jerry Rice even played in the game.

Apparently, the Rams plan to play catch-up all in one season.


  • coug73

    Ugh, the Rams. Love to beat them. Looks like the 9’ers could put up a fight against the Rams, good. Loved this rivalry. Looks like the Hawks are going to be 3 is a crowd. Hawks playing for respectability.

    • Centiorari

      The Seahawks have the best depth in the division. As we saw last year a injury here and there can change the division and the Seahawks are the least likely to be on the losing end of that tragedy this year. The Rams and 49’er starting rosters look good but the backups are generally bad and the Cardinals just look bad period. The Rams have been the least injured team for 2 years in a row, if I’m not mistaken, so they are due.

      • PokeyPuff

        that is the hope im clinging to as well. Injuries have impacted the hawks for a few years now, its someone else’s turn! So a Gurley injury and a Goff regression, and maybe things even out

        • Bayview Herb

          I’m wondering if the team couldn’t get a better trainer for preventative measures. These muscle strains are killing us.

  • Steed

    The Rams are going all in for a Championship this season. Pulling out all the stops. If I lived in St Louis I might be ill right now.

  • Ron

    Seahawks have made it to the Super Bowl three times, and each time they had the number one playoff seed. They won’t even have the best record within their division the next couple years. So there’s no expectation of going to the Super Bowl for a couple years. What are Pete and John hoping to accomplish the next two years? 8-8 respectability? Hope to get into the playoffs as a wild card and call that a victory?

    • coug73

      I don’t know. The Rams and 9’ers both finished the season strong. The Hawks not so much; we’ll seen how the rosters are put together for all 3 teams.

    • art thiel

      I think Wilson’s agent wants it known that Wilson is not as rooted to SEA as people think. It’s the agent’s job to fan the marketplace for his client. That’s why the story is out there.

  • Centiorari

    What the Rams are doing this year isn’t terrible for us. Yes, we will have a tough time winning the division this year, but it increases the chances that we can win the division for the next 5 years. This loading up on stars is going to meet the piper as soon as next year when they have to think about paying Donald, Goff, Cooks, Peters, and Gurley. Those 5 players alone will likely want about 60% of the total team cap space and since they traded for them or have no replacement, they will pay them whatever they ask or get set back even further. This is a Super Bowl win or bust for the Rams focused around winning the L.A. fan base before they lose interest.

  • 1coolguy

    As much of a fan as I am of the Hawks, the Rams are the top team in the West, without doubt. They are loaded on both sides of the ball and their overall payroll is still low enough per player they have a few years left for their tun.
    Schneider hasn’t done jack for years and the Hawks are now where they are – middling. I would have brought on a Patriots personnel guy, as they have figured out better than anyone how to move players in and out and manage the cap.

    • art thiel

      Schneider’s successes out-weigh his misses, but the McDowell pick, with all the red flags about his immaturity, was a blow. They’ll be digging out from that one for years.

      • 1coolguy

        have you forgotten the Harvin and Graham debacles Art? Since the early drafts that were all-world, what has JS done since? The number of draft choices given up for these two and letting Unger go in his prime are moves that are simply inexcusable. Minnesota and New Orleans would LOVE to do more deals with JS, who they hood-winked, big time. Minnesota then punked JS again with Walsh! They can’t WAIT for JS to come calling again, as they have built their franchise on his give-aways!

        • wabubba67

          If nothing else, Harvin wrapped up the Super Bowl with his kickoff return to start the 2nd half. Just because of that, I’m alright with that trade. The Graham deal is puzzling because of how Seattle stubbornly attempted to force him to become a blocker and not a WR. Walsh was a free agent….the Vikings had nothing to do with Seattle acquiring him.

          • 1coolguy

            it is inexcusable to give up 3 draft picks, including a #1, for a player who never did play,. 3 draft picks for 1 play – REALLY??? He was also a cancer in the locker room.
            And to give up a first round pick AND our All-Pro, O line anchor Unger for the pussy Graham who in the end didn’t do jack – If I were Allen I would be talking to people about JS’ replacement if this draft isn’t a home run. His investment in the Hawks, worth billions, has gone from the very, very top to a middling team not even expected to win its’ division.
            No team replaces players and manages the cap better than the Patriots (name a player other than Gronk, Brady and Amendola), so pick up one of their personnel guys and get in the game. JS’ star is dim.

  • Matt712

    Yep, the Rams indeed look like a juggernaut. On paper. ….The again, on paper, the Seahawks, not so long ago, looked like perennial Super Bowl winners. One of the amazing things about the NFL is it’s cruel indifference to paper. It will be fascinating to see how close it comes to reality this year.

    • art thiel

      We all accept that it’s April and 0-0. But what the Rams have assembled is impressive.

  • jafabian

    If the Hawks could do a package deal including Earl to move up in the draft and take Saquon Barkley I’d geek outl. It would be Curt Warner all over again. The club still has a decent core but the same questions as last season, the upcoming draft not withstanding. Right now they don’t have the firepower to keep pace with the Rams and only the division winner is going to the postseason.

    • John M

      Agree that they need to trade Earl to gain picks, but also to get past lingering thoughts that Earl – a favorite of almost everyone – will somehow rally the new guys into a spiffed up LOB; unlikely. There appear to be high hopes among coaches and management to create another LOB from the new guys that have been striving together for their shot – their recognition – just like it happened the first time.

      The same ‘ol talk about firepower, taller receivers, Russ is too short, that guy’s too slow, etc., has no basis in fact. With good blocking there will be all the firepower needed to win games and Russell will throw like he did a few years ago. This doorstop they finally seem serious about addressing . . .

      • art thiel

        Fluker is likely the best of the dubious group of one-year OL hires the Seahawks have made. The OL will be better at all five positions, but whether it’s close to NFL average awaits the impact of new offensive coaches.

        • wabubba67

          Jahri Evans is still out there. Would love to see them bring in one more competent veteran RG/LG on the cheap for depth and competition.

    • art thiel

      I think Schneider believed Richardson would get the multi-year he sought, but taking the one-year at $8M was a surprise. I doubt Suh was ever a realistic possibility.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Jeez Art , I’m gonna start calling you Eeyore ; “we’ll never make it !” ..

    I seem to recall that last year before the start of the season , everyone else in the league thought we had the premier defensive line in the NFL . Turns out , not so much . Everything looks great on paper for the Rams , but let’s wait and see what happens on the field . Don’t get me wrong , they should certainly win the division this year . Key word being ‘should’ , but as we here in Seattle know all too well , injuries can change a season in a instant . And they certainly have a collection of personalities in that locker room to manage ..

    Read an article yesterday that suggested the Rams are all in this year in an effort to win fans over the Chargers , as they share a stadium and are vying for season ticket holders in the same market . Signings like Suh and Talib will help in the now , but won’t do much for the future . Much like the Hawks , they’re going to wind up with no cap room , little to no draft capital and a room full of aging veterans who all want their money .

    • art thiel

      It is building to a one-shot charge in 2018. But they need to capture a marketplace casual to pro football, and create cred for the Kroenke/McVay/Goss pole upon which the franchise will hang its brand. Different circumstances for LA than SEA.

    • dave

      there is no competition between the Rams and Chargers in LA. never has been and never will as it has always been the Rams city, they only sucked after they moved to Anaheim, in LA they were always tough.

  • wabubba67

    The Rams are in an enviable position right now…both Goff and Gurley are still on their rookie deals. This gives them another 2-3 seasons to load up in other areas with high priced talent. This is exactly what the Seahawks did with Wilson…but the Rams are in an even better position because the Seahawks were also paying their RB (Lynch).

    It’s likely going to be a long couple of years in the NFC West.

    • art thiel

      Rams have numerous one-year contracts, but that may be an NFL trend for certain types of good FAs. The Wilson example of riding a good young QB while he’s affordable is going to be a much bigger deal now.

  • Bayview Herb

    St Louis should not be bitter. They stole the rams from Los Angeles. LA s just returning home.

    • art thiel

      Lots of STL fans still cared about the Rams, independent of the irony.

    • Husky73

      The Rams went to LA from Cleveland.

      • Bayview Herb

        Yes, I know that, but the Rams had a great home in LA and if the owner hadn’t died, leaving his widow to go for the bucks they would ha e stayed in LA. One of the great markets in the history of the game.

  • DonMac

    Hi Art, I thought the column you wrote regarding whether the Seahawks should consider trading Russell Wilson was very intriguing. Do you think the Browns would be willing to part with the first and fourth picks in the first round and at least one of their picks in the second round to acquire Wilson? I know there are risks but the returns could be huge if the Hawks were able to draft Sam Darnold and Saquon Barkley with those added first rounds picks. The Hawks would need to sign a veteran QB to play until Darnold is ready but the added cap space made possible by trading Wilson coupled with the addition of perhaps the two most dynamic players in the draft would seem to be well worth the risk should the Browns be amenable to giving up so much draft capital and if the Hawks are willing to trade the face of the franchise.

    • wabubba67

      I don’t think that the Browns would give up that much. From their perspective, why not stay put and draft Darnold/Barkley on rookie deals and mesh them with an already young team? Considering Wilson’s large salary and impending free agency (or the cost of franchising him), the Browns would likely only give up the #4 pick and maybe a 2nd or 3rd rounder.