IRVINE, Calif. — Six months ago, because the Los Angeles Rams celebrated winning Super Bowl LVI with the same old parade and pep rally, their top front office executive took a cheeky victory lap of his own.
Les Snead, the Rams’ general manager, built the team’s win-or-bust roster with trades for quarterback Matthew Stafford and other key players by offloading 12 of Los Angeles’s draft picks ahead of last season. Most observers viewed it as an all-in bet that the Rams could win now, not wait to construct a team based on potential. Basking within the victory on the parade, Snead wore a T-shirt that bore his face and the profanity laced web meme about his view of draft picks that emerged around him and his aggressive approach.
The Rams’ daring methodology cut against conventional approaches to roster construction within the N.F.L., where draft picks are typically coveted because they permit teams to sign potentially impactful players at the bottom salaries allowed.
Snead can have forced a reassessment. Eight teams — one-fourth of N.F.L. clubs — entered the 2022 draft with no first-round selection. They included the Miami Dolphins and the Las Vegas Raiders, teams that gave up picks in exchange for receivers Tyreek Hill and Davante Adams this off-season.
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson and Matt Ryan, who each had led teams to Super Bowl appearances, were also traded for picks, with Wilson landing with the Denver Broncos and Ryan with the Indianapolis Colts.
As other teams follow the Rams’ blueprint, Snead will try to maintain the team competitive with no first-round draft pick until 2024 as its highly paid stars age. In an interview during training camp, Snead talked about how he actually evaluates draft picks, what he thinks is behind other teams’ aggressive personnel moves and the way he assesses when the prime of a player’s profession is over.
The interview has been condensed and calmly edited for clarity.
Did you enjoy becoming a meme?
I’m intentionally not on social media, however the teenagers had a good time with it. It didn’t surprise me that it took off because we ended up winning the Super Bowl. Heck, it may need taken off if we had gone in the opposite direction and lost. Social media is nice at that, right? Making fun of you to an extent. It’s a simple thing to catch fire. But I do think there’s a component of self-importance to it.
What were the largest aspects to persuading Aaron Donald to not retire? [Donald, a seven-time All-Pro defensive tackle, considered retiring at 30 before signing a contract extension that made nearly $46 million of its $95 million total payable in bonuses over three years.]
Sean [McVay, the coach of the Rams] and him have a great relationship, so I believe they were capable of discuss big picture, life, football and talk through things. I believe myself and the front office, talking along with his reps, were really: “OK, if Aaron desires to play football, then really it’s on us to determine a solution to get the cash right. Aaron, shouldn’t retire due to us.” The third part, and I believe Aaron did a very nice job, is because he was actually honest and said, “Look, I do know I got three years.” Then it’s working creatively to have the ability to reward Aaron, but additionally engineer a contract where if he does retire in three years, it doesn’t punish the club for the long run.
How does Donald’s impending retirement affect the way you construct the defense?
We’re never having one other Aaron Donald, so we shouldn’t search for that. What we must always do is determine other ways to pressure the quarterback. But replacing Aaron Donald? That’s a fruitless call.
Last yr, the motto gave the impression to be ‘All In.’ After winning the Super Bowl, is the team’s sense of urgency the identical?
A phrase we’ve been throwing around is “Attack Success.” We’ve really been all in since 2017; it wasn’t just last yr. Once we broke through, we realized we’ve got a special head coach and play caller, difference makers on the offensive side of the ball and have all the time had a salty defense. Let’s attack this window, and we’re still going to attack it.
How do you marry being aggressive and trading first-round picks while also using later-round picks to your advantage?
We were aware that we were on this window and had a chance to contend. Now we’ve this subset of draft picks. [Twelve of the Rams’ 22 starters in the Super Bowl were drafted by the team.] What’s essentially the most effective solution to use them? It means you’ll be able to trade back and collect more draft picks, which we do loads.
The neat thing about our system is after we draft a rookie, we’re not necessarily counting on him to begin. We will develop and convey him along. So I’d say that the brand new meme that won’t change into a meme would really be that the Rams “give attention to the draft picks.”
What’s your tackle other teams making more daring trades this off-season?
If that’s the case, I believe they’re doing it because we actually won the world championship. So, selfishly, I’m glad we won the world championship and if teams think what we did can offer them some version of a blueprint. But I do think within the last five to 10 years, teams have began to do things in another way and attack their windows or attack their rebuilds. I’m not saying it was just us — perhaps what we’ve done accelerated it — but there’s been a trend of teams being less conservative.
If it wasn’t you, then what do you think that caused it?
Some would say there’s a younger, perhaps less traditional group of head coaches and general managers. Possibly it’s the influx of analytics. It just could be teams realizing that perhaps we’re more in a microwaveable time in that the five-year plan is perhaps outdated. Are you able to get this thing done in a two-year plan? I believe you’ve got so as to add to the element of the players, too. Some are saying: “Wait a minute, I’m in my prime and I’m unsure that is the place to be. Could you progress me to a spot that I could win?” There’s numerous aspects.
When do you think that you’ll start to appreciate that the championship window is dwindling, and the way will you manage that?
It could possibly be so simple as we begin to lose more games. But I believe where we’re at is realizing when you may have players of their primes, that signifies that perhaps greater than half of their profession is over. At that time limit, it’s on us to form of monitor where someone could possibly be dropping off. That doesn’t necessarily mean you now might replace them. It could mean that he gets less reps. It would mean that he practices less. How do you retain it going? And also you’re all the time going to attempt to fill your holes when mandatory.