Rams, Bucs will struggle to resume NFL after all-in gambits

The Kansas City Chiefs or Philadelphia Eagles will be the fifth team since 2000 to win two Super Bowls in five years. It’s an impressive feat for a number of reasons – we’ll get to that later – but even more striking when you juxtapose the success of the Chiefs and Eagles with the two previous champions, the Los Angeles Rams and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. .

Just a year after the Rams and two years after the Buccaneers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy, both clubs are moving in the wrong direction with no clear path after throwing all their chips in the title race.

Both teams have accomplished what 30 others have failed to do over the past two seasons, and their bet has paid off in the biggest way possible. But the cost has also left both teams spiraling. The Rams’ curated roster crumbled under the weight of injuries and roster holes and missed the playoffs in 2022, while the mostly intact Buccaneers championship team look like a shell of him -even in 2020 and pulled out of the playoffs after a lackluster performance against the Dallas Cowboys. in the joker round.

Neither do chess. They both did them thing everyone in the league is trying to do. And they both did it differently, too: Los Angeles traded large amounts of interim capital to regroup in key positions before finally securing a quarterback in Matthew Stafford, while Tampa Bay snapped up Tom Brady. in free agency and paid to keep his base roster intact.

The Rams splashed big on quarterback Matthew Stafford (left), defensive tackle Aaron Donald and other stars, and it won them the Super Bowl. It has also contributed to the difficult climb they face trying to return to competition. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

But there is something to be said for staying in power in this league. Brady knows this all too well from his two decades with the New England Patriots. Bill Belichick built these teams around Brady, a good offensive line and a good defense. The Buccaneers and Rams did it in their respective runs but couldn’t sustain it for long.

It’s time to turn things around for both clubs, but aging and expensive rosters without much youth or depth are hard to fix quickly.

How other recent Super Bowl champions have come back

This is not a new phenomenon. The Super Bowl hangover has been well documented over the years, with both winners and runners-up.

As mentioned earlier, only four teams since 2000 have won a second Super Bowl within five years of the first: the 2004 Patriots (who won three titles over a four-year span), the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers (who won also won in 2005), the 2011 Giants (who also won in 2007) and the 2014-18 Patriots (who also won three titles in five years).

Further detailed: 14 of the last 22 champions made the playoffs in each of the next two seasons (including this year’s Buccaneers). Eleven of these 14 teams have made the divisional round at least once, seven have done so twice. Additionally, nine of the 22 champions returned to the playoffs at least four times over the next five seasons.

But that story doesn’t necessarily doom the Buccaneers or the Rams. The Giants only made the playoffs twice after their Super Bowl in 2007, and this team won it again in 2011. The same goes for the Steelers after they won in 2005 and then again in 2008. .

That difference, however, is that these four teams broke ground on some level between their Super Bowl titles. The Steelers changed running backs, added receiver Santonio Holmes and even hired a new coach. The Giants improved their receiving corps and replaced retired Michael Strahan with Jason Pierre-Paul on the defensive line. The coaching staff was essentially the same except for new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell.

The Patriots’ last championship run is the main outlier, as they made four Super Bowl appearances from 2014-2018 and won three with mostly the same roster around a top-five offense and defense. . But Brady and Belichick have always bucked the trends.

Tom Brady (left), Bill Belichick (right) and the New England Patriots are a shining example of a team that has succeeded over time.  It's a formula that few teams have been able to replicate.  (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Tom Brady (left), Bill Belichick (right) and the New England Patriots are a shining example of a team that has succeeded over time. It’s a formula that few teams have been able to replicate. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

The Buccaneers and Rams, meanwhile, failed to elevate their teams and actually lost key contributors to their championship teams on both sides of the ball.

Tampa Bay lost starting guard Ali Marpet and tight end Rob Gronkowski to retirement (as well as receiver Antonio Brown for, well, other stuff) while Los Angeles lost starting tackle Andrew Whitworth to retirement , rusher Von Miller to the Bills in free agency, and receivers Robert Woods and Odell Beckham Jr. Neither team found suitable replacements for any of these players. On the coaching front, Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians retired to the front office in 2022 while Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell left to coach the Minnesota Vikings last season.

These changes have affected both teams this season. Brady’s yards on completion fell below 10 for the first time as a starter and his 25 passing touchdowns is his lowest rating since 2019. He also led the NFL in sack percentage for the second year consecutive. The Rams offense, meanwhile, went from ninth to 32nd in yards and 15th to 21st in points and the defense went from 15th in points allowed to 21st in a year.

Could the Buccaneers and Rams find their way back? Absolutely. Both remain ripe with top-notch talent in their respective rosters. Chris Godwin and Mike Evans are still among the league’s top passing duos for Tampa Bay, while veteran Stafford core, receiver Cooper Kupp, defensive tackle Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey remain elite for the Rams.

But both teams will have to make tough choices in important positions.

On the one hand, the Buccaneers and the Rams were the second and third oldest teams in the NFL in 2022, respectively. The Chiefs, meanwhile, ranked 26th, and while the Eagles are sixth, most of their top contributors are young. Age doesn’t define a team, but an influx of younger talent could help. The Buccaneers already have running back Rachaad White and the Rams have seen a resurgence in third-year running back Cam Akers.

There are, however, some obvious holes that could widen this offseason.

Tampa Bay could consider a new starting quarterback if Brady leaves, and there are serious concerns on the offensive line, in the backfield and on defense. Los Angeles needs Stafford to return healthy and also find consistency at running back, receiver and secondary.

Chiefs and Eagles innovated

Juxtapose that with the current Super Bowl game between the Chiefs and Eagles. Both teams have a chance to join that aforementioned list of repeat champions with slightly altered or completely different iterations of their previous championship teams.

The Chiefs still have their head coaching duo of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes. Travis Kelce is still the leading wide receiver and the defense still has a powerful pass rush with Chris Jones and Frank Clark. But the team adapted after losing arguably their best weapon at Tyreek Hill with a host of skill position players like JuJu Smith-Schuster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Kadarius Toney and Skyy Moore. And in the backfield, the Chiefs found success with Jerick McKinnon and seventh-round rookie Isiah Pacheco.

The Eagles are a completely different story. This team looks almost unrecognizable from the one that beat the Patriots to win the Super Bowl at the end of the 2017 season. And it’s all thanks to general manager Howie Roseman. He hired head coach Nick Sirianni, drafted quarterback Jalen Hurts and traded wide receiver AJ Brown — three of the biggest contributors to Philadelphia’s championship run. Sirianni, meanwhile, brought in offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and defensive coordinator Jonathan Gannon, both of whom developed and transformed the team into the best in the NFC.

Kansas City and Philadelphia are prime examples of why convenience is the first step to irrelevance. Neither team rested on the laurels of their champion team and instead found ways to recreate either with the personnel they already had or by finding the missing pieces elsewhere.

The Buccaneers and Rams finally got what they wanted. Now it comes down to whether these clubs can quickly transform their immediate future or hit the reset button. They have time to do it, but resources could be an issue after everything both teams have given up to earn a ring. The Buccaneers are projected to be $55 million over the salary cap in 2023, per OTC, and the Rams will be $14.2 million over the cap and without a first-round pick for the seventh straight year.

None of this is conducive to longevity. But maybe that was the price they were happy to pay for a title. Or maybe a year off is all they needed to make a comeback. We will know in 2023.

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