The LA Rams are busy in their offseason preparations, developing plans for exactly how they will reintroduce themselves to the LA-area. With that in mind, I figured that I'd go ahead and offer four suggestions to help with the transition:
1) Appear on HBO's Hard Knocks
It's been 21 years since the Rams left LA, and the team doesn't have many recognizable players. If asked, most casual LA sports fans probably couldn't name a Rams player outside of running back Todd Gurley. So what better way to introduce your roster to the city than by headlining the most popular reality show in all of sports?
Many NFL coaches dislike Hard Knocks because they claim it's a distraction. Jeff Fisher may feel the same way, especially with the headaches that come with a move. But four of the last six teams that have appeared on Hard Knocks made the playoffs during that season. And seven of the 10 teams that have been on the show wound up with a winning record. It's not a distraction.
This is Los Angeles, and the personalities of our athletes are sometimes just as important to fans as their play on the field. It's time for LA to meet the Rams. Let fans see them on HBO.
2) Sign RG3
It doesn't happen very often, but I agree with Bill Plaschke on this one. Things didn't work out for Robert Griffin III in Washington, and there's plenty of blame to go around. Today, Griffin seems humbled by his downfall in DC, but he's still only 26, and he still has a ridiculous amount of talent.
Case Keenum is an underrated quarterback, but the idea that he can take the Rams to the playoffs is wishful thinking. RG3 is a risk, but one with plenty of upside. If he can stay healthy, then the Rams would have a dynamic backfield with Griffin and Gurley, and could run circles around teams. Without a great receiver on their roster, a ground based attack could pay dividends.
My suggestion for the Rams would be to release (or trade) Nick Foles and sign Griffin. They can let Griffin and Keenum compete for the starting QB job. They could also draft a quarterback such as Paxton Lynch, Christian Hackenberg, or Connor Cook outside of the first round, and let him learn on the bench for a few years. It would be nice if the Rams could move up in the draft and take either Jared Goff or Carson Wentz, but they'll probably have to give up too much to get there. In that case, taking a chance on Griffin is the way to go.
3) Switch London Opponents
I was so excited about the Rams coming back to LA that I put down a deposit on season tickets within minutes of them going live. I was also excited about a slate of home opponents that included the Seahawks, Panthers, Cardinals and Giants. Then I found out that the Giants aren't actually coming to the Coliseum.
The Rams have committed to three international games over the next three years, and that includes a game against the Giants on October 23 in London. I understand that the Rams made this commitment to London before they even knew who their opponent would be. But the NFL schedule makers should not deprive LA the chance of a New York matchup in their very first season here. A Rams-Giants game would be the hottest ticket in town and the Coliseum would be rocking. Instead, we might be stuck watching it at 6:30 AM on a choppy Yahoo stream.
It's understandable that the Rams would want to expand their brand, and playing in London while the aging Coliseum is their home makes sense. But couldn't they play Atlanta in London instead? I mean, who cares about the Falcons? We can sacrifice that game. Let Steve Tisch drive down the freeway to see his Giants play in LA for once. And Angelinos will deal just fine with missing Matt Ryan's visit to town.
4) Go with Throwback Uniforms
In fairness, this is a suggestion that's more for the NFL. The Rams have done everything correct on this front since they were approved to move in January. From 1973 through 1999, the Rams wore one of the best uniforms in pro football. Today, their uniforms are kinda ugly. ESPN Uni Watch columnist Paul Lukas says that the uniform changes in St. Louis "[sped] their transition from one of the league's better-looking teams to one of its worst-looking."
There's a reason why every Rams executive is asked about the uniforms in every interview. In LA, we want our team looking more like the Los Angeles Rams than the St. Louis Rams. We want a look that evokes the team we saw growing up, and not a look that feels like a lame 2005 marketing ploy for a team we saw play in Missouri.
While it's hard for many fans to believe, it takes two years to change an NFL uniform. Having worked on the Tampa Bay Rays rebranding, I now understand why it takes so long to make a seemingly simple change. There's a ton that goes into owning a new mark, and then updating your brand across all touchpoints.
The Rams would like to change their uniform for the 2019 season, when they move into their sparkling new Inglewood stadium. That makes sense. But in the interim, the Rams asked the NFL if they could wear their throwbacks from the 1970s, 80s, and 90s for their three seasons in the Coliseum. The NFL said "no", and will only let the Rams continue to wear throwbacks twice a year. Oh, and they'll let the Rams do something crazy once a year, like their bright highlighter color rush uniforms from last year.
The NFL should reconsider the Rams request. We've got one shot to make the NFL work in LA again. Roger Goodell and company need to understand that the Rams will be a more popular team in Los Angeles in their throwback gear than in their St. Louis gear. LA cares about how its teams look. And we also like the color gold.