The Los Angeles Rams have become kings of playing to win now. Trading away first-round picks for seven years will have that effect on roster-building.
The Rams have NFL AP Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey leading one of the best defenses in the NFL; a receiver corps of the perennially underrated Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, speedster DeSean Jackson and second-year player Van Jefferson; running backs Cam Akers and Darrell Henderson; and an offensive line anchored by the ageless Andrew Whitworth. With Stafford, the pieces are in place for a deep postseason run.
In June, on paper, the Rams should be one of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' biggest threats in the NFC to a potential repeat.
In an interview with Albert Breer of The MMQB, coach Sean McVay said he and his club embrace those expectations.
"You're not gonna run away from the expectations," he told Breer. "Every single team in the NFL has one goal right now, and that's to win a Super Bowl. And I believe the teams that know, and the teams that have actually accomplished that, they know that you only do that by being where your feet are planted. The one thing that I would say, there's a belief in the ability to do what we want to be able to do. Now, you don't do that unless you are where your feet are planted. But there's a belief, there's a confidence in the people you're around.
"And when you enjoy that? We're not gonna ask anybody to do anything that's more than they can actually accomplish. And there's a real peace of mind that accompanies that if you know, Hey, there's gotta be hard work, there's gotta be a process, there's gotta be standards that we uphold day-in and day-out. But you know what? If we do those things, I believe we can go into games, and expect to be able to come away with the result that we want."
Stafford, who never won a playoff game in 12 years in Detroit, is the most significant factor in the prospects rising from the Rams being a decent playoff contender to having a Super Bowl on its radar.
McVay is thrilled to have the big-armed QB in the building.
"Bro, this dude's a bad MF-er," McVay said of Stafford. "Whatever people say about him, as good as it can be, he's even better than advertised. It makes sense to him. The guy's ability to see the game, his ability to draw on his experiences, the feel that he has, it's pretty special and unique. And man, his feel for people, his authentic way of connecting with his teammates, his coaches, this guy, it's great being around him."
Stafford's play and the Rams' expectations will be intrinsically linked this season, fair or not. If the QB struggles, his record in Detroit will be used as an example of how he's not a winner. If the Rams soar into the postseason, sea poems will be written about how Stafford just needed to find a better situation to find success finally.
June storylines don't mean diddly-squat once games start. But many do persist in developing the narrative that will run the rest of the calendar year. Expectations for the Rams unearthed by the Stafford trade will be one of those stories constantly referred to once the 2021 season finally gets underway.