The Los Angeles Rams have lost three straight games in a stunning slide that coincides with the timing of the team's two midseason superstar acquisitions. Odell Beckham Jr. and Von Miller have barely been around long enough to learn the playbook, much less play poorly enough to cost the Rams wins, but it is a fact that Los Angeles has not won since they traded for Miller at the deadline and signed OBJ shortly thereafter.
It's a great opportunity for everyone to understand the difference between causation and correlation but instead it's sparked a larger discussion about the viability of superteams in the NFL. The Rams are a unique modern-day case, having not used a first-round pick since 2016 mostly due to trades for legitimate superstars in an effort to go all-in every year and win the Big One. They obviously have been unsuccessful in that endeavor and have made the final four of the playoffs only once in the last five years.
Troy Aikman, speaking on 1310 The Ticket in Dallas for his weekly interview, expressed his belief that "All-Star" teams in the NFL never worked before and will never work. Via Yahoo!:
“We’ve talked about it — the all-star team just — I’ve never seen it work in the NFL. I know Washington tried it back in, I think, ‘99. I’ve just never seen a team that goes out and tries to put together this all-star team that can win a Super Bowl, much less success,” Aikman said. “It usually unravels, and right now, that’s kind of what’s happening to the Rams. They’ve just not been very consistent.”
While the reason as to why these superteams don't work remains ethereal and ambiguous, Aikman isn't wrong. We've seen some absolutely loaded teams win the Super Bowl over the years, but never one that intentionally loaded up on All-Pro talent in their prime.
The first thought that probably popped into your mind after reading the headline was "Well, what about last year's Buccaneers?" Tampa is indeed so talented you could make an argument they're a superteam, and they benefitted from the Tom Brady effect where talented vets who could've gotten more elsewhere came aboard to win. That's close, but not quite what Aikman means. The Bucs acquired one superstar in Brady and two fine-at-this-point-in-their-career players in Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown along with a serviceable running back in Leonard Fournette.
The bulk of the championship team was drafted by Tampa in the years leading up to Brady. Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, the entire offensive line, Devin White, Lavonte David. The key players who the Bucs absolutely could not have won the championship without were home-grown -- except for Brady, and acquiring one star-level player does not a superteam make.
The all-time proof to this argument is the 2011 Philadelphia Eagles, who proclaimed themselves a Dream Team after an offseason of high-profile acquisitions. They barely made it to .500 and warned everybody of the risks of buying talent in the NFL.
That's what Aikman's point comes down to, really. Teams cannot buy their way to a championship. They can try, and if they have the right mix, they'll even come close, but no team has successfully paid their way to a ring. Football is such a team game that just throwing together a bunch of talent won't pay dividends like it can in the NBA. Chemistry matters, and the teams with the best chemistry are the ones who have players brought up in the system together over the course of years. Rome was not built in a day, and neither are Super Bowl winners.
Unless the Rams turn it around, they will become the latest proof of that.