The LA Rams released star running back Todd Gurley Thursday morning, the latest in a slew of moves signaling a complete rebuild. But, before Cardinals fans point fingers and chuckle, they shouldn't. Arizona will be in the same position at the end of Kyler Murray's rookie contract, if they're lucky.
There's an assumption that NFL teams should build for the long term. That's misguided, unless your head coach is Bill Belichick and your quarterback is Tom Brady. Only the Patriots, Seahawks, Broncos and 49ers have reached the Super Bowl more than once in the last decade. The Seahawks went twice in two years, the Broncos went twice in three years and the 49ers went twice with two different regimes. The Patriots are the exception to the rule. For the vast majority of NFL teams, success comes in windows of two or three years at a time, and most only reach the promised land once. The Saints, Packers, Panthers, Falcons, Giants, Colts, Eagles, Ravens, Steelers, Rams, and Chiefs were all one-and-done in Super Bowl appearances this decade.
Why? Because the NFL has constructed itself to discourage dynasties. The waiver wire and draft help the worst teams first, the hard salary cap makes it near impossible to keep great rosters together, and the more you win, the harder next year's schedule is.
The hard salary cap is most prohibitive to sustained success, and it means that teams either have a great quarterback and mediocre roster, or a mediocre quarterback and great roster. That is, unless you have a great quarterback on a rookie deal. Teams like the Seahawks, Eagles, Chiefs and yes, the Rams, know all about that.
Those teams realized what they had in Wilson, Wentz, Goff and Mahomes, loaded up their roster with in-their-prime free agents, and created a championship window for themselves. When that window ended, each team made tough decisions to let go of key players. The Seahawks unloaded most of the "Legion of Boom", the Eagles let go of Nick Foles and Malcolm Jenkins, and now, the Rams have cut Todd Gurley.
The Cardinals hope that in two or three years, they too will have a tough decision to make after a championship run.
They started the offseason with major holes at receiver, defensive line and inside linebacker, and have addressed each need with in-their-prime free agents coming off career years. That's a great start. They also have the 8th pick in the draft to take the best player available.
I can promise you, Steve Keim isn't laughing at Rams GM Les Snead today. Based on Keim's free agent moves this week, it looks like he's spent the better part of the last three years taking notes from Snead. For Cardinals fans, that's a great thing.