Marvel’s ‘What If’ Series: Los Angeles Rams Edition

by Blaine Grisak
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Marvel’s new hit series “What if’ debuts on Wednesday. The series reimagines noteworthy events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and creates a multiverse of infinite possibilities. For example, the first episode looked at “What if Peggy Carter was the first Avenger.” I decided to take this idea and put a Los Angeles Rams spin on it. They wouldn’t all need to be “what if the Rams did this thing correct instead.” It could be other teams making different decisions that affect the Rams as well. Here we go!

‘What If’ the San Francisco 49ers hired Sean McVay

After the 2016 season, the Los Angeles Rams sat at 4-12 and near the bottom of the NFL. Weeks after giving Jeff Fisher an extension, Stan Kroenke fired Jeff Fisher. We all know what happened. The Rams ended up hiring Sean McVay, but what if that wasn’t the case.

Prior to meeting with the Rams, Sean McVay met with the San Francisco 49ers in New York. The connection seemed obvious. McVay’s grandfather helped Bill Walsh turn the 49ers into a dynasty in the 80’s. With the 49ers struggling, now it would be the younger McVay to lead the 49ers out of the darkness.

So, what if the 49ers never let McVay leave New York and hired him on the spot?

Well, that certainly would have changed things for the Rams. The Rams also requested interviews from Kyle Shanahan, Matt Patricia, Teryl Austin, Josh McDaniels, Steve Wilks, Anthony Lynn, and Vance Joseph. Four of those coaches wound of taking head coaching position. With the Rams focused on developing Jared Goff, the choice would have likely been Josh McDaniels, Kyle Shanahan or Anthony Lynn.

Of those coaches, only Kyle Shanahan still remains in his role as head coach. The Denver Broncos hired Vance Joseph instead of hiring the son of legendary Broncos coach Mike Shanahan. Therefore, Shanahan would have been available. It’s very possible that Shanahan would have been the head coach of the Rams had the 49ers gone with McVay.

After a decade of losing, would Shanahan have been just as successful as McVay and brought the Rams out of the darkness?

‘What if’ the Patriots Played for Overtime

This might be the most painful moment in Los Angeles Rams history. With seconds ticking off of the clock, the New England Patriots completed the giant upset in Super Bowl XXXVI to win 20-17. However, what if Vinatieri wasn’t the most clutch kicker of all-time and pulled a Scott Norwood? Or, what if the Patriots had listened to John Madden and played for overtime.

While the Patriots got out to a big lead, the Rams had all of the momentum in the fourth quarter. The Rams had scored two touchdowns in eight minutes to tie the game at 17.

Prior to the drive, John Madden suggest that the Patriots should just take a knee and play for overtime. Instead, Tom Brady drove the Patriots down the field to kick the game-winning field goal.

Had the game gone to overtime, the game likely would have come down to a flip of a coin. The Rams offense was finally moving and might have gotten Jeff Wilkins into field goal range. However, the Patriots might have just delayed the inevitable and won the game anyway if they got the ball first.

It would have been the first Super Bowl ever to go to overtime and with the Rams finally in control of the game, it’s very possible that the Greatest Show on Turf come out with their second Super Bowl.

‘What if’ Trent Green never got hurt

This was a defining moment in Los Angeles Rams history. Every Rams fan is familiar with it. From the broadcast saying “We’ve got Trent Green down, Trent Green is down on the field,” to Dick Vermeil coming out and saying “We will rally around Kurt Warner and we will play good football.”

The rest is history.

However, what if Rodney Harrison never took out Trent Green? From 2001-2005, Trent Green ranked second in the NFL in passing yards, behind only Peyton Manning. Green also ranked fourth in touchdown passes during that same span. In his second season in the league in 1998, Green’s 3441 yards and 23 touchdowns ranked eighth in the league. In St. Louis, he would be playing under the same offensive coordinator.

The point being – Trent Green was a very capable quarterback. Did Rodney Harrison rob Green of a Hall of Fame career? Let’s not go that far. However, it’s very possible that the Rams are still a good team 1999, but as far as winning big games against the 49ers or beating the Buccaneers in the NFC Championship game, it’s hard to see Green winning those games when it was Warner who showed up in the big moments.

It’s also likely that the Kurt Warner story never materializes. Warner was close to giving up on football and the Rams were his last chance. If Green never gets hurt, Warner never becomes the starter and is likely out of the league within two years.

‘What if’ the Rams drafted Carson Wentz

In 2016, the Los Angeles Rams had a decision to make that would alter the direction of the franchise for at least the next five years. That decision was Jared Goff or Carson Wentz with the first overall pick. Up until the pick, it was unsure who the Rams would select. However, several that included Sam Farmer and Benjamin Allbright reported that Carson Wentz was the leader in the building

The Rams shocked some by selecting Jared Goff with the first overall pick. The decision worked out as Goff helped lead the Rams to a Super Bowl appearance. However, what if they opted to go with the quarterback from North Dakota?

Wentz has dealt with his share of injuries throughout his career. In all likelihood, it’s possible that the Rams relive what they went through with Sam Bradford. A team always on the cusp of breaking through, but unable because they didn’t have their starting quarterback. The Rams might have ended up right back in quarterback purgatory, looking for their next franchise player.

‘What if’ Mike Martz Played for the win in 2003

Outside of 2001, the 2003 season was the Los Angeles Rams best chance for a Super Bowl and to put the Greatest Show on Turf in history as one of the great offenses. While they were on of the NFL’s most historic offenses, they only had one championship to their name.

In 2003, the Rams went 12-4 with Marc Bulger under center and secured the NFC’s No. 2 seed. A trip to New Orleans seemed inevitable. The Rams were 8-0 at home that season and would only need to win one game on the road against the top-seed Philadelphia Eagles who were no stranger to coming up short.

Instead, the Rams fell behind to the Carolina Panthers and eventually lost in double overtime on a Steve Smith touchdown. However, what if that play never took place. Jeff Wilkins kicked the game-tying field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter.

What’s often forgotten is that the Rams had the ball on the Panthers 25 yard line with 1:24 remaining. Martz ran two more plays. The first being a 6-yard pass to Marshall Faulk and the second a run play to drain the clock. Wilkins missed a field goal in overtime and Bulger threw an interception at the Panthers 38 which led to Jake Delhomme hitting Steve Smith.

If the Rams went for the win and scored a touchdown instead, it’s possible that none of that ever happens and the Rams got another crack at the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl.

‘What if’ the Bert Emanuel catch was a catch

It was second-and-23 from the Los Angeles Rams’ 35-yard line, with 51 seconds left on the clock and the Bucs trailing 11-6 with a chance to go to the Super Bowl if they scored. Rookie quarterback Shaun King found Emanuel that advanced the Bucs to the 23-yard line. Side judge Walt Anderson ruled it a catch. A timeout was called.

The NFL reviewed the call and ruled the pass incomplete.

Two things are important here. In 1999, the NFL brought back instant replay and had this occurred in 1998, the officials would not have been able to review it. Secondly, that offseason, the NFL changed the rule, which came to be known as the “Bert Emanuel Rule. Had that play occurred the next year, the play also would have stood.

Sometimes a little luck is needed to win a Super Bowl and the Rams certainly got it. The Rams defense came up big the following week against the Tennessee Titans. They may have done so against the Buccaneers, making the catch mute anyway. However, if this was ruled a catch, the Buccaneers might have been playing for their first Super Bowl.

‘What if’ Jack Youngblood doesn’t break his leg in 1979

The Los Angeles Rams had finally broken through to the big stage. However, their star player, Jack Youngblood broke his leg in the NFC Divisional round. A legend was born. While Youngblood somehow managed to play on a broken leg, it’s hard not to wonder what if he had been healthy.

Youngblood had 18 sacks in 1979 which at the time was a single season record. The Rams legend had just one sack in the playoffs that came in the divisional round before Youngblood broke his leg.

The Rams lost to the Steelers 31-19, but were leading 13-10 at halftime. Youngblood didn’t record a single tackle in the Super Bowl.

Youngblood has said after the fact,

“It wasn’t about the pain. There’s pain in every snap, just about. It was about the leadership aspect, and what my responsibility was.”

The Steelers came back in the second half sparked from a 47-yard touchdown pass to Lynn Swann from Terry Bradshaw. Does the pass never happen if Youngblood were healthy enough to stop it?

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