Same but Different
Flashback to the Spring of 2017, and the Rams and Chargers find themselves in comically similar situations. Both franchises had recently returned to the city of Los Angeles, a city they each had called home at another point in their respective history’s. Both teams had just hired first time head coaches, coming off seasons where neither won more than five games. Both squads solved their problem at left tackle, locking up Andrew Whitworth and Russell Okung. Both teams franchise tagged defensive bookends in Trumaine Johnson and Melvin Ingram. Both even had starting first-round running backs from the same draft class that still can’t outperform their backups.
It appeared that the city of Los Angeles had acquired two teams moving in the right direction, but still full of as many questions as answers. The “Fight for LA” felt more like a media-driven facade that would take years to come to fruition than a premier battle of league heavyweights. Sure, the first joint practice concluded with actual fighting:
but all signs pointed to this race being more of a marathon than a sprint.
Flash forward to the present day, and while the tortoise has made up significant ground, the hare is crossing the finish line. After starting their career 3-6, the Chargers under Anthony Lynn have impressively won 19 of their last 25 games. The only problem is the Rams under Sean Mcvay have gone 26-9, with 2 playoff wins and a Coach of the year award already to his name. The hare hasn’t stopped sprinting since the starting gun sounded. And that’s okay, because the Rams success does not hinder the Chargers, nor should it be viewed as negative.
The City of LA
The Rams playing in the Super Bowl is huge for the city of Los Angeles and its interest in football. LA is a different beast of a market to break into. A city that has nine other professional sports teams to cheer for has never really needed a football team, let alone two. Per ESPN, the 2017 and 2018 Rams had the 31st ranked home attendance by capacity. While the Chargers data is largely skewed due to playing in a 20,000-seat soccer stadium, they by far had the lowest home attendance by number of people in those years. The mocking of the Chargers home stadium situation is just; however, the Rams aren’t even keeping up with the Cleveland Browns in terms of attendance.
Rams Success is Chargers Success
Not only are the Rams setting a benchmark for the Chargers to strive for, their success amplifies the current rivalry of the two teams. In fact, one could even argue the Rams being bad as an even worse scenario. LA is a city of entertainment, bright lights, and story lines. The people of Los Angeles need a Yankees vs Red Sox style rivalry in their own backyard to get excited about football. In an interview with NBC Sports, Melvin Gordon stated that he “needed the Rams to lose.”
Instead of rooting for the Rams to fail, realize that The Chargers are in the news on Super Bowl weekend because of the Rams. The media cares about what the third best running back on the Chargers has to say on Super Bowl weekend, and that is easily the most important takeaway from all of this.
If the Rams win Super Bowl 53, the Chargers will have their work cut out for them in claiming an LA fan-base, but at least there will be a fan base to claim.