Rams, Saints changed fortunes for the better quickly
Footballs take funny bounces. So do franchises.
Two years ago this month, the New Orleans Saints defeated the Los Angeles Rams, 49-21, at the Superdome.
With the victory, the Saints moved their record to 5-6. The Rams, sputtering under rookie quarterback Jared Goff, fell to 4-7. Los Angeles went on to lose their last five games to finish a disastrous 4-12.
In that game, emerging Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas caught nine passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns. Eight Saints caught passes from Drew Brees but New Orleans wide receiver Brandin Cooks did not.
Cooks seethed about his lack of production and perceived slight.
Heck, even fullback John Kuhn caught a pass. Cooks did not.
It was the beginning of the end for Brandin Cooks in New Orleans. He was traded in the offseason to the Patriots for the last pick in the first round.
At the end of the 2016, rumors swirled again of a possible Sean Payton departure. The Rams, who had dismissed Jeff Fisher, were looking for the best offensive mind to coach Goff, their franchise quarterback.
Los Angeles had a lot to offer.
Running back Todd Gurley was an upper echelon talent.
There was the sunshine of Southern California.
A new Rams stadium was on the horizon.
L.A. owner Stan Kroenke was the perfect fit for Payton. That is, a certified recluse who would let Payton be the face of franchise, while paying him a lot of cash.
When the proposed pigskin marriage fizzled, the Rams moved on to 30-year old Sean McVay. Since then, the Rams have won 19 of their 24 regular season games.
Here’s some perspective on that. From 2004 to 2016, the Rams did not win more than eight games in any one season.
Sean Payton, engineered quite a turnaround, too.
The Saints drafted the two rookies of the year, cornerback Marshon Lattimore and running back Alvin Kamara, in 2017. With the last pick in the first round, the one the Saints received in the trade for Brandin Cooks, New Orleans selected offensive tackle Ryan Ramczyk. Starting at right tackle, Ramczyk is quickly becoming one of the best lineman in the club’s 52 year history.
This past offseason, Cooks was traded again. New England sent him to the Rams for another first round draft choice. Cooks received the big money contract from Los Angeles he coveted.
Ironically, Cooks will return to the Superdome for the second straight year in a new uniform. He has produced solid numbers since his departure. Cooks had seven touchdown catches in 2017 with New England. This season, he has just two touchdown grabs but is averaging a career-best 18.4 yards per reception.
So, two years later, here they are. The Rams and Saints at the Superdome meet for the biggest regular season game, at least in the NFC, in 2018.
The turnaround, for both clubs, has been swift.
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WGNO Sports Director/106.1 FM
Ed is a New Orleans native, born at Baptist Hospital. He graduated Rummel High School, class of 1975, and subsequently graduated from Loyola University. Ed started in TV in 1977 as first sports intern at WVUE Channel 8. He became Sports Director at KPLC TV Channel 7 in Lake Charles in 1980. In 1982 he was hired as sports reporter…