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Graney: Rams, Golden Knights joined at all-in hip

Updated February 8, 2022 - 2:00 pm

LOS ANGELES — The teams are separated by some 270 miles, but their desire to win now is not a hair apart.

If we know one thing about the Golden Knights and Rams, it’s that they’re here to claim championships in the present. The future can wait.

That’s right. A hockey team from Las Vegas has a whole lot in common with a football side about to meet Cincinnati in Super Bowl LVI on Sunday at SoFi Stadium.

It has been this way since the beginning for the Knights. They’re in a fifth year of existence and have always owned an insatiable desire to do whatever possible to lift a Stanley Cup.

“There’s no better situation to work in when you don’t have one toe in the water and one out,” said Knights coach Pete DeBoer, hired in January of 2020. “I think our decisions are always well thought out. They’re not reckless. But in certain situations and certain windows, you have to jump in the water. You can’t dip your toe in.”

For this, the Rams are soaking wet.

Always the plan

This was the always plan. This was the idea behind building a dream team. This is why the Rams have traded six first-round picks since 2018 and next own one in 2024.

This is why players such as the following were acquired or signed: Jalen Ramsey. Matthew Stafford. Von Miller. Sony Michel. Odell Beckham Jr.

“We’ve had high expectations all year,” Stafford said following an NFC championship win against the 49ers. “We’ve done nothing but do everything in our power to try and meet those.”

Here’s how strongly some believed in the process: Rams general manager Les Snead received a mug from his children. On it was one of several memes about their father, which read “(Bleep) Them Picks,” making note of his decision to unload so many high draft picks.

Rams coach Sean McVay has also been fairly consistent with his thoughts: He loves the aggressiveness and approach. He loves that the Rams are not afraid of failing.

“We’re going to do everything in our power to finish this off the right way,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for us to deliver.”

Here’s the idea: You’re either on top of the NFL or not. And if not, Snead and his management team operate on the assumption that they need some sort of advantage to compete. This is what they believe gives the Rams the best chance to win it all.

It’s not for everyone. Top draft picks are coveted like previous jewels by most. But the fact is, the Rams have accumulated back-end selections and those of the compensatory nature as much as any team.

It’s not as if they don’t have several picks over the coming years.

“I get where we’re at, especially in the Twitter age. I get the shallow narrative. It’s fun and entertaining,” Snead told reporters. “We like to think we use our picks innovatively, maybe creatively.

“We’re always aware of where we’re at. We don’t want to win just one game. We want to win a lot of them.”

Not lip service

It has been a similar strategy for the Knights. Mark Stone. Max Pacioretty. Robin Lehner. Alec Martinez. Alex Pietrangelo. And now Jack Eichel.

Be at trade deadlines or before a season begins or shortly thereafter, the Knights these past several years have always acquired the front-line talent they believe will eventually earn them a Cup.

“Tampa has done it the last few years and it resulted in two Stanley Cups,” DeBoer said. “A lot of teams talk the talk, but their action is different when it comes time to do it. I’ve learned it’s not just lip service here. There is no agenda here by management.”

Same with a certain Super Bowl team.

Separated by some 270 miles, theirs is an identical plan: Conventional thinking isn’t always the best way. Win now. Worry about everything else later.

Ed Graney is a Sigma Delta Chi Award winner for sports column writing and can be reached at egraney@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4618. He can be heard on “The Press Box,” ESPN Radio 100.9 FM and 1100 AM, from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. Monday through Friday. Follow @edgraney on Twitter.

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