ATLANTA (AP) — The Rams moved from St. Louis to Los Angeles, had seven head coaches and used 20 starting quarterbacks since losing to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl 17 years ago.
Meanwhile, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady are still here and they’re going for their sixth NFL title in the rematch Sunday.
Steven Jackson, a three-time Pro Bowl running back during his 12 seasons in the NFL, experienced the turnover with the Rams and briefly enjoyed the Patriots way.
Selected by the Rams in the first round of the 2004 draft, Jackson had eight straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons for St. Louis. But he didn’t appear in a playoff game after his rookie year until he signed with the Patriots late in the 2015 season.
Jackson scored his only career playoff touchdown in the AFC championship game against Denver. New England hasn’t lost a title game since that one.
“I played for six of those coaches. The turnover, I had to endure that and then to end my career in New England and see the longevity and how well they know each other, you could see why they’re successful,” Jackson said.
“You could see why they know what plays to call, what Tom runs well, what the other defensive unit runs well because they have the continuity there, they haven’t had a lot of change and they run the same offense and defense still.”
Between Kurt Warner to Jared Goff, the Rams went from Marc Bulger to Case Keenum. Sam Bradford was supposed to be the answer when he was drafted No. 1 overall in 2010. But Bradford never had a winning season and was traded to Philadelphia for Nick Foles in 2015 after tearing his ACL two straight seasons.
Guys such as Gus Frerotte, Chris Chandler, A.J. Feeley and Sean Mannion have started for the Rams over the past 17 seasons. Even Trent Green came back and lined up under center one more time for the Rams in 2008 after his injury in 1999 opened the door for Warner to begin his Hall of Fame career.
Coaches included Mike Martz, Jim Haslett, Steve Spagnuolo and Jeff Fisher.
The Rams had a revolving door until Sean McVay took over as coach in 2017 and led them to consecutive NFC West titles with Goff, the No. 1 overall pick in 2016.
McVay marvels at New England’s accomplishments over the past two decades.
“When you look at these guys and what they’ve done in terms of consistency, where that’s really the truest measurement of performance, and nobody’s done it better than they have over the last handful of years, that’s why you have so much respect and appreciation for them,” McVay said.
Brady has certainly evolved since leading the Patriots to an upset over the “Greatest Show on Turf” version of the Rams for his first Super Bowl championship. At 41, he relies more on his wisdom and knowledge.
“I think the preparation is different but in some ways it’s easier for me because I’m very efficient in what my routine is because when I was a young player you’re studying, you’re watching tape but you don’t really know what you are looking for,” Brady said.
“Now I have a plan every time I want to sit down and study, how to understand an opponent, how to understand coverages, how they work and how to put together a plan with (offensive coordinator) Josh (McDaniels) that we can have confidence in. I was so young and naive and as a young player. I’m probably a little less naive now but I still love the competition. I still love trying to win football games. It’s the first love of my life and I’m still enjoying it now.”
Brady has always credited his longevity to his rigorous training with Alex Guerrero. He insists he’s playing beyond this season and wants to keep going until he’s 45.
“A lot of work that has been done with Alex over the past 15 years has given me that opportunity and I feel like that’s something I owe myself to see how I can keep pushing the envelope because it is unchartered territory and when you’re in uncharted territory, you are trying to prove things to yourself, too,” Brady said.
“I’m very confident in my routine. I feel great this time of year. There’s nothing I’m dealing with and part of it is being in a good place mentally and physically.
“The reality is I don’t think many people thought I would be playing like this, even though I had a great belief that I would.”