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Dan Bickley

Kingsbury and Cards can capitalize on Rams Super Bowl hangover

Los Angeles Rams head coach Sean McVay, center, speaks to Jared Goff (16) on the sideline during the second half of the NFL Super Bowl 53 football game against the New England Patriots, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

Before conquering the world, champions must rule their neighborhood.

Just like the Patriots own the AFC East. Just like Alabama owns the SEC. Just like Arizona teams must rise above their rivals in Los Angeles.

And that’s why Super Bowl LIII represents a small victory for the Cardinals.

The Patriots’ 13-3 win over the Rams was a testament to monotone football, capable of punting you to sleep. It was New England’s first double-digit triumph in six championship performances. It elevated head coach Bill Belichick to unprecedented heights, a man who seemed to be losing the allegiance of his key players entering the 2018 season only to respond with virtuoso game plans against the NFL’s highest-scoring offenses.

In the process, we saw proof that Jared Goff is nothing special and possibly pedestrian.

Maybe we should demand more proof, as Sean McVay’s Rams have won four consecutive games against the Cardinals by a combined score of 130-25. But Goff’s play slipped over the past two months of the NFL season. The rabid crowd in New Orleans marginalized his ability to communicate with McVay at the line of scrimmage, diminishing his effectiveness at the position.

Meanwhile, the magnitude of the Super Bowl swallowed him whole, where he struggled to see the field and throw tight spirals.

That’s a smiley-face turn of events for football fans in Arizona, who are already (a) enthused by the transition to Kliff Kingsbury and what it might mean for Josh Rosen; (b) giddy with draft prospects, including the No. 1 pick in each round; and (c) no longer so fearful of an impending football dynasty in Los Angeles.

That doesn’t mean we have it easy.

We’ll always worry about the Dodgers, a franchise with six consecutive National League West titles and two consecutive World Series appearances.

Except they led Major League Baseball in payroll all the way back in 1987. They’ve spent roughly $1.2 billion on talent since 2014 alone. And they haven’t won a championship in 30 years. Not since Kirk Gibson’s one-legged home run represented the last one-game sweep in World Series history.

We should definitely worry about the Lakers, a team that keeps poaching the greatest players in league history at our expense.

They have compiled a statue farm and basketball museum full of one-name wonders: Kareem, Wilt, Elgin, Kobe, Shaq, Magic and LeBron. They’re primed to add Anthony Davis before the NBA trade deadline. They do nothing to deserve this other than to stake a claim to an ocean, great weather and a “Hollywood” sign that serves as one of the great American metaphors. Standing proudly for wealth, fame, glamour and Botox.

Except the Lakers aren’t even the best basketball team in California at the moment. And they won’t be as long as the Warriors remain together.

So what are we worried about, other than our own ineptitude?

Thanks to Belichick, the Cardinals should have a solid grasp on how to unplug McVay’s offense in 2019. Thanks to raucous Saints fans, future gatherings at State Farm Stadium will know they can disrupt McVay’s ability to communicate with Goff during a game, thereby hampering the Rams’ ability to play chess at the line of scrimmage.

We will likely benefit from the notorious Super Bowl hangover, where the loser of the big game often struggles mightily the following season.

That isn’t the case for everyone and certainly not the Patriots. But from 1999-2008, eight of 10 Super Bowl losers missed next year’s postseason entirely, with seven teams posting a losing record. Only three of the past 24 Super Bowl losers returned to play for a conference championship, and two of them were from New England.

It’s hard to flush losing from the mountaintop, especially in this sport. And if the Rams are privately blaming the coaching staff for not properly utilizing MVP candidate Todd Gurley, the effects might be worse. Just look at how the Seahawks responded to not handing the ball to Marshawn Lynch at the goal line. Or Belichick benching Malcom Butler before a Super Bowl loss to the Eagles.

Regardless, the landscape has changed. There was a time when it appeared the Rams might be the ultimate NFL free agent destination, and Goff might one day surpass Russell Wilson as the best quarterback in the division. That’s not happening anytime soon. And if Kingsbury can elevate Rosen in the coming months, the Rams might be the team facing a slippery challenge in the very near future.

Namely, last in the division at the position, desperately seeking a new quarterback.

Reach Bickley at dbickley@bonneville.com. Listen to Bickley & Marotta weekdays from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. on 98.7 FM Arizona Sports Station.

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Dan Bickley bio
Dan Bickley is the most influential sports media member in Arizona sports history, having spent over 20 years as the award-winning lead sports columnist for The Arizona Republic and AZCentral.com and almost two decades as a Valley sports radio talk show host. In spring 2018, Bickley made the decision to leave the newspaper to join the Arizona Sports team as host of the entertaining and informative midday show Bickley and Marotta, as well as bring his opinionated and provocative column exclusively to ArizonaSports.com.
Bickley’s journalism career began in his hometown of Chicago, where he was part of a star-studded staff at the Chicago Sun-Times. He chronicled Michael Jordan’s six NBA championships; covered the Olympics in eight different countries and attended 14 Super Bowls; spent three weeks in an Indianapolis courthouse writing about Mike Tyson’s rape trial; and once left his laptop in an Edmonton bar after the Blackhawks reached the Stanley Cup Finals.
He has won multiple awards, written two books, formed a rock band, fathered three children, and once turned down an offer to work at the New York Times.  His passions include sports, music, the alphabet, good beer and great radio. After joining Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, he couldn’t be happier