It wasn't one the greatest Super Bowls of all time, but it was certainly a entertaining contest that was close until the final play from scrimmage. In the end, the Los Angeles Rams emerged as Super Bowl champions for the second time in franchise history, and the first time in L.A. Among the many notable storylines such as the amazing halftime show, the one I found most fascinating was how both teams managed to get to this point.
For the Rams, they've been going all in since 2018, albeit their first taste of playoff football came in 2017 thanks to the hiring of Sean McVay. He took over a talented but underachieving roster and won 11 games in his rookie season, clinched the NFC West, and was awarded Coach of the Year. The Rams would then spend the next offseason making a flurry of trades, free agent signings, and contract extensions. While not all of the players they acquired or extended (Todd Gurley, Marcus Peters, Brandin Cooks, etc.) remain on the team it set a blueprint for their approach toward reaching the promise land. None of their transactions were more integral to their championship than these following moves: extending Cooper Kupp for three years, Jalen Ramsey for $105 million, trading a second and third round pick for Von Miller, giving up Jared Goff and two first round picks for Matthew Stafford, and extending Aaron Donald for six years and $135 million. With the exception of Andrew Whitworth who always gets resigned at a cheap price, these players almost make up the entire core.
When the Rams started to become a powerhouse, the Cincinnati Bengals were realizing that they would likely have to rebuild their roster. Their core which had helped them make the playoffs throughout the early 2010s was getting old and their best days were behind them. Pretty soon, they ushered in a new wave of offensive talent through the draft. Among these draft picks were Joe Burrow, Joe Mixon, Tee Higgins, Jamar Chase, and Tyler Boyd. In their first full season together, the Bengals had one of the most potent offenses in the league. They rebuilt the defense through many low profile free agent signings such as Trey Hendrickson and Von Bell who formed a devastating safety duo with Jessie Bates during the playoffs. Although no one in this core outside of Bell and Hendrickson had playoff experience, the entire team played as if they'd been there before, winning one tight game after another before ultimately meeting their match in the Super Bowl. There are still areas the Bengals need to address such as their pass protection, but their rebuild is well ahead of schedule.
As for a future matchup between these two teams, don't count out that possibility from happening. Both teams having young rosters who know what it takes to reach the big dance. The Rams have arguably the best coach not named Bill Belichick, the best cornerback Jalen Ramsey, the best QB-WR tandem, and one of the best defensive players this game has ever seen in Aaron Donald. They also might have an easier path with Tom Brady retiring and questions surrounding Aaron Rodgers' future in Green Bay.
The Bengals on the other hand play in a much tougher conference, but they already have a dangerous offense that looks destined to win championships in the future, and the leader of that offense is Joe Burrow. He cemented himself as a top 10 quarterback in his full season after missing the final six games from 2020 with a torn ACL. Burrow did injure that same knee during the Super Bowl but it won't require surgery and given that he was able to make a full recovery last offseason, the same should be expected.