About a year ago at this time, Los Angeles' new head coach Sean McVay was busy assembling his coaching staff as general manager Les Snead prepared to go to the Senior Bowl to get a look at the upcoming draft class.
The coaching staff and personnel staff hand't had a chance to sit down and describe what traits they're ideally looking for in each position — information that's vital when putting together a roster.
That process certainly took place in time — and clearly worked well enough for the Rams to win their first NFC West title since 2003.
But after the conclusion of the 2017 season, general manager Les Snead acknowledged the work of building the 2018 Rams has already begun, saying that in effect, it never stops.
"It's interesting — you have a season going on but in personnel you are always preparing for whether it's looming free agency, looming draft, and then any unforeseen injuries on that Saturday, Sunday or Monday," Snead said. "So you almost have two worlds that are cohesive but different going on at the same time."
Because of that, the Rams are in a position they clearly weren't in last offseason. Snead and his staff won't have to overhaul personnel groupings in ways that are usually associated with a change in coaching staff.
"Instead of last year, coming in and implementing a new offense, converting our defense to [coordinator Wade Phillips'] 3-4 — all of those things we don't have to do. That's been done," Snead said. "So now I think it's a nice part."
Going through that process last year, Snead figured the Rams would show improvement — particularly offensively. But even he admitted that he wasn't quite anticipating the jump Los Angeles would make in scoring points.
"I can even remember sitting with Sean a few times — and this is after we did the first minicamp when he was able to practice — and then we got through OTA's and [I said,] 'OK, I think we're going to improve on offense.' And if we were 32nd in scoring [I thought], 'Hey … I think we can at least be 20, 18,'" Snead said. "And I can remember some moments as we kept going down the process, Sean was looking at me almost like I was negative nelly, like, 'What are you thinking?' It was literally like, 'There's no way we're just going to be 20.""
McVay was correct about that, as the Rams became just the second team in NFL history to go from last to first in scoring one year to the next. And it was through the process of emphasizing daily improvement and daily excellence — as McVay often stresses — that Snead says the season's expectations began to change for everyone.
"By coming in every single day and working, at some point — guess what — we did expect to win the division," Snead said. "And it wasn't Day 1, but it was from a lot of work. And then all of a sudden, somewhere during that season, you went from working to, 'Alright who are we going to be?' To figuring out who you are going to be — 'So, OK, this is who we are' — and you expect to go finish the season. Can't say when it was — there was no defining moment — but that's kind of how I put the timeline into effect."
And though the Rams' postseason ended earlier than anyone would have liked with the loss to the Falcons, Snead channeled arguably the best coach in college football history to detail how Los Angeles will move forward.
"I think it's a huge motivating factor," Snead said. "Like I just said, and it's from Nick Saban: Don't waste the feeling.
"I don't think you'll ever get over it. You just cope with it, and then use it as fuel," Snead continued. "The nice thing about it is, we got to a point where it was just, let's go to work. Let's try to figure out this thing. Let's try to solve our problems.To, all of a sudden, we knew we could do it. We believed we could do it. We expected we could do it. That put us to this level. We're division champions and we don't have to get to that level now."