Two years ago, the Los Angeles Rams were 4-12 - their 13th straight season without a winning record. Their roster looked depleted, their future at quarterback seemed uncertain, and they had just hired a new head coach.
Their rise from those ashes to Super Bowl LIII has been lightning fast and absolutely remarkable. And to get there, they followed a plan that could very easily apply to the Giants and the Jets.
Here are some of the lessons they can learn from the new NFC champs:
Take advantage of having a low-priced QB by spending everywhere else
This is a great advantage for any team with a quarterback on a rookie deal. Jared Goff takes up just 4.3 percent of the Rams' cap space, which allowed them to acquire players like WRs Brandin Cooks and Robert Woods, LT Andrew Whitworth, DT Ndamukong Suh, and CBs Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib. It also allowed them to lock up RB Todd Gurley and DT Aaron Donald to deals that cost a ton now, but could be bargains later.
In other words, the Rams stocked up on players to help them win now. That's a lesson that applies to the Jets, who have $100 million in salary cap space to spend and a quarterback in Sam Darnold, who'll account for only 3.6 percent of the cap in 2019. The lesson: Spend the money while you have it. Don't only think long term. Get the players who can help win in the next 2-3 years while you can still afford them.
As for the Giants, Eli Manning will account for 12.2 percent of their cap space in 2019, unless they re-do his contract. This is the strongest argument the Giants have for either cutting Manning now, or finding his young replacement so they're ready to turn the reins over in 2020. They will be better equipped financially to build around new quarterback than they are around their old one.
Teams can't win in the offensive era without weapons
Blame the offensive coordinators or quarterbacks if you want, but there's a simple reason why the Jets and Giants weren't offensive juggernauts last season. They don't have the weapons. The Giants had Odell Beckham Jr. for 12 games and Saquon Barkley, but not a lot else. The Jets' best receiver was Robby Anderson, and he had 50 catches for 752 yards.
A quarterback has no chance in this era without multiple weapons, and a running back who can be a receiver out of the backfield. The Rams surrounded Goff with Gurley, Cooks and Woods and drafted Cooper Kupp. Their list of targets is even deeper than that.
The Giants are actually positioned well here with the Beckham-Barkley 1-2 punch, and the potential of Sterling Shepard and tight end Evan Engram. But they need more consistency out of the latter two, and a solid No. 3 receiver from somewhere.
As for the Jets, they need everything. Quincy Enunwa is a good possession receiver. Anderson is a good deep threat. But they need a real No. 1 receiver and a top-tier running back. Imagine the difference if they had both Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown.
Defense may still win championships, but be honest: The NFL is in the midst of a point explosion. A team can't be conservative on any side of the ball to win in an era like that. The Rams epitomize that philosophy on offense where they throw down the field constantly, and show no fear on special teams either. They're not playing for short gains and field goals, ever. They're constantly going for it all.
It's a good lesson for Adam Gase and Pat Shurmur. Don't run a short-passing offense. Open it up.
The Jets failed to do that early last season, as they were nurturing Darnold. The Giants didn't often do it because their struggling offensive line didn't give Manning enough time. But once they have the pieces in place, don't be shy and don't be cowardly. Both teams have been far too tentative in key spots in the recent past.
Running backs are important, but offensive lines matter more
This isn't just a lesson from the Rams, it's a lesson from all the teams in the playoffs. Offenses simply can't succeed unless the offensive line is creating holes for running backs, and time for the quarterbacks. The Rams built up their line and suddenly Gurley was a star and Goff was a franchise quarterback.
The Giants and Jets lines are a work in progress, to be kind. Once the Giants' line started improving in the second half of the season, their offense suddenly started to score. Barkley rushed for 1,307 yards as a rookie. Imagine what he could do with better blocking in front of him. Imagine how dangerous the Giants could be if the line was good enough to make their play-action passing game work, and give Beckham time to get deep.
Don't forget the inside pressure
Both the Giants and Jets desperately need help in the edge-rushing department. That's pretty obvious. But what the Rams never forgot is that a pocket can be easily disrupted from the inside, too. If your line is strong in the middle, not only do you force quarterbacks outside, but you force running backs outside as well. That takes away a huge part of an opponents' game.
No one did that better than the Rams, who had Donald (20 ½ sacks) and Suh (4 ½) causing trouble in the middle.
The Giants have a promising young duo in the middle with Dalvin Tomlinson and B.J. Hill. The Jets, though, have some work to do, especially if they switch to a 4-3. The good news is maybe Williams can play a 4-3 tackle. Also, they could get a good one with the No. 3 overall pick in the draft.