For the NFL to stay with the theme of starting the year with the defending Super Bowl champions, the next step was to seal an intriguing opponent to come inside the “Rams House.”
By now, Ram fans know who’s coming to town: The Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs and former Ram Von Miller. But were there any other options? And what were the reasonings behind choosing the AFC East champions over the possibility of the Denver Broncos with Russell Wilson or the Dallas Cowboys, a traditional opening week option and the 2021 season’s road opponent for the kickoff opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers?
Two broadcast executives from the NFL side finally broke their silence on why it was the Bills during a conference call held on Friday, May 13.
Executives Keyed in on Star Player as Part of Intrigue
League Broadcasting Vice Presidents Mike North and Onnie Bose yearly face the daunting task of finding the most suitable opponent for the reigning champ to start the year.
And for both Bose and North, they zeroed in on a particular star position: The quarterback.
“One of the first things we looked at was, where are we going to play?” Bose said during a conference call with reporters Friday alongside North. “You’re always looking at, ‘Where’s Aaron Rodgers? Tom Brady? The Dallas Cowboys?’ And this year, it’s ‘Where’s Joe Burrow, where’s Josh Allen gonna play?”
Allen has evolved as one of the premier quarterbacks in the league. The 25-year-old has gone from top 10 draft pick to Pro Bowler and turning the Bills into a contender for the playoffs again. During the Bills’ last postseason run, Allen accomplished the following: Combining for 637 aerial yards with 9 touchdowns and no interceptions. He completed 21-of-25 passes for 308 yards and five touchdowns against the Patriots in the Wild Card Round romp of their division rival 47-17, then completed 27-of-37 passes for 329 yards and four touchdowns in Buffalo’s wild 42-36 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs in the Divisional Round.
“And very much it was just, your lasting memories of Josh Allen were some of the most incredible quarterback play and it just felt right and made a lot of sense, one, to just put him right back on that spotlight against the Super Bowl champions,” Bose shared. “And also just for the mix of the rest of the weekend and where we ended up slotting the Sunday night game, the Monday night game, the two doubleheader games. All of those things are interconnected. But it was a strong narrative that we wanted to put out there front and center.”
Was There Other Options?
The Bills weren’t the overwhelming favorite for the season kickoff option.
Bose confirmed that there was plenty of speculation and fan interest in a possible Rams-Broncos kickoff matchup — given the fact that Wilson is familiar with both the Rams as their longtime division rival and seeing longtime former Seahawk teammate Bobby Wagner on the other side. Bose said the Rams-Broncos “was certainly in that mix for awhile” in terms of exploring kickoff options.
“I think we talked about this a little bit, right, that the Rams have great opponents,” Bose said. “It could have been the Broncos.”
But, Bose added “it could have [also] been the 49ers in a championship game rematch, it could have been the Cowboys.”
So the Rams were down to the Bills, Broncos, 49ers and Cowboys as the top four options to open the 2022 festivities for the NFL. But “Bills Mafia” became the top choice to start the year at SoFi Stadium.