Les Snead is no stranger to big moves. As general manager of the Los Angeles Rams, Snead and head coach Sean McVay “won the 2018 offseason” despite not having a draft pick until the third round. Through trades, free agency, and extensions, Snead had the Rams in the conversation for most talented team in the league and one that could have staying power.
But while big moves make news, Sunday’s Super Bowl against the New England Patriots will be the first for Snead after 24 seasons as an NFL executive. Trades for Brandin Cooks, Marcus Peters, and Aqib Talib are notable, although they hardly compare to some of the huge draft deals that Snead has been involved with before, including the most fruitless trade down of his career and then going the other way in hopes to find a franchise quarterback four years later.
Snead had traded down for plenty of picks during his career as an executive, but 2018 saw him trade unknown commodities for known ones, even if they had red flags or huge price tags. “When you’re in this position you’re never irrational enough to think you’re one or two players away,” Snead recently said to the Boston Herald. That wasn’t always the case … or maybe Snead had never seen himself in the position he found himself in heading into this season: manning the helm of a contender.
Given his upbringing through the NFL ranks beginning in 1995 with the Jacksonville Jaguars, though, it’s no surprise that Snead isn’t one to just stockpile draft picks. In his first year with the team, Snead watched as the expansion Jags made five trades during the draft, including a move up in the first round from 31 to 19 so they could select running back James Stewart, a move down in the second round, and trading a third and a fifth for quarterback Mark Brunell. Jacksonville also made a major foundational move that year by taking tackle Tony Boselli with the second overall pick. Snead spent three years as a scout with the team, seeing them go from 4-12 during their expansion season, to making the AFC Championship game in year two, to going 11-5 in year three.
He was then hired by Atlanta Falcons general manager Ron Hill as a scout starting in 1997. Four years later, Snead saw his GM pull a move that had rarely been done and had almost never proven to be effective: The Falcons went all-in for a quarterback, trading pick five (LaDainian Tomlinson), plus a second, a third, and Tim Dwight to the San Diego Chargers for the first overall pick, using it on quarterback Michael Vick.