Column: Hated in St. Louis, Rams’ Kevin Demoff is L.A. hero aiming to build empire in Valley
He remains one of the most hated people in St. Louis, where he is a reminder of how little there is to do there.
If Kevin Demoff symbolizes the absence of possibilities in the Rams’ former hometown, he is now associated with the opposite here in Los Angeles.
Demoff is the chief operating officer of the Rams, who continue turning their visions of grandeur into realities.
Under his watch, a franchise that departed Southern California as an established loser returned decades later to become a Super Bowl champion.
The Rams have played in two Super Bowls over the last four years. They own the NFC’s best record over the last five seasons. Their new home stadium is an architectural marvel.
This week, Demoff paced the periphery of the Rams’ practice field in white shorts and a pastel-colored hooded long-sleeve shirt. He wore sunglasses. His gray hair, which was longer than usual, was combed back.
“This should be the base camp,” Demoff said, “not the summit.”
Rams and star receiver Cooper Kupp, the Super Bowl LVI most valuable player, agree on three-year, $75-million extension.
Establishing this as a base camp required the Rams to protect what they already have built. They signed Cooper Kupp to a three-year, $75-million extension Wednesday, making the NFL’s offensive player of the year the third cornerstone player they have signed to a new deal this offseason. Defensive tackle Aaron Donald and quarterback Matthew Stafford also earned new contracts.
Equally important was the promise to extend the contract of coach Sean McVay.
“The key is finding that drive to go do it all again and to go do something that people haven’t done,” Demoff said. “Do you want to put your name up there with the best NFL franchises over the past few decades?”
While acknowledging the New England Patriots are in a class of their own, Demoff continued, “There have been a handful of teams that have gone to two [Super Bowls] in a few years — us, the Chiefs, the Seahawks. Those kind of separate themselves from the group. Can we go separate from that group?”
Super Bowl champions or not, Demoff doesn’t pretend the Rams are on the level of the Dodgers or Lakers, either locally or nationally.
“This is a multidecade journey,” he said.
The next stage of that journey could be to explore the possibility of a mixed-used development in Woodland Hills that includes a practice facility.
Rams owner Stan Kroenke purchased an office building that increased his holdings in the Warner Center neighborhood to approximately 65 acres. The site includes the former Woodland Hills Promenade shopping center, which he bought in March.
“I think we’ve been very clear from the beginning of moving back that our goal was to find land in the San Fernando Valley to go do a major real estate development along with the practice facilities to give us another center of energy,” Demoff said.
“Stan’s acquired 65 acres in a great location in Warner Center. For us to start exploring, there will be a lot of steps that would have to happen for the Rams to come there. But I certainly think that’s the goal, and it would give us an unbelievable practice facility and new center of energy for all of Los Angeles.”
The office tower, plus a shopping center bought in March, are expected to become part of a sprawling mixed-use complex, with a Rams training facility, stores, restaurants, hotels and residences.
Demoff said he liked the idea of the Rams having a presence in various parts of the region. They play their home games in Inglewood. They stage training camp in Irvine, where they can continue to reestablish their links with the fans who watched them play decades earlier in Anaheim. They currently practice in Thousand Oaks at Cal Lutheran University.
“We’ve always wanted to have a daily presence in the San Fernando Valley,” Demoff said. “It’s probably been overlooked by most [local] teams.”
The Rams will have to continue to perform well in order to maximize their outreach efforts.
Since their return to Los Angeles in 2016, the Rams have built their teams around a handful of high-priced stars. The names have changed — from Jared Goff to Stafford, from Todd Gurley to Kupp — but the formula remains relatively unchanged. With the Rams using their draft capital to acquire players such as Stafford and Jalen Ramsey, the plan is dependent on their ability to attract free agents.
This offseason, the Rams signed free-agent linebacker Bobby Wagner and free-agent receiver Allen Robinson.
With a Super Bowl championship under his belt, Sean McVay’s big year continues with marriage. Here’s what he has said about a long-term future in coaching.
“I don’t know that this model in particular is sustainable forever,” Demoff said. “To me, it’s not about, ‘Oh, this is the model we will always have.’ I think our model has been [being] aggressive in trying to build the best team that we can build. That is sustainable.”
While saying the Super Bowl victory validated the vision the Rams had when they moved back to Los Angeles, Demoff preferred to talk about what the championship meant to their long-term ambitions.
“I think everybody who joined the Rams joined with this idea that we could be one of the best global sports franchises in the world,” he said. “And if we want to be one of the elite teams in this city, in the world, one title doesn’t get you there.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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