Cooper Kupp is not only coming off the best season of his NFL career, but one of the greatest single-season performances of all time.
The Los Angeles Rams wideout achieved the rare receiving triple crown, leading the league with 145 receptions, 1,947 yards and 16 touchdowns through 17 regular-season games.
Kupp's otherworldly production didn't stop there. The Offensive Player of the Year's postseason run was capped off by a Super Bowl MVP performance in the Rams' title victory over the Bengals.
The Los Angeles organization rewarded Kupp with a three-year, $80.1 million contract extension earlier this week — making him one of the highest-paid wide receivers in the league.
In this Q&A, Kupp discusses his record-breaking season, contract negotiations, 2022 expectations and more.
The Spun: Congrats on the new contract. What was it like going through that negotiation process this offseason?
Cooper Kupp: It was really a pretty smooth thing and we were able to have a collaborative approach on things. We were able to come to a good place. We just wanted to get something done that was going to make sense for both of us. We trusted each other to be in that place. We were trying to meet somewhere that makes sense. Having an awareness of the things the other side wanted to get out of the deal — it honestly made it a very smooth process.
The Spun: You were notably wearing that Matt Stafford jersey in your signing pictures. How much credit do you give him for your incredible season this past year?
CK: I mean… a lot. It’s a lot. Football is the ultimate team game. It’s not just Matthew. It’s the offensive line, the tight ends, the running backs, the other receivers I’m on the field with. You’re relying on all of those guys to do well. But certainly Matthew is a huge part of that. It was just a little nod to Matthew and I’m appreciative of the player that he is. As a friend too, what he’s meant to me and my family.
The Spun: Speaking of family, you’ve talked in the past about how your wife supported you so much financially through your college years. What did it mean to sign that contract with her by your side?
CK: It’s an incredible thing. You talk about taking a second to just kind of reflect on the journey of what it’s been like for us. Thinking back on when we first started dating, first got married — it didn’t change anything in terms of [our happiness]. We were never unhappy. We loved every stage of life that we were in.
To be at this place now though. To be able to provide security for her, for my boys and for their [future] children — that’s just a really cool thing. You look back through the things you’ve gone through and the sacrifices that my wife has made for our family. Seeing that come full circle, it’s just a really cool thing to be able to have that perspective on.
The Spun: How cognizant were you of the records you were breaking or about to break this past season? Was that at all in your head or were you just enjoying the ride?
CK: I tried not to think about it too much. Certainly that stuff does come up, mostly when people ask about it. It wasn’t something we ever talked about or thought about as a team. When you’re going through preparation and stuff, that wasn’t something that really came up. You’re somewhat aware of it, just because it’s what you’re doing — what you’re living out each day. But it wasn’t the main thing.
We had so much going on with the challenges that were presented to us. It’s a very challenging league and you gotta be on your stuff. That was the focus every week. Every day you come in there and say ‘How can I be the best version of myself? What are we going to do to make sure we get a little bit of an edge over this team across the field?’
The Spun: It’s gonna be hard to follow up an all-time great season like that. How do you plan on replicating that performance this coming season?
CK: The focus shouldn’t be on trying to produce more. I think that’s a slippery slope to try to live on, regardless of what kind of season you have. If you’re going to try to base everything off the end result, the product, that’s a tough place to live. I think for me, I’ve found that looking at the film, I want to be a better football player. I want to see a better football player on film from one year to the next — from one game to the next. I just want to continue to grow. For me, that’s the name of the game.
I went into this offseason trying to reflect on what the season was. But then it’s like ‘Hey, there’s a lot of stuff here that was not perfect. There’s a lot of stuff that needs to be improved on.’
If we don’t go down the field on that last drive in the Super Bowl — if we don’t go down and score, we’re getting asked a lot of different questions now. It doesn’t change who we were or what we were as a team, but the end result makes people ask different questions. The perspective changes, but we’re the same players one way or another.
It’s understanding that there’s a lot of imperfection — a lot of things we need to improve on.
The Spun: Obviously you aren’t the only Ram to sign an extension this offseason. What does it mean for team moral to get a guy like Aaron Donald back?
CK: It’s a great thing. I think he’s one of the best — not just defensive players, not just defensive linemen — one of the best football players in the history of the National Football League.
To have someone like that in your locker room, setting the standard in our building day after day. There’s not enough words to be said about the kind of person he is and the standard he sets and calls people to each and every day — and what he means to our team.
Very excited to be able to have him back. I’m always appreciative of the opportunity to play alongside him and never having to play against him.
The Spun: You guys got some new talent this year as well. What are you expecting out of Allen Robinson this coming season? How do you think he’ll fit in to the wide receiver unit that worked so well together this past season?
CK: Oh, he’s special. He’s really special. He’s going into his ninth year in the league and I really don’t think he’s been able to showcase the player that he is. He’s all-encompassing in terms of his ability to go down the sideline and make those competitive catches, go across the middle to make those catches. That’s very well known.
But as a route runner, his nuance, his understanding of defenses, his ability to double people up and play the underneath game, do the things we ask a lot of the receivers to do on our offense. I think a lot of that stuff fits right in with who Allen Robinson is. I’m excited for him to be able to step into this place and be a part of this offense. I think it’s going to be a great year for him.
The Spun: Just like you for the 2018 Super Bowl, you had some wide receiver teammates (Robert Woods, Odell Beckham Jr.) watching from the sidelines with ACL injuries. Did you have any advice for those guys based on your experience?
CK: You kinda have to take that as it is. There’s not really words, there’s nothing I can really say to make things any better. I know what it felt like, so just being able to encourage them to be a part of what’s going on. Whether it’s in the preparation process or whatever. Other people deal with that stuff in different ways. For me, I needed to be keep touch with the team, be in the meetings and be involved in the game planning.
Certainly just being a voice of encouragement for them. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to be going through. It kinda tears at you a little bit. Very conflicting feelings when you have your guys out there achieving great things. You’re rooting for them, but you’re also hurting that you don’t get to be a part of it. It’s a difficult place to be.
The Spun: Do you have any insight on Odell’s free agency process?
CK: We talk a lot. I want him back. I want him to be a part of the Los Angeles Rams. We’ll have him come pursue a Super Bowl with us again. He was just such a great teammate, such a great person, incredible football player. I learned a ton from him. I want him to come back so bad, but that’s something that they’re working through.
I’ll just keep asking him, keep asking him what it’s looking like. Hopefully one of these days he gives me the thumbs up that he’s got something and he’s coming back.
The Spun: You didn't really have any down games this past season, but which defensive back would you say gave you the most trouble?
CK: There’s a lot of them. There’s a lot of guys who I think are really good football players. I’ve referenced Jaylon Johnson, Kenny Moore II.
I thought Jimmie Ward is someone that’s really underrated, undervalued. As a safety he’s asked to do things outside the bounds of what you’d normally ask a safety to do. He covers receivers down field, he plays man-to-man against receivers as well. Typically, you’re only asking those guys to cover against tight ends, but Jimmie will step in and do all that stuff. He plays safety, but he can really also play that nickel corner spot as well. He’s the one that really comes to mind as a really good football player.
The Spun: Can you tell me about your partnership with Alcon's Pataday and The Right Tool for the Job campaign?
CK: For me, right around this time just coming out of Spring, my allergies just take off. I’m trying to focus on the season, focus on preparation, but when I wake up in the morning my eyes are itching and they’re killing me. I just can’t focus, it’s an awful thing.
I’ve been able to take Pataday Once Daily Relief Extra Strength — knocks that stuff out, knocks my itchy eyes for 24 hours. It allows me to focus on what’s important and that’s playing football to the best of my ability, and being focused in that regard. Also, not having to worry about having to run to the bathroom to take allergy medicine while I’m chasing these little munchkins (two kids) around all day.
Kupp will look to build on what he and Matthew Stafford produced during the 2021 season. With nearly everyone back, the Rams might just be the favorites to hoist another Lombardi Trophy.