St. Louis Sports Franchises: St. Louis Rams
February 23, 2011 Leave a comment
Championships: 1945, 1951 (both pre-Super Bowl), Super Bowl XXXIV-1999
Retired Numbers: #7 Bob Waterfield, #28 Marshall Faulk, #29 Eric Dickerson, #74 Merlin Olsen, #75 Deacon Jones, #78 Jackie Slater, #80 Isaac Bruce, #85 Jack Youngblood
Rivals: San Francisco 49ers, Seattle Seahawks
The Rams began playing in 1936 in Cleveland as the AFL’s Cleveland Rams, and joined the National Football League the following year. The franchise had its first taste of success in 1945, as the Rams won their first NFL Championship, ousting the Redskins behind the powerful play of QB Bob Waterfield. However, unable to compete with the cross-town Cleveland Browns of the All-America Football Conference, the team then moved to Los Angeles in 1946, becoming the Los Angeles Rams.
The move across the country was a risky one, especially considering that the closest NFL city was over 2,000 miles away in Chicago. Additionally, at this time, the NFL did not allow African-Americans to play in the league, but the commissioners of the LA Coliseum (where the Rams moved to) stipulated as part of the lease agreement that the team be integrated. Given this demand, the Rams signed UCLA players Kenny Washington and Woody Strode, who became the first two blacks to play in the NFL. The Coliseum then became home to Rams football for more than thirty years.
Between 1949 and 1955, the Rams saw large successes, playing in the NFL championship game four times, winning once in 1951. This era saw the rams in possession of what was questionably the best offense in the NFL, as wide receiver Elroy Hirsch teamed Tom Fears to create the style of Rams football as one of the first big play receivers. The popularity of this fast-faced style of play attracted much attention, and fashioned the Rams into the first pro football team to have all its games televised in 1950.
The 1960’s were defined by the powerful defensive line of the “Fearsome Foursome”: Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy, under the direction of legendary head coach George Allen. This combo returned St. Louis football to its previous glitz and notoriety, as the Rams reached the conference championship in 1967, where they unfortunately fell to Green Bay.
The Rams remained solid contenders in the 1970’s, winning seven straight NFC West championships between 1973-79, although they had trouble advancing much further than that. However, it was in 1979 that the aging 9-7 Rams ousted the Cowboys and Buccaneers enroute to their first Super Bowl. Playing in the Super Bowl in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl, the game was virtually a home game for the Los Angeles-based squad, who were to match up against the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers. However, Pittsburgh out played St. Louis, particularly in the fourth quarter, winning the game 31-19.
In 1980, the Rams packed up and moved yet again, this time from the Los Angeles Coliseum to nearby Anaheim Stadium in Orange County. This move was made in an attempt to lessen the problems in selling out a Coliseum type venue, which seats 100,000. Additionally, the most was following the population pattern that was showing large growth in affluent suburbs of greater Orange County. Anaheim Stadium was originally built to house baseball, but it was configured with luxury suites and enclosed to accommodate football crowds of about 65,000.
The new home for the Rams did not yield too many great results. With the exception of the five phenomenal years of the Eric Dickerson era, in which he solidified his position as the Rams’ career rushing leader until the 2010 season, the 80’s and early 90’s were times in which high playoff hopes were crushed unexpectedly, and fans were growing increasingly unsatisfied with the slapdash ownership of Georgia Frontiere, widow of previous owner Carroll Rosenbloom, who died in 1979. The first half of the 1990’s was characterized by losing records, and waning fan interest. Citing poverty as the excuse, Frontiere looked to move the Rams out of L.A., and to Baltimore or St. Louis.
St. Louis ended up being the final choice, despite much protesting from other NFL owners, as the city agreed to build a publicly financed stadium for the Rams to play in. Many saw the move as the logical progression of the “horribly mismanaged” team as being very irresponsible and foolish, in that Los Angeles was the second largest market in the country, and St. Louis was just the eighteenth.
The Rams’ move to St. Louis occurred in early 1995, as they originally played in Busch Memorial Stadium until the Trans World Dome (now the Edward Jones Dome) was completed. The revamp and trend of stripping down to bare bones within the franchise proved to be a good move, as the late 1990’s were some of the best years in team history. Most notably, the 1999 season brought future league MVP Marshall Faulk to St. Louis, who combined with QB Kurt Warner and fan-favorite Isaac Bruce to lead the Rams to one of the most historic Super Bowl offenses in history, posting 526 points for the season. This team, called “The Greatest Show on Turf,” clinched a franchise first Super Bowl victory, defeating the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV.
The years closely following the 1999 Super Bowl victory saw the Rams establish a pass-first identity that would post an NFL record amount of points forged over the course of 3 seasons (1999-2001), under the leadership of Dick Vermeil until 1999, and his successor Mike Martz from 2000 till 2005. Additionally, the offense was bolstered by the acquisition of running back Steven Jackson as the 24th pick of the draft, who has been one of the Rams’ most successful running backs since the team moved to St. Louis.
Struggles from 2006-2008 were heavily rooted in the scrutiny of Martz’ successor, Scott Linehan, who was fired in September 2008 after an 0-4 start. 2009 did not prove to be much better, as the Rams finished with a 1-15 record, earning the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. This pick went to Oklahoma Sam Bradford, who started all 16 games, leading the Rams to a 7-9 season in 2010, finishing second in the NFC West. This quick turnaround not only solidified Bradford as the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year, but also brought hopes on the ups in St. Louis. Check in with us tomorrow as we discuss the recent and present-day news in Rams world!