The Rams have become so synonymous with Los Angeles since the NFL hit the big time, nearly everyone forgets they're one of the league's few three-city teams. Formed in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams, the St. Louis Rams are one of the league's classic, old-school teams. The Cleveland Rams are, in fact, older than Cleveland's better-known and more celebrated old team, the Browns. Ironically enough, the headed out west in 1946 because they didn't want to compete with the new team on the block in this new All-America Football Conference, a startup league which would eventually be merged with the NFL.
The Rams are also the only team in NFL history to have ever won NFL Titles in three separate cities. Their stint in Cleveland ended with a major bang in 1945, when the defeated the Washington Redskins and their legendary quarterback, Sammy Baugh, to win their first title. The team won its second title in Los Angeles, five years after that original move, in 1951. Finally, the team moved back east to St. Louis in 1995, where in 1999 they fielded the legendary Greatest Show on Turf and took home their third - and to date, their latest - title.
The Rams might seem like an inauspicious operation that crept up on everyone's radar suddenly upon the 1999 title, but the truth is ever since they first set foot in Los Angeles, they've been one of the league's crown jewels. The NFL had that big-money team in big-money Los Angeles that keeps eluding them today (NFL: Give it up! Two teams screwed Los Angeles over! They're NOT going to fork over hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars for your league entry fees and spend more taxpayer money for a new stadium! Especially not when they've got two of the greatest college football teams of all time - USC and UCLA - attracting tailgaters and plus-100,000 crowds from everywhere in the country!) and Los Angelenos returned the love by selling out a classic stadium which was just down the street and around the corner.
The Rams of Los Angeles represented a few important firsts which turned out to be pivotal in making the NFL the most popular sports league in America. In 1948, a Rams running back named Fred Gehrke painted horns on the sides of the team's helmets, and that logo was the first helmet emblem in the league's history. Between 1946 and 1955, the Rams fielded a wide open, big-play based offense which set many records - some of which still stand - and became the ancient forerunner to some of the more field-stretching offenses seen in the NFL today. That offensive style was not only extremely effective, but very popular, and with it the Rams became the first team in NFL history to have all their games televised. And the greatest commissioner in NFL history, Pete Rozelle, began his career with the Los Angeles Rams.
The Cleveland Rams were created to replace a team called the Cincinnati Reds which folded in the middle of the 1934 season, having their schedule played out by an independent team called the St. Louis Gunners. (Any NFL team old enough to have seen the early years deserves a pat on the back. Those old days contained a lot of insecurity, and nearly every team the league began with folded. You now know how difficult is was to run a team back then.) The 1937 draft was held two months before the Rams officially joined the league, so the owners agreed to let the players drafted by the Rams be used for a future team. Their first-ever draft pick, Johnny "Zero" Drake, was the 1937 Rookie of the Year even though the Rams won one measly game.
In 1945, things were looking better, as the team won its first NFL Title 15-14 over Washington. Then they moved. In 1946, most people would have given you a quizzical look for trying to tell them that the Rams just moved to Los Angeles, because most of them didn't know what the hell an anefil was. The move, however, along with the creation of the San Francisco 49ers, made the NFL the first coast-to-coast professional sports league in the country, beating out even the might MLB juggernaut by eleven years. In 1949, the Rams created a mini-dynasty, winning the NFL Championship in 1951 and visiting the Championship game three other times. Those teams fielded some of the greats, like Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy Hirsch, and Tom Fears. But the team dropped out of contention for 1956 and stayed out for the next ten years, even with Pete Rozelle acting as the team's visionary executive and realizing the value of TV to sports. It was because of Rozelle the Rams became and remained a glamor team throughout the darkest years.
The 1960's were defined by the defensive line of Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy, who were given one of the coolest nicknames in sports history: The Fearsome Foursome. Those four, along with Hall of Fame quarterback Roman Gabriel, managed to restore the team's on-field luster in 1967 when coaching legend George Allen got them to the Conference Championship. Although Allen was a great coach who won two divisional titles with the team, he never did manage to win in the playoffs. By 1970, he was off to Washington. The Rams managed to win and stay in contention in the 70's, even though Gabriel was gone by then. They were, in fact, considered alongside the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings to be the class of the conference. Even so, they only won the conference once, in 1979, when they went to the Super Bowl. Even though the Rams were pretty much the first home team in Super Bowl history that year (the game was played in Pasadena), they still got beat up by the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19.
In 1980, the team did something it had done a million times in the past. It moved. Again. This time to Anaheim. The team's owner died in 1979, and his widow inherited his share. She was a terrible owner who believed in cost-cutting no matter what but expected the fans to show up anyway, then complained about not having the money to purchase good players when they didn't come. The team also picked up some unfriendly local competition that decade when the Oakland Raiders barged into their turf, dividing the local fanbase in two. A bright spot was one of the greatest running backs in league history, Eric Dickerson, who set the season record for rushing yards in 1984. The Rams managed to remain a good team despite the internal problems, but in the late 80's the team picked up a quarterback named Jim Everett. Despite a solid offense, though, Everett became best known for a weird play known as the Phantom Sack from the 1989 NFC Championship, a play on which Everett simply collapsed to the turf untouched by opposing defenders. From then on, Everett was perceived as weak and soft, and the team hit its ultimate embarrassment when talk show host Jim Rome called him Chris, a reference to a women's tennis player named Chris Evert, to Everett's face. Everett, pissed off, overturned a table, pushed Rome, and walked out.
The team didn't recover from that. The team spent the first half of the 90's getting its ass kicked. The team's fanbase, already waning, reduced even further with the owner desperately trying to blame the team's problems on their bad stadium situation. When 1995 came, moving to St. Louis was no problem, and the Rams left their longtime Los Angeles home with nary a peep begging them to stay.
When the Rams arrived in St. Louis, they didn't create much cause for excitement. After all, the Cardinals had departed less than a decade earlier, and St. Louis is a fervent, devoted baseball city in which the other pro sports are simply the side dishes. That and the team still sucked. In 1999, they created some hope for optimism by acquiring a solid quarterback in Trent Green and all-time great running back Marshall Faulk. When that happened, prognosticators projected a solid 8-8 display from the Rams until Green went down in his first preseason game that year. Coach Dick Vermiel, upset, promised they would install this undrafted third-string quarterback named Kurt Warner and play great football anyway. That's exactly what happened, too. The Rams fielded one of the league's greatest offenses that year, won 13 games, and took home their first title of the Super Bowl era. The 1999 Super Bowl is widely considered one of the greatest ever played, ending with the opponents' potential tying touchdown getting blocked just a yard short of the endzone.
The Rams did even better in 2001, winning 14 games and returning to the Super Bowl, but by this time they were caught up in their own egos and lost to the New England Patriots, who were actually likable back then. They remained contenders for a few more years, but have spent the last five years or so being outright bad. They hit an absolute low in 2009 when they won a single game. Their new young quarterback, Sam Bradford, and defensive lineman Chris Long show promise, but turning the disaster of today's Rams around is going to require more than just those two.
The story of the Rams has been one of a lot of promise, a lot of hard times, and a lot of ultimate failure with a handful of real successes. 15 Hall of Famers have played for the Rams, including a lot of recognizable names: Eric Dickerson, Marshall Faulk, Elroy "Crazy Legs" Hirsch, Deacon Jones, Norm Van Brocklin, and Jack Youngblood. Kurt Warner is a potential candidate. There was a period in the 80's when the owner's tight wallet resulted in the team becoming a vagabond island which featured retreads like Bert Jones, outright bad players, damaged goods, and unknown commodities. And the Rams also have the distinction of being the team Joe Namath finished with, held up by a pair of bad knees.
As you can tell, the team's identity has long been based in an unstoppable offense. Even when defenses were the Rams' anchor, the team was still fielding Roman Gabriel. They had Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk. They were led to their first Super Bowl by quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and two more by quarterback Kurt Warner. They are also defined by iconic colors, blue and gold, with golden Rams' horns adorning their helmets, unchanged after all these years.
The Rams have been through three cities, but they were really only a premier team with one, Los Angeles, the city that held them the longest and the one they're still most closely associated with. At the current time, if my proverbial fan chose the Rams to be his team, he's doing it not simply on the past, but on the past IN LOS ANGELES specifically. Unless, of course, he's picking on future potential, which the Rams aren't exactly oozing right now. And if you're going to pick a team solely because of a limited existence in Los Angeles, then hell, you're better off just becoming a full-time college fan and latching onto the USC Trojans or UCLA Bruins because they're never going to leave, and Los Angeles is never going to get another NFL team because they city simply doesn't want to pay the league's dumbass fees and insane prices. (While I'm on it, hey NFL: Toronto isn't interested, either. They have a team of their own in a league of their own which doesn't bastardize their whole measuring system, so you can forget them, too.)
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Nicholas Croston (BaronSamedi3)
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The St. Louis Rams participate in the National Football League (NFL) and are based in St. Louis, Missouri. St. Louis plays its games in the West of the NFC. The St. Louis Rams, founded in 1937, play home games at the Edward Jones Dome and have won three NFL Titles (1945, 1951, 1999).