St Louis Rams


Introduction

The St. Louis Rams have changed homes and names throughout their history more times than any other team. Numerous owners have shifted them around the country, but this has not seemed to deter fans and they still hold a record for the largest audience at a game.

Their career has been a rocky one, without consistent success or failure but in recent years things seem to have picked up, and it appears as though their new home in St. Louis is bringing them the luck they need.

The Beginning

The Rams started their life as the Cleveland Rams, and were founded in 1936 by Homer Marshman. The team was successful from the start, joining the newly formed American Football League and finishing in second place in their first season in 1936.

The next year they joined the National Football League, replacing the St. Louis Gunners in the Western Division. They resumed play the following season, and although Jonny Drake was named NL Rookie of the Year, the team finished the season 1-10. Their performance improved slightly in 1937 when their coach, Bezdek, was replaced with assistant coach, Art Lewis.

They went on to win their next three games after this, but still only finished 4-7 at the end of the season. Earl Clark was hired as head coach in 1939, and one of his first moves was to add Parker Hall to the team. During his first year with the Rams he was awarded NFL Most Valuable Player of the Year.

In 1941 the Rams were sold to Daniel F. Reeves and Fred Levy Jr. They kept Clark on as head coach but hired Billy Evans as their general manager. Things looked as if they were improving when the Rams won their first two games, but they then had a nine-game losing streak which caused Evans to resign as general manager.

Charles ‘Chile’ Walsh replaced him the following season, but in 1943 the Rams had to suspend their operations due to lack of players and thus sat out the whole season.

A Return to Play, With Success

When they did return to play in 1944 Aldo Donelli was appointed as Head Coach, and he set about forming a new team of players that finished 4-6 that season. In 1945 Bob Waterfield was drafted on to the team, and he would turn out to be one the Rams’ greatest assets, being awarded both NL Rookie of the Year and NFL MVP.

The same year another Ram, Jim Benson, made ten receptions for 303 yards against the Detroit Lions. He kept this record for 45 years until it was beaten by Willie Anderson, who was also a Ram. With players such as these two on the team, coupled with their two running backs, Fred Gerhke and Jim Gillette, the Rams had one of their best seasons yet, only losing one game against the Philadelphia Eagles, which set the best record in the National League.

The First Move

1946, which was their last year in Ohio, turned out to be a winning year for the franchise, with the Rams taking the NFL Championship title thanks in the main to Waterfield. Dan Reeves, the owner of the Rams, became frustrated with the lack of attendance at games so decided to move them to Los Angeles, making them the first National League team to have their home on the West coast.

Reeves also introduced Hal Seley, Ed Pauley, Fred Levy and Harold Pauley as new partners for the franchise, signing a deal to lease the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until 1979. At the time African-American players were not allowed to play for the NFL.

The commissioners of the Coliseum only allowed this move to take place provided the team was integrated, and so Kenny Washington and Woody Strobe, two UCLA players, were signed onto the team as the first two black players to play for the NFL.

This move seemed to have the desired effect, as the first pre-season game played by the Rams, against the Washington Redskins, attracted an audience of 95,000 fans.

Home is Where the Fans Are

The first season in their new home was a good one for the team and they managed to finish second in the league, falling one place behind the Chicago Bears. Despite this, Walsh was fired as head coach at the end of this season.

Another professional football team, the Los Angeles Dons, moved to the city around the same time and the two shared the Coliseum as their home ground until 1949. The 1949 to 1955 seasons were particularly successful for the Rams, with them managing to play the NFL Championship, later to be called the Super Bowl, four times, although they only had one win in 1951.

This improvement was mainly down to the team’s great offence, which was made up of Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy Hirsh and Tom Fears. During the 1951 season Hirsh managed to post an extraordinary 1,495 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns.

The success of the Rams had a dramatic impact on their popularity, and they were the first pro football team to have all their games aired on television.

A Step Down

After this success in the first half of the decade, the next ten years saw the Rams’ performance start to wane. During each season between 1956 and 1966 they posted losing records. Despite this, the visionary executive for the team managed to keep their reputation as a glamour franchise through the use of television.

They set the record for the highest attendance at a game against the San Francisco 49ers in 1957, with 102,368 fans turning up to watch. The following season they also managed to draw over 100,000 to two more of their games.

During the 1960s the Rams set about making themselves an excellent defence line-up, which consisted of them signing Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy who were dubbed the “Fearsome Four”.

The Allen years

George Allen was also employed as head coach in 1966, and he immediately signed Dick Vermeil as special coach. The Rams enjoyed five consecutive winning seasons under the guidance of Allen, as well as winning two divisional titles but they never managed to win a playoff game.

Quarterback Roman Gabriel was also accountable for the Rams’ success at this time, and in 1969 he was voted MVP of the NFL. Allen left the team in 1970 and moved to the Washington Redskins. The same year Gabriel and Jack Snow, the primary receiver on the team, joined forces to bring 51 receptions totalling 859 yards, making it the best season out of the eight they played together.

A New Owner and Another New Home

The sudden death of Reeves in 1971 left the franchise without an owner, but a complicated arrangement with the Baltimore Colts meant that their owner, Carroll Rosenbloom, took over the team instead. One of Rosenbloom’s first jobs as new owner was to sever ties with the Coliseum due to the delay over building luxury boxes.

He held negotiations with the Dodger Stadium but the owner of the LA Dodgers, Walter O’Malley, had problems with his team playing at the Chavez Ravine. A petition was put forward to move to Anaheim Stadium instead, the California Angels’ home, and remodelling began to take place to provide more room for the Rams.

The capacity of the stadium increased by 68,000, with this seating being more appropriate for football, and the big move to their new home was made by the Rams in 1980. Chuck Knox coached the team between 1973 and 1979, and he signed Jack Youngblood onto the team’s defence.

The Robinson Years

In 1979 the Rams reached the Super Bowl for the first time, and ironically the team was one of the oldest they had ever had. They played against the Pittsburgh Steelers, the defending champions, who went on to take their fourth title, 31-19.

John Robinson was employed as coach at the beginning of the next decade, leading the Rams to six playoffs in the next nine seasons. In 1985 they reached the NFO Championship but lost to the Chicago Bears. Eric Dickerson was the Rams’ star player for most of the 1980s, winning Rookie of the Year in 1983 and setting a new NFL record in 1984 for rushing for 2,105 yards and still remains the Rams’ rushing leader with a record of 7,245 yards.

Jim Everett was signed onto the team, and he helped the Rams score an 11-5 record in 1989. After this spell of success Rams’ fans had great ambitions for the following season, but in a disastrous game against San Francisco, Everett fell to the ground even though he was untouched by the opposing team’s defence, and finished with a 10-3 defeat.

The Ups and The Downs

Rosenbloom suddenly died just before the move to Anaheim Stadium, and so ownership was passed to his widow, Georgia Frontiere. After this, the team did not stay at the stadium long. The early nineties started badly for the team, with losing records and no playoff appearances which lead to a decline in fan interest.

Chuck Knox was brought back to the team to try and rectify this situation, but he did not manage to improve their play and the Rams continued to lose. By 1994 the Rams’ fan base had declined to such a degree that they no longer held a prominent place in the Los Angeles sport scene.

The team started to blame the stadium for their misfortunes, and when the rights for the surrounding land, which had been part of the deal, failed to materialise Frontiere asked for permission to move the team. Before the move was guaranteed Knox was fired as head coach and Rich Brooks was hired in his place for the 1995 and 1996 seasons.

A Home in St. Louis

The franchise moved to St. Louis, and began the first couple of seasons in their new home in a shaky manner. They took up temporary residence in the Busch Stadium until works on the TransWorld Dome, now referred to as the John Edwards Dome, were complete.

After the 1996 season Brooks was fired and Dick Vermeil was brought in to take his place, but his first two seasons were as disastrous as the preceding ones, making the 1990s the worst season for the Rams record-wise. Things began to look up when Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were signed onto the team in 1999, and they finished this season 13-3, which was a record second best for them.

The Start of a New Century

The Rams made it to their second Super Bowl in 2001, in which they faced the Tennessee Titans. This colourful competition was taken by the Rams, giving them their first Super Bowl win. Vermeil retired from football soon after this, and was replaced by Mike Martz.

Martz’s first season started well with six consecutive wins, but things then took a dramatic turn for the worst when they lost the next three games. They made it to the playoffs in which they faced the New Orleans Saints, but they fell 21-38, giving the Saints their first playoff win.

However, in 2003 they made it to the Super Bowl once again, winning again against the Philadelphia Eagles. Fans hoped this would be the start of a super 21st Century, but the following season started with a losing 7-9 record.

The next season was equally bad, but they managed to reach 5th place in the NFC in 2004 and won the wild card round against the Seattle Seahawks. 2006 proved to be a rollercoaster of a season, but it ended on a good note when they won against the Dallas Cowboys.

Despite this Martz was still fired as head coach, and was replaced for the 2007 season by Scott Linehan, whom fans hope will be able to continue some of their 21st century success.