By now, it’s been officially announced that the St. Louis Rams are no more, and that they are relocating to Los Angeles, the city they left in 1994. They will play in the Los Angeles Coliseum for the foreseeable future until the new stadium in Inglewood, California is completed in 2019. They leave the Gateway City with plenty of memories, both good and bad, but perhaps the greatest moment a city could ever witness.
The Rams arrived in St. Louis in 1995, and for the first four years, they struggled badly, with running back Lawrence Phillips considered one of the biggest busts in NFL history. Despite that, the fan-base was just thankful to have football in the city for the first time 1987, when the “Big Red” St. Louis Cardinals moved away to Arizona.
And then, the biggest year came: 1999. After finishing 4-12 the year before, the Rams added many top players, such as offensive lineman Adam Timmerman from the Packers, running back Marshall Faulk from the Colts, and quarterback Trent Green from the Redskins. These additions, along with the drafting of players such as Dre Bly and Torry Holt, had given fans hope for a better year and future.
But in the preseason, Green tore his ACL, and entered an unknown quarterback who was stocking shelves and playing in the Arena Football League. His name… Kurt Warner. And starting with a 27-10 home win over the Baltimore Ravens in the first game of the season, the Rams ushered in a whole new era of St. Louis football.
“The Greatest Show on Turf” was born.
I remember Warner rejuvenating the Rams offense, and how a once struggling unit struck fear into opposing defenses. Perhaps one of the games I recall best from my early years was during that 1999 season, when they played the San Francisco 49ers at the Edward Jones Dome in week five. After years of being embarrassed by the 49ers, the Rams got their revenge in high fashion, defeating them 42-20.
Another notable moment that bring back memories from the regular season that year was during a 34-3 win against the expansion Cleveland Browns. Faulk took a hand-off, and ran all the way for a touchdown… without having anyone block for him.
Of course, there were the outstanding moments from the playoffs: the Tony Horne kickoff return for a touchdown in a shootout victory over the Vikings in the NFC Divisional Round, the Ricky Proehl catch in the NFC Championship, and of course… Super Bowl 34.
It wasn’t an exciting game from beginning to end, but the ending was one of the greatest in sports history. The late Steve McNair along with Eddie George were driving the Titans down the field, as the Rams defense wore down. Inside the ten yard line with six seconds, Mike Jones tackled wide receiver Kevin Dyson one yard shy of the end zone to preserve the Super Bowl victory for the Rams.
And KSDK newscaster (then sportscaster Mike Bush) made a statement that struck a chord in our hearts: “The Gateway to the West, is now the Gateway to the BEST… football team in the world!”
While they made the playoffs the next two years, and the Super Bowl in 2001, they could not win the Lombardi Trophy.
But the memories lived on…
Into the 2000s, the Rams were successful, but as time wore on, the injuries began to mount. It was disappointing seeing them finish 7-9 in 2002, and yet, it was a turning point for the team, as Marc Bulger prepared to take the reins at quarterback for the Rams for the foreseeable future. And for the running back position, Steven Jackson began to fill in the role of lead back as Faulk’s career began to be hampered by injuries.
In 2003, the Rams finished 12-4, as they entered their fourth season being coached by Mike Martz, the successor of Dick Vermeil. Offensively and defensively, the team brought together remnants of “The Greatest Show on Turf” and new acquisitions. But sadly, while they won the division, they fell in double overtime to the Carolina Panthers in the NFC Divisional Round, 23-20.
2004 featured their last playoff appearance, and was the beginning of a downward spiral for the franchise. A slew of coaching changes and losing changes affected fan appreciation for the team. There was a five-year stretch where the Rams went 15-65, the worst stretch in NFL history. Despite that, the arrival of talent such as Chris Long, Robert Quinn, and James Laurinitis, boosted the defensive side of the team. Unfortunately, drafting Sam Bradford in 2010 did not pan out, as injuries took their toll on him as well.
This season, 2015, turned out to be the last one. The arrival of players such as Todd Gurley, along with the successful years of Aaron Donald, Johnny Hekker, and Trumaine Johnson, all made it at least a watchable season.
But now… it’s time to say goodbye. To all of it.
Seeing a team you have grown up watching suddenly leave to go across the country isn’t easy. It isn’t fun, and it definitely isn’t a joyful feeling. But it is signed, sealed, and delivered. They’re going back to Los Angeles.
So… to Vermeil, Warner, Faulk, Issac Bruce, Kevin Carter, Leonard Little, Jeff Wilkins, Jones, Pace, Timmerman, Martz, Jackson, Holt, Quinn, Long, Proehl, Az-Zahir Hakim, D’Marco Farr, Greg Zuerlein, Laurinitis, Jenkins, Hekker, London Fletcher, Lovie Smith, Tavon Austin, Gurley, Todd Lyght, Tyoka Jackson, Roland Williams, Grant Wistrom, and everyone else. To every Rams player that made us smile for the past 21 years. And to the late Georgia Frontiere for bringing football back to St. Louis with the odds stacked against you.
For all the memories on the field and off. For the Super Bowl 34 win. For “The Greatest Show on Turf”. For the highlight reels we all cherish. And most importantly: for making the city of St. Louis believe in football again…