“The Greatest Show On Turf.”
There is perhaps no better nickname in the history of professional football. The play on the phrase “The Greatest Show On Earth” was used to described the St. Louis Rams’ dynamic offense that featured quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, offensive tackle Orlando Pace and wide receiver Isaac Bruce. The team was coached by Dick Vermeil.
Warner ascended to the starter’s role after Trent Green blew out his knee in the preseason. At the time, Warner was as obscure as one can get in the NFL. He had previously played for both the Iowa Barnstormers of the Arena Football League and the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. He literally came out of nowhere.
In what can only be described as a dream season, Warner led a record-setting offense to a nail-biting victory in Super Bowl XXXIV. The strong armed Warner was named league MVP and Faulk was the NFL Offensive Player of Year. “The Greatest Show On Turf” returned to the Super Bowl two years later with Mike Martz as head coach.
However, Warner and company came up short in Super Bowl XXXVI losing to the New England Patriots, 20-17. The Rams were denied their second Super Bowl in three years by Adam Vinatieri’s last-second field goal.
The Rams first trip to the Super Bowl came at the end of the 1979 season. The game was held at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. At the time, the Rams were located in Los Angeles. Despite the home state advantage, they still lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19.
The Rams victory in Super Bowl XXIV, played after the 1999 season, was the franchise’s their third championship. Previously, the Rams only two titles were captured before the Super Bowl era in 1945 and 1951.
That 1999 team wasn’t the only Rams squad with a cool nickname. In the 1960’s, the Rams had a dominate defensive line known as the “Fearsome Foursome.” This unit featured hall of famers Merlin Olsen and Deacon Jones as well as stand-outs Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy.
While this group never won an NFL Championship they did bring respectability back to the franchise after a decade long losing stretch that began in the mid-1950’s.
Other great Rams players include Bob Waterfield and Norm Van Brocklin. They successfully traded-off playing quarterback for the Rams in the early 1950’s. These two productive passers threw to hall of fame wide receivers Elroy Hirsch and Tom Fears.
Roman Gabriel played 11 seasons with the Rams beginning in 1962 and was selected to four Pro Bowls. Meanwhile, the Rams of the 1970’s featured hall of fame defensive end Jack Youngblood and hall of fame offensive tackle Jackie Slater.
The Rams can trace their origins all the way back to 1936 in Cleveland, Ohio and the second American Football League (that version of the AFL began play in 1936 and folded after the 1937 season).
The Rams joined the NFL in 1937 and moved to Los Angeles in 1946. Then in 1980, the team moved to Anaheim, which is really a distinction without a difference. The team left Southern California in 1995 and to return to the Midwest; the Rams relocated to St. Louis.
Throughout their history the Rams have been a part of some historic firsts.
The Rams were the first major professional sports team to move to California. They beat the Dodgers to L.A. but a dozen years.
In 1946, the Rams signed Kenny Washington and Woody Strode. They were the first black players to join the NFL since 1933. At the time of Washington and Strode’s signing, African-Americans were not allowed to play in the NFL.
Also that year the Rams became the first team to use scouts.
In 1948, halfback Fred Gehrke painted horns on the side of the Rams’ helmets. This marked the first time NFL helmets sported an emblem.
In 1949, the Rams drafted Paul “Tank” Younger from Grambling College. Younger became the first African-American to be “drafted.” Hitherto, black players were signed after the draft.
In 1950, the Rams became the first NFL team to have all of its game televised. The 1951 NFL Championship game, in which the Rams defeated Otto Graham and the Cleveland Browns 24-17, was the first NFL Championship game broadcasted on television from coast-to-coast. It aired on the DuMont Network.
In the 1950’s, when the team was struggling, a young executive by the name of Pete Rozell was able to maintain the Rams’ position as one of the NFL’s glamour franchises. His leadership was apparent by the robust crowds at Rams games. In 1957, the Rams established a regular season attendance record for a single game when 102,368 fans showed up to see them play the 49’ers.
In 1967, the Rams became the first NFL team to attract one million fans in a season.
The Rams play in the NFC West with their division rivals the Arizona Cardinals, the San Francisco 49’ers and the Seattle Seahawks. Thanks to their days in Los Angeles, the Rams main rival remains the 49’ers.
The team plays their home games at the Edward Jones Dome.