19 in ’19: Most Impactful Los Angeles Rams in Franchise History

by Blaine Grisak
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It’s officially Hall of Fame week which means football season is inching closer and the first preseason game will take place on Thursday. It’s also the NFL’s 100th season, making 2019 that much more historic and importance of looking back on the league and each team’s history. The Los Angeles Rams are the ninth oldest team in league history, coming into existence in 1936.

As this is the NFL’s 100th season and it is 2019, here are the 19 most impactful Rams in franchise history. This list will include owners, coaches, and players and are listed in chronological order, not the order of importance.

19. Homer Marshman & Damon Wetzel – Founders of the Rams

Both Marshman and Wetzel founded the Rams in 1936. Without them, there may be no Rams franchise. Wetzel approached Marshman in his home in 1936, and the two agreed to buy the team. While the then Cleveland Rams didn’t fare well, after purchasing the team for $10K and then putting up another $55k to capitalize the new club, the duo sold the Rams for $100K. That’s still a $35K profit which wasn’t too shabby in 1941.

18. Dan Reeves – Moved the Rams from Cleveland to Los Angeles

Reeves moved the Rams to Los Angeles for the first time in 1946. It was then that he made the Los Angeles Rams the first American major league sports franchise on the Pacific Coast. He also became the first owner to sign African American players to an NFL roster. The Rams went from a below-average franchise to making three straight NFL Championships, winning one in 1951.

17. Bob Waterfield – Rams Quarterback (1945-1952)

Waterfield was a significant reason for the Los Angeles Rams turning the corner in the latter half of the 1940s. The quarterback led the team to its first division championship in 1945. Waterfield then led the Rams to back-to-back NFL Championship appearances in 1949 and 1950.

He had the original “Michael Jordan Flu Game” when he came off the bench in the conference championship game against the Chicago Bears to lead the Rams to a 24-14 victory. Waterfield threw for 280 yards and three touchdowns. He also added a field goal and three extra points.

In 1950, Waterfield, along with Norm Van Brocklin, helped lead a historic Rams offense. The offense was so popular that the Rams became the first professional football team to have all of their games televised. Waterfield would eventually have his No. 7 retired by the franchise.

16. Norm Van Brocklin – Rams Quarterback (1949-1957)

Van Brocklin’s most memorable seasons were in 1950 and 1951. The Rams quarterback split time with Waterfield in 1950 before taking over the starting job in 1951. During this season, Van Brocklin teamed up with Elroy Hirsch as the wide receiver posted  1,495 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns.

Van Brocklin helped get the Rams over the hump in 1951. After back-to-back losses in the NFL Championship Game, the team avenged their loss to the Browns for the year prior. The Rams quarterback split time with Waterfield in the championship game. However, tied 17-17 in the fourth quarter, Van Brocklin hit Tom Fears for a  73-yard touchdown reception to take the lead and secure the win.

15. Deacon Jones – Rams Defensive End (1961-1971)

It would be impossible to do this list without the Deacon. Jones was the most dominant defensive end of his time and created the sack. Pro Football Weekly reported he accumulated 173½ sacks over his career, which would be third on the all-time sack list.

In 1967, Jones had 21½ sacks in only 14 games; he tallied 22 sacks in 14 games the following year. Because the term was not official yet, these numbers don’t count in the official NFL record books. He became the face of the “Fearsome  Foursome”  and would eventually have his No. 75 retired.

14. Merlin Olsen –  Rams Defensive Tackle (1962-1976)

While Jones is the face of the “Fearsome Foursome,” Olsen might be seen as the other half. Throughout the 60s he terrorized opposing offenses. His 11 sacks in 1972 ranked second on the team as he made the Pro Bowl a record, 14 times. That’s the same number as Peyton Manning, Bruce Matthews, and Tony Gonzalez.

Olsen helped the Rams to six playoff appearances, losing in the conference championship game in three straight years. The Rams fell to the Minnesota Vikings, despite Olsen and the defense holding the Viking offense to just 14 points. Earlier in the regular season, the Rams beat the Vikings, 20-17. The Rams lost to the Vikings again in Olsen’s final game in 1976.

13. Jack Youngblood – Rams Defensive End (1971-1984)

Jones was the face of the original “Fearsome Foursome,” but Youngblood was the face of the “Fearsome Foursome” 2.0. Youngblood is best known for playing in the 1979 playoffs, including Super Bowl XIV, with a fractured left fibula.

However, that doesn’t take away from his accomplishments on the field. Youngblood has the most consecutive games played record with the franchise (201), most career sacks in the playoffs (8.5), most playoff starts (17), and second most career sacks (151.5). He is one of eight players to have their number retired on the team.

12. Jackie Slater – Rams Offensive Tackle (1976-1995)

Jackie Slater made an immediate impact with the Rams. The year he became the starting right tackle, the Rams went to the Super Bowl. In 1983, Slater paved the way for Eric Dickerson’s rookie rushing record of 1,808 yards and again for his 2,000-yard season a year later – a record that still has not been broken. In 1985, he was a key blocker for Dickerson as he ran for a playoff record 248 yards and two touchdowns against the Dallas Cowboys.

Slater had his number retired by the Rams as he played his entire 20-year career with the team. He is the only player in league history to play for one single team/franchise in three different cities. Slater had his number retired in 1996.

11. Eric Dickerson – Rams Running Back (1983-1987)

Dickerson burst onto the scene as a rookie with the Los Angeles Rams as he set rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing yards (1,808) and most rushing touchdowns (18) on his way to rookie of the year.

While his rookie year was great, it would be the 1984 season that everybody remembers. The second-year player rushed for an NFL record 2,105 yards. Twelve times in 1984 he gained more than 100 yards rushing, breaking the record of 100-yard games in a season held by O. J. Simpson.

Despite his five seasons in Los Angeles, Dickerson is remembered as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.

10. Flipper Anderson – Rams Wide Receiver (1988-1994)

Anderson played seven years in Los Angeles but will be mostly remembered for one game during the 1989 season. The Rams played the New Orleans Saints, and Anderson became unstoppable. During that Week 12 matchup, Anderson and quarterback Jim Everett connected 15 times for 336 yards (22.4  yards per reception).

While Anderson may not have the all-time franchise records that Henry Ellard has, Anderson’s game in 1989 will never be forgotten. Calvin Johnson came seven yards away in 2013 on 14 receptions, and Julio Jones hit 300 yards in 2016. Still, Anderson ranks seventh in franchise history in receiving yards and 10th in receiving touchdowns.

9. Isaac Bruce – Rams Wide Reciever (1994-2007)

Bruce is mostly remembered for his time leading the Greatest Show on Turf, but it’s his 1995 season that might be his best. Bruce recorded 119 catches for 1,781 yards with not Kurt Warner, but Chris Miller throwing the football. His 1,781 yards were second only to Jerry Rice’s then-record of 1,848 yards for one season and is still the fifth most in a single season. What makes Bruce’s number even more impressive is that he accounted for 43% of the team’s receiving yards that season. That’s a higher percentage of any player in the top-5 in receiving yards in a season.

However, what Bruce is mostly remembered for is his game-winning touchdown reception in the Super Bowl. With the game tied, 16-16,  Bruce adjusted to an underthrown pass by Warner, making the catch and beating two Titans defenders for the 73-yard go-ahead score. Bruce holds every receiving record in franchise history and had his number retired by the team in 2010.

8. Dick Vermeil – Rams Head Coach (1997-1999)

Dick Vermeil returned to coaching in 1997 as he took over a porous St. Louis Rams team that hadn’t been to the playoffs in seven years. Vermeil’s first two years were forgettable, but it’s his third that earns him a place in Rams history.

His famous words, “We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we will play good football,” will go down as one of the most famous quotes in franchise history. The Rams went on to win their first Super Bowl in 1999, defeating the Tennessee Titans, 23-16.

7. Mike Jones – Rams Linebacker (1997-2000)

Mike Jones isn’t the best linebacker of all-time, but he might be the most impactful. Without Jones, there may be no Super Bowl trophy in Los Angeles. If Jones doesn’t make  “The Tackle” who knows what would have happened at the end of Super Bowl XXXIV? “The Tackle” is one of the most memorable plays in both NFL and Rams history.

6. Kurt Warner – Rams Quarterback (1998-2003)

“We have Trent Green down. Trent Green is down on the field.”

12 words that changed the Rams franchise forever.

Who knows what would have happened had Green not torn his ACL against the San Diego Chargers in the 1999 preseason? However, what it set up for was history and a Hall of Fame career. Warner led the Rams to their first Super Bowl in 1999 and was a two-time MVP.

5. Marshall Faulk – Rams Running Back (1999-2006)

Faulk didn’t start his career with the Rams, but it’s where he made it. The Rams traded for Faulk from the Indianapolis Colts, and it is a trade the altered the franchise forever. While it’s Warner, Bruce, and Holt that are remembered for the Greatest Show on Turf, the offense ran through Faulk. His ability to be a dual-threat in the early 2000s was unmatched.

He was named co-MVP in 2000 with Warner and with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 receiving yards, Faulk joined Roger Craig as the only players to total 1,000 or more yards in each category in a season. He also broke the NFL season record for most receiving yards by a running back, previously held by Lionel James. Faulk also had his number retired by the Rams in  2007.

4. Torry Holt – Rams Wide Receiver (1999-2008)

After three straight field goals, it was Torry Holt who finally got the Rams in the end zone in Super Bowl XXXIV to put the Rams up, 16-0. Beginning in 2000, Holt reached at least 1,300 yards every season through 2005, a league record of six consecutive seasons.

Holt trails just Bruce in every major receiving statistical category.

3. Steven Jackson – Rams Running Back (2004-2012)

Jackson didn’t win with the Rams, but he was the lone bright spot for a franchise during its worst era. Between 2007-2009, the Rams won a combined six games.  All Jackson did during those seasons was rush for 1,002, 1,042, and 1,416 – the second-most yards in his career.

Jackson finished his career as the franchise’s all-time leading rusher and No. 18 on the NFL’s all-time leading rusher list. He rushed for 1,000 yards in eight straight seasons, becoming just the sixth running back to do so.

2. Stan Kroenke – Rams Owner (2010-present)

Kroenke helped Georgia Frontiere move the Rams from Los Angeles in 1995, but was responsible for moving the team back to Los Angeles in 2016. After Frontiere passed away, Kroenke became the team’s outright owner in 2010. After a 36 year absence, the Rams moved back to Los Angeles and the LA Coliseum.

1. Sean McVay – Rams Coach (2017-Present)

The move to Los Angeles was never going to work if the Rams didn’t win. Jeff Fisher started 3-1, but after a 1-11 stretch to end the season 4-12, he was fired. It was a disastrous first season back home.

The Rams went on to make a bold move the following offseason and sign what would be the youngest head coach in the NFL – Sean McVay. McVay won 11 games his first season as the Rams hosted their first playoff game in the Los Angeles Coliseum since 1978. The former Washington Redskins offensive coordinator led the Rams to the Super Bowl in his second season and has the team set up for future success.

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