It’s Hall of Fame week which means the Los Angeles Rams’ season is getting closer by the day. Hall of Fame week is fun though as are the festivities surrounding it, capped off by the inductions. The 2019 season will mark the 100th of the NFL, and because of that, the Hall of Fame class will expand next year.
As it stands now, the maximum number of inductees in a year is eight. In conjunction with the NFL’s 100th-anniversary celebration, the Pro Football Hall of Fame tentatively has approved a class of 20 for next year. This would allow players, coaches, and contributors who have fallen through the cracks a spot in Canton.
The operating board has approved five modern-era candidates — the same as normal — plus 10 seniors, three contributors and two coaches for the Class of 2020.
So, who could be next for the Los Angeles Rams, let’s find out.
Quarterback Roman Gabriel
Roman Gabriel is one of those players that has continually fallen through the cracks. Gabriel played for the Los Angeles Rams from 1962-1972 but finally earned the team’s starting role in 1966. The all-time great quarterback started all 14 games that season and the Rams went 8-6 – their first winning season since 1958.
In 1967 the Los Angeles Rams went 11–1–2 and made the playoffs. In week 13, needing a win to keep their playoff hopes alive, Gabriel went 20 for 36 with 3 touchdowns in a 27–24 come from behind win over the defending champion Green Bay Packers coached by Vince Lombardi. Gabriel then led the Los Angeles Rams to a 34-10 win over the Baltimore Colts who were led by league MVP Johnny Unitas. The Los Angeles Rams lost the Packers in the playoffs just a few weeks later.
Gabriel’s career was highlighted by his 1969 campaign in which he won the league’s MVP. He led the Rams on an 11-game win streak to begin the season which is still a team record.
In his career, Gabriel was the NFL passing yards leader in 1973 with the Philadelphia Eagles, led the league in passing touchdown twice, and capped it off with MVP honors in 1969. Under Gabriel, the Los Angeles Rams went from seven straight seasons without a winning record to six straight winning seasons, including two playoff appearances. With the Eagles, Gabriel took a team that hadn’t won five games in four of its last five years, to five and seven wins in his two seasons. The team’s seven wins in 1974 were the team’s most since 1966.
A league MVP and NFL Comeback Player of the Year, Gabriel deserves a spot in Canton. He’s one of just five quarterbacks to play in the 1960’s and 70’s with more than 29,000 yards passing to not make the Hall of Fame yet and he nad John Brodie are the only players to do so while winning league MVP.
With the NFL potentially expanding its senior class next year, Gabriel will have a chance.
Wide Receiver Isaac Bruce
Bruce is always brought up in this conversation. It seemed like last year was going to be his year. Like other wide receivers, he waited his turn. Then, he got passed over.
Maybe 2020 will be his time.
His accomplishments are known. He was only the second wide receiver in NFL history to achieve more than 15,000 receiving yards after Jerry Rice.
His 1995 season might be one of the most dominant in NFL history. With Chris Miller at quarterback, he Recorded 119 receptions – the most for a player under the age of 25. 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.
Tied 16-16 late in the fourth quarter, Bruce adjusted to an underthrown ball by Kurt Warner in what would end up being the game-winning 73-yard touchdown. Bruce beat three Titans defenders on his way to scoring. Bruce’s score would have been the play of the game if not for “The Tackle.”
The Greatest Show on Turf was the greatest offense in NFL history. Kurt Warner got in, Orlando Pace got in, it’s time for the offense’s best wide receiver to get in.
Bruce still qualifies had a modern-candidate and therefore he’ll still be competing with just five. He’ll be competing with Reggie Wayne, Troy Polamalu, Patrick Willis, and others who have yet to get in.
Head Coach Dick Vermeil
Dick Vermeil is one of five coaches to take two teams to the Super Bowl. However, Vermeil’s resume of those coaches might be the most impressive.
Before his arrival with the Eagles, the franchise had never made the playoffs post-AFL-NFL merger. The Eagles hadn’t ever had a winning season post-AFL-NFL merger.
Vermeil took over a team in 1976 that won four games the year before and because of past trades, Philadelphia didn’t have a first-round pick until 1979. However, in Vermeil’s third season in 1978, the Eagles were in the playoffs for the first time in 18 years and in the Super Bowl in 1980.
Then, prior to his arrival with the Rams, the team hadn’t made the playoffs or had a winning season in seven years. Vermeil won a Super Bowl in year three.
That doesn’t even include him taking over the Kansas City Chiefs and matching the franchise’s record of wins in a season in his third year.
Vermeil’s record is only 126-114, but his ability to take teams that had no history of success and turn them into winners is unmatched.
The NFL is going to two coaches into the Hall of Fame in 2020 if the expansion is permitted and Vermeil will without question be in the conversation.
Wide Receiver Torry Holt
Holt hasn’t been a finalist yet and seems like much more of a long-shot for the Hall of Fame. However, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t have a shot.
The former Rams first-round pick ranked first in the NFL from 2000-08 with 817 receptions for 11,872 yards. At the time of his retirement, he ranked in the top-10 for career receiving yards. His 868 receptions are the most in a single decade as he earned a place on the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade team. Holt also has the most consecutive seasons (6) with 90+ receptions and 1,300 yards as he led the NFL in receiving yards twice.
Holt’s defining moment? With the Rams struggling to get into the end zone, Holt caught the first touchdown in the Super Bowl to give the team a 16-0 lead.
In all honesty, with the All-Decade team milestone to go along with his two NFL receiving yards leader and first-team All-Pro awards, Holt may have a better case than Bruce for the Hall of Fame. However, with a crowded class and only five spots, 2020 still seems like a long-shot.
Head Coach Mike Martz
Who better to put in the Hall of Fame than the man behind the Greatest Show on Turf. The Greatest Show on Turf isn’t possible without Martz. He was the mastermind behind it all. While Martz never won a Super Bowl as the head coach, he was the genius behind the most dominant offense in NFL History.
When you think of NFL offenses today, many derive from the Greatest Show on Turf. Spreading out defenses, employing a quick-strike scheme, and having on offense based around the timing of routes is what every modern offense is based around.
Bill Walsh created the West Coast Offense, and Don Coryell innovated the passing game.
Players and coaches in the Hall of Fame are supposed to have changed the league. There’s little question that Martz did that. He may not have the championships or the success that other coaches have, but he changed the modern NFL offense.
Where Martz went, teams saw their offense get better. With the Lions and Jon Kitna at quarterback, Detroit had the seventh-best passing attack in 2006. Kitna had his first career 4,000-yard season under Martz. After Martz got fired from the Lions, the team went 0-16.
Martz may not ever get into the Hall of Fame and because of his record and lack of a Super Bowl as a head coach, he probably won’t ever get in. However, his changes and effect on NFL offenses can’t and shouldn’t go unnoticed.