St. Louis Rams: The Fall of a Franchise


Image via For The W!n

Stanley Shivley, Writer

The date is January 30, 2000. We’re at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta for Super Bowl XXXIV. The St. Louis Rams, who only won 4 games the previous season, are crowned World Champions. This Squad is led by NFL Most Valuable Player Kurt Warner, a quarterback stocking shelves at a grocery store in Iowa only a few years ago. This team, which had just left their home of 58 Years a couple of years ago, and had only won 45 games this decade, was now on the face of the Sports World. Only 16 years later, this championship-winning team would leave the city of St. Louis. Why, and how did they get to that point?

Prelude: New Beginnings in St. Louis / The Greatest Show on Turf (1995-1999)

In 1995, Los Angeles Rams owner Georgia Frontiere reached a deal with the NFL and City of St. Louis that would allow the Rams to leave Angels Stadium in Anaheim to play in the recently built Trans World Dome (Later renamed Edward Jones Dome). The Rams weren’t any better during their first few years in St. Louis, and in a controversial move, traded franchise running back Jerome Bettis to the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Rams selected Orlando Pace, who would go down in history as one of the greatest Offensive Tackle to play the game, with their first pick in the 1997 Draft. The Rams signed Kurt Warner, an Undrafted Arena Football Quarterback, and Hy-Vee grocery store shelf stocker during that offseason. His only NFL experience was playing for the Packers practice squad in 1994. This would ultimately be the most significant move the Rams ever made while in St. Louis. Before the 1999 Season, the Rams traded for All-Pro Colts running back Marshall Faulk, selected All-American NC State Wide Receiver Torry Holt in the draft, and signed breakout Redskins Quarterback Trent Green to a four-year deal. The Rams were expected to end the decade with another disappointing season. All changed when Trent Green suffered a Season-Ending injury in the preseason. Kurt Warner, who had only played one game and completed four passes, was named the starting quarterback. The team went 13-3, as seven players were called to the Pro-Bowl. Kurt Warner was named NFL MVP in his first year as a starter, Head Coach Dick Vermeil was named Coach of The Year, and Marshall Faulk was named Offensive Player of The Year. The Rams cruised their way past the Vikings and Buccaneers en route to Super Bowl XXXIV against the Tennessee Titans in the playoffs. The team raised the Lombardi Trophy over their heads after a game-saving tackle by Linebacker Mike Jones.

Postseason disappointment (2000-2002)

Days after their Super Bowl XXXIV victory, Dick Vermeil announced he would be retiring from coaching for the second time in his career, naming Offensive Coordinator Mike Martz as the St. Louis Rams’ next head coach. The Rams were favorites to win the Super Bowl in 2000, and Marshall Faulk was even named league MVP. They fell short to the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Wild Card match. 2001 was the best year the Rams ever had in St. Louis, record-wise, as they finished 14-2, 7 Players were named to the Pro-Bowl, and Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were both named MVP and OPOTY again. The team would have celebrated a 2nd Super Bowl win if it weren’t for the underdog New England Patriots, led by sophomore quarterback Tom Brady. The Rams, who were a 14 point favorite, surprisingly trailed by 17 Points until a Ricky Proehl touchdown. The game came down to the final two minutes when Patriots kicker Adam Vienitari kicked a 48-yard field goal to seal off New England’s first super bowl win. The Rams missed the 2002 playoffs, as Kurt Warner and Aeneas Wiliams battled with injuries, and quarterback Marc Bulger, an unsigned 6th Round Pick in 2000, stepped up to the starting role. It’s also worth noting that many key players from the 1999 Super Bowl squad had left by this year, including Az-Zahir Hakim, Roland Williams, and Kevin Carter.

The End of The Greatest Show on Turf (2003-2009)

After Kurt Warner’s poor performances during the first few weeks of the 2003 Season, Marc Bulger was officially named the Rams’ full-time starting quarterback. The team did well that year, going 12-4; however, they lost in the NFC Divisional round to the eventual NFC Champion, Carolina Panthers. On June 1, 2004, the St. Louis Rams released two-time MVP Quarterback, Kurt Warner, ushering in the era of Marc Bulger. The Rams also selected Running Back Steven Jackson in the first round of the 2004 NFL Draft to replace the aging Marshall Faulk. The 2004 Rams became the worst team in NFL History. They made the playoffs after finishing 8-8 (A Record only broken by the 2010 Seattle Seahawks). Their Divisional Matchup loss against the Falcons was the final playoff game the St. Louis Rams would ever play. The 2005 Season would be the start of the year after year of failing seasons for the Rams. After losing to the Seahawks in week 5, Head Coach Mike Martin announced his sudden departure from the team after being diagnosed with a bacterial infection. This would begin the start of a coaching carousel that would last until around 2010. Marc Bulger missed half of the season due to injuries, and Marshall Faulk played his final season before retiring in 2007. The 2006 season was relatively stagnant, besides Steven Jackson making his first pro bowl and all-pro selection. 2007 started the beginning of the worst years in the team’s history, as from 2007 to 2010, the team only won six games. This was also when the last few members of The Greatest Show on Turf Disbanded. The Rams released Wide Receiver Issac Bruce in 2007 after he decided not to take a pay cut, Torry Holt in 2008 after he requested to be released, and Orlando Pace in 2008 after several injuries took a hit on his game. Long-time owner Georgia Frontiere passed away in 2008 and left ownership to her Son and Daughter. A year later, Frontiere’s children put the team up for sale. Bids came in from Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh, future Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner, Shahid Khan, and then-Rams minority owner Stan Kroenke. Kroenke eventually bought back the 60% of the team he didn’t already own.

Rebuilding & Relocation (2010-2015)

The Rams, who had the 1st pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, selected Sam Bradford, Quarterback and Heisman winner out of Oklahoma, to be Marc Bulger’s replacement. In 2012, The Rams traded their 2nd Overall Pick to the Washington Redskins (Who drafted Pro-Bowl QB Robert Griffin III) to instill that Bradford would stay St. Louis’ quarterback. Bradford only played one more season with the Rams after 2012, before tearing his ACL twice and getting traded to the Eagles for Nick Foles. During the 2013 Off-season, All-Time Rams rushing leader, Steven Jackson, opted out of his contract to join the contending Atlanta Falcons. In 2014 and 2015, The Rams drafted future All-Pro talent Aaron Donald and Todd Gurley II, who would eventually lead them to the Super Bowl in 2018; however, not in St. Louis. The Edward Jones Dome was failing as the top-tier stadium it was planned to be and lacked the necessary renovations it needed. The city of St. Louis became weary of the future of the stadium. In 2014, Owner Stan Kroenke purchased a large portion of land in Inglewood, California, with the intent of building an NFL Stadium (This would become SoFi Stadium) and returning the Rams to Southern California. In an attempt to keep the Rams in St. Louis, National Car Rental Field, an open-air stadium on the St. Louis riverfront was proposed. The proposed stadium failed to make significant movements as it would’ve cost too much. On January 12, 2016, NFL Owners approved the Rams to relocate to Los Angeles, leaving 21 seasons and a Super Bowl win in St. Louis behind. This new team in Los Angeles made the playoffs just a year after leaving St. Louis, and even the Super Bowl a year later, where they lost to the New England Patriots in a rematch of Super Bowl XXXVI.