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Los Angeles Rams: Back Home
The Los Angeles Rams are an NFL franchise that has had a lot of homes in their long history. Now they are back in the city where they garnered so much popularity and success years ago.
And the Rams are back on a track toward the kind of dominance that made them a top ticket seller during those years. It will be well suited to a new era and a new stadium.
The history of the Rams dates back to the early years of professional football. They started as the Cleveland Rams in 1936, when Ohio attorney Homer Marshman and player-coach Damon Wetzel founded the team. They joined the NFL the next year.
The Rams had losing seasons businessmen Dan Reeves and Fred Levy Jr. purchased the team in 1941 and made changes.
The team finally found success in 1945, going 9-1 and winning the NFL Championship game over the Washington Redskins.
Move to Los Angeles
Despite the year of success, the Rams were under pressure for selling tickets, because of playing in the same city as the Cleveland Browns.
With travel becoming faster and the NFL seeking to expand to the West, the league agreed to allow Reeves to move the franchise to Los Angeles for the 1946 season.
The fact that the Rams sold 95,000 tickets to the first preseason game in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was indication that the city was ready for big league sports.
The Rams had winning seasons in their first 10, and fans followed them by buying tickets to Rams games at a rate higher than anywhere in the league.
The Rams went to the NFL Championship game for three straight years, 1949-51, finally winning it in ’51 over their old Cleveland nemesis, the Browns.
That season, the Rams put together a phenomenal passing combination of quarterback Norm Van Brocklin and receiver Elroy Hirsch. Hirsch had 1,495 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns.
The team and its wide-open offense was so popular, they became the first to have their games televised.
The Rams made the playoffs again in 1952, and went to the championship game again in 1955, this time losing to the Browns, 38-14.
But from 1956 to 1965 the Rams had only one winning season.
Allen, Gabriel and The Fearsome Foursome
By the mid-‘60s, though, the team had put together the dominant defensive line of Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy. Their play would earn them the moniker, the “Fearsome Foursome.”
In 1966 the Rams hired George Allen as head coach. With the handy play of quarterback Roman Gabriel, the team in 1967 posted an 11-1-2 regular season record. But the season ended in the first game of the playoffs in Green Bay.
The Rams went on to two more double-digit-win seasons before Allen was hired away by the Redskins after the 1970 season.
Knox, Malavasi Era
The team picked up steam again in the 1970s under coaches Chuck Knox and Ray Malavasi. Linemen Olsen, Jack Youngblood and Fred Dryer kept the Fearsome Foursome tradition alive.
The Rams won seven straight division titles during those years, making it all the way to the Super Bowl after the 1979 season. There they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers, 31-19.
Before the 1979 season, longtime owner Carroll Rosenbloom died in a drowning accident, and his widow, Georgia Frontiere, took over ownership.
Because the Rams had trouble selling out the 94,000-seat Coliseum and were subject to blackout rules, they moved to newly renovated Anaheim Stadium, the longtime home of the Angels.
Knox was hired away and Malavasi lost his job after two straight losing seasons, in 1981 and ’82.
John Robinson, Southern Cal’s successful head coach, was hired for the Rams sideline in 1983, and he guided the team to winning seasons throughout the ‘80s. Record-breaking running back Eric Dickerson was the leading offensive threat during those years.
But the Rams rarely made it past the second round of the playoffs. Then a string of five straight losing seasons in the early 1990s made it harder to sell Rams tickets.
With fewer sellouts, more blackouts and no hope in the community for a new or improved stadium, Frontiere sought a move.
The city of St. Louis promised a domed stadium, and after considerable pushback, the NFL owners allowed the Rams’ move to St. Louis for the 1995 season.
The Greatest Show on Turf
The first few years in St. Louis were horrible ones for the Rams and their new fans. But they moved into the Trans World Dome and were ready for a whole new era with the hiring of Coach Dick Vermeil in 1997.
Vermeil soon got things going, first with receiver Isaac Bruce and then with little-known quarterback Kurt Warner and running back Marshall Faulk. Warner came off the bench early in the 1999 season for Trent Green and directed the team to a 13-3 campaign, good enough to win the NFC West.
But this prolific offense, which took on the nickname of “The Greatest Show on Turf,” did not stop there.
They whipped the Minnesota Vikings and the Tampa Bay Bucs on the way to a Super Bowl showdown against the Tennessee Titans. In the big game, the Rams built a 16-0 lead, but saw it erased in the fourth period. Warner hit Bruce for a 73-yard touchdown in the final three minutes, but the Rams had to hold off a Titans rally that took them to the Rams 1 yard line before time ran out.
The 23-16 win was the first Super Bowl win in franchise history and their first NFL Championship since 1951.
Vermeil retired after that season, but new coach Mike Martz maintained the winning ways, with three more seasons of double-digit wins, two more NFC West crowns, and four more playoff appearances.
But Frontiere died, and multiple front office changes contributed to 10 losing seasons through 2015. By that time no one was happy with the aging domed stadium. The Rams newest owner, Stan Kroenke, was ready for a move.
Back to LA
Kroenke worked with a development group in Los Angeles to build a new stadium there, and after the approval of local officials, the NFL owners OK’d the Rams’ move back to the area they had once been so popular.
The Rams began play in Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2016, with plans to play in a new stadium in 2020.
Running back Todd Gurley had been drafted in 2015, and the next year quarterback Jared Goff was added through the draft. By 2017 when Sean McVay was hired to be head coach, the Rams were ready to put on a show worthy of LA.
With a stronger defense, led by Defensive Player of The Year Aaron Donald, the Rams put together an 11-5 regular season, winning the NFC West. But they made an early exit in the playoffs, losing 26-13 to the Atlanta Falcons.
In the off season, the Rams bolstered their defense further by adding lineman Ndamukong Suh.
Then in 2018 they made a drive all the way to the Super Bowl on a 13-3 record, and playoff wins over the Dallas Cowboys and New Orleans Saints. But, the Rams high-powered offense was stumped by the Patriots in a 13-3 game.
From LA to St. Louis and back, the Rams have enhanced the entertainment value of their community wherever they went. And with a new stadium, Los Angeles Rams tickets today should be as valuable as ever.
Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum*
*- The Rams will play in Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park starting in the 2020 season. It is located at the site of the old Hollywood Park racetrack, just south of The Forum. The stadium will have a capacity of 70,240, expandable to over 100,000 for special events.
Rams Retired Numbers
7 Bob Waterfield QB 1945–1952
28 Marshall Faulk RB 1999–2005
29 Eric Dickerson RB 1983–1987
74 Merlin Olsen DT 1962–1976
75 Deacon Jones DE 1961–1971
78 Jackie Slater OT 1976–1995
80 Isaac Bruce WR 1994–2007
85 Jack Youngblood DE 1971–1984
In 1948, the Rams became the first NFL team to have a helmet emblem when halfback Fred Gehrke painted horns on the Rams' helmets.
A number of Rams players made names as television and film actors. They include Merlin Olsen, Woody Strode, Fred Dryer, Rosey Grier, Deacon Jones, Roman Gabriel, and Joe Namath, who played four games for the team before retiring in 1977.
With two home games of ticket sales of more than 100,000 in 1957, the Rams set an NFL attendance record that stood until 2006.
Coach George Allen hired one of the first special teams coaches in the league, Dick Vermeil.
When Sean McVay was hired in 2017 at age 30, he was the youngest head coach ever in the league.