For years the Los Angeles Rams were among the elite teams in the National Football League. During the 1970’s, the Rams won seven consecutive NFC West Championships, while earning the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearances in 1979. The Rams would continue to be competitive throughout the 1980’s as they made a pair of appearances in the NFC Championship Game. But by the 1990’s, the Rams had fallen on hard times as from 1990-1994, they lost at least 10 games in each season. And if the losing wasn’t bad enough, former Rams owner Georgia Frontiere decided to move her team to St. Louis, Missouri in 1995 when she was unable to secure a new stadium for her the club in Orange County. And with the Rams in a new city with a brand new state-of-the-art facility in the Trans World Dome, they would win their first and only Super Bowl Title in 1999.
In St. Louis, the Rams were paced by “The Greatest Show on Turf” which consisted of quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, as well as wide receivers Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt. From 1999-2001, the Rams would win 37 games as they were one of the most popular teams in the National Football League.
But as quick as the Rams ascended to being one of the best teams in the National Football League, their decline was as rapid. The 2004 NFL season would mark the last time that the Rams made the playoffs as the rest of their stay in St. Louis was marred by an ownership change, poor attendance, wasted draft picks, and consistent futility on the football field.
In 2010, businessman Stan Kroenke purchased controlling interest in the Rams from the estate of Frontiere who had passed away in 2008. And from the moment that Kroenke began running the show for the Rams, it was all about him attempting to find a way to get his team out of Dodge.
Kroenke wanted a new stadium for the Rams, and although that the City of St. Louis had good deals on the table, he along with the majority of the other National Football League team owners wanted to put the team back in Los Angeles. And in early 2016, that became the new reality as the Rams announced that they were heading back to Los Angeles.
There was excitement for the Rams returning to Los Angeles after their 22-year hiatus from Southern California. But this excitement would soon be tapered as the Rams went 4-12 during their first season back in Los Angeles and it appeared to be another dose of the same old Rams.
In 2016, the Rams would mortgae their future to move up to the first overall slot in the National Football League Draft in order to select quarterback Jared Goff. Goff came into the NFL with some hype attached to him, but his first go round in the NFL had all of the symptoms of him being a bust. Goff would go winless in seven starts for the Rams which included him throwing 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions and completing 54.6% of his passes.
However all of the Rams faults could not be placed on the shoulders of the young Goff. The Rams were an undisciplined team who took on the look of their head coach Jeff Fisher. But as the Rams appeared to symbolize a classic Hollywood box office flop, things would drastically change during the off-season.
After Fisher was fired, the Rams would hire Sean McVay to be their new head coach. McVay was only 31-years of age, but he commanded respect from his first day on the job which was important for an undisciplined team that has consistently been among the most penalized teams in recent years in the National Football League.
McVay spent the last three years as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins and his top priority upon taking over the Rams was to work with Goff, which he has been able to do.
This season Goff is much more comfortable in the pocket as he is completing more than 61% of his passes, while throwing 16 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. This improvement included Goff being named as the NFC’s Offensive Player of the Week for Week 9 when he was 14-of-22 passing for 311 yards and 4 touchdowns as the Rams cruised to the 51-17 victory over the New York Giants.
A big reason for the improved play of Goff is that Rams general manager Les Snead has done a solid job of putting a good team around the franchise’s starting quarterback. After a down 2016 campaign, running back Todd Gurley is once again showing the ability that made him the National Football League’s Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2015. Gurley is currently fourth in the NFL in rushing yards with 754, while he leads the league in rushing touchdowns with 7. During the off-season the Rams signed veteran offensive tackle Andrew Whitworth to give the unit some experience, while also bringing in a pair of former Buffalo Bills wide receivers who were looking new life in Los Angeles.
In 2013, Robert Woods was a second-round pick of the Bills, but he was never able to live up expectations. Woods is a native of Gardena, California, while he played collegiately for the Southern California Trojans. Woods is now back in Southern California and playing on the same field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum that saw him be one of the best pass catchers in the nation. Now Woods is enjoying a career year with the Rams as he is on pace to gain 1,000 yards receiving in a season for the first time as a professional.
In 2014, the Bills traded up in the first round of the National Football League Draft to select wide receiver Sammy Watkins. Watkins never became the impact player that the Bills envisioned him to be: which was not completely his fault due to the fact that the organization has had consistent issues at the quarterback position. In nine games with the Rams, Watkins’ numbers are not eye popping as he only has 21 receptions for 372 yards. However with the Rams, Watkins doesn’t have to be the guy as he can simply focus on being one of the guys due to the fact that he is playing on a team that has depth on offense.
And when you add up all of the adjustments on offense for the Rams, they have gone from having the worst offense in the National Football League last season to the third ranked unit in the league this season.
Even under Fisher, defensive football has long been what the Rams have hung their hats on. The Rams have taken a slight dip in total defense from last season as they were ninth in the National Football League last season in the category compared to 14th this season. But this slight dip won’t prevent the Rams from doing some big things coming down the stretch of the regular season and potentially in the playoffs.
For more than 40 years Wade Phillips has coached in the National Football League; primarily as a defensive coordinator. The past two years saw Phillips serve as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos. Under Phillips, the Broncos had one of the top defenses in the NFL which led to them winning Super Bowl 50.
With the Rams, Phillips has inherited another strong defense which includes the likes of defensive tackle Aaron Donald, inside linebacker Alec Ogletree, and free safety LaMarcus Joyner. The Rams have given up a combined 51 points in their last five games and by the time that the season finishes, they should once again be ranked in top ten for fewest yards allowed.
Donald is one of the better interior defensive linemen in the National Football League as his ability to rush the passer and take on double teams opens things up for the linebackers playing behind him which is invaluable. A contract dispute saw Donald sit out training camp, but upon his return there is no disputing that he is the leader of the team’s defense.
This sudden uprising by the Rams has given Kroenke and the National Football League what they needed which was support for this team once again in Los Angeles. There were fans who were happy to see the Rams return to Los Angeles last year, but the City of Angels has long been a place that will support a winner, while being lukewarm at best to a team which is not contending. The Rams illustrated this last year when they went 4-12 as following their home opener which was a sellout at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, their home attendance tapered. But now attendance is back on the rise which is important for the Rams who will be moving into a new stadium in Inglewood in a few years as they need fan support from the Greater Los Angeles area.
The Rams have been able to take advantage of having a weak schedule as their first three opponents this season failed to make the playoffs in 2016. But beginning this Sunday things will be changing for the Rams as five of their next six opponents are either division leaders of in second place. However winning cures everything as it has made it easier for the young McVay to get his message across as the wins have been piling up. Barring something unforeseen the Rams are on pace to make the playoffs for the first time since 2004 and one thing that we have learned so far from this team is that these aren’t the same old Rams.