The Cleveland Rams
The LA Rams franchise actually started out a long way from their current home in Los Angeles. In 1936 Cleveland-based businessman Homer Marshman founded the team in his hometown and called them the “Rams” as a way to honour the players that came out of the Fordham University as that was the nickname the university went by.
The Rams are another team that started life in the American Football League (AFL) although they only spent a short time there before moving into the National Football League (NFL) in 1937. The team struggled after their move from the AFL to the NFL and were sold in 1941 to Dan Reeves and Fred Levy Jr. It would be Reeves who would buy his partner out and go on to be the majority owner in 1962.
The Rams first tasted success in 1945 when they won their first NFL Championship. They beat the Washington Redskins in a close game 15-14 whilst they were still the Cleveland Rams.
First Time as LA Rams
A year after their Championship win, the Rams moved from Cleveland all the way out to Los Angeles and became the LA Rams. They would now play their home games at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
Part of the deal that allowed the team to relocate all the way out to LA was that they had to have at least one African-American player on their roster. They agreed and went on to sign two which didn’t go down very well with the other franchise owners in the league. The Rams were the first to do this.
Another first for the Rams was the addition of a logo on their helmets. This came about in 1948 when Running Back Fred Gehrke painted horns on his own helmet and the franchise liked and approved it. The rest of the team’s helmets were done the same.
Although today’s LA Rams have been pretty poor of late, they actually went to the NFL Championship game – before it was called the Super Bowl – 4 times and managed to win it once.
Another first that the team achieved was to be the first team to have all of their season’s games televised. This occurred in 1951 which was the year they won their NFL Championship.
The success that the Rams achieved in Los Angeles both on the field and off it financially with their great support encouraged major teams from other professional sports to relocate tot he area. Teams like the Chargers of the AFL, Dodgers of baseball and the Lakers from basketball. The LA Chargers football team soon moved on again as they realised they couldn’t compete with the LA Rams for support and revenue. They moved a little way down the California coast to sunny San Diego where they stayed until recently. I guess the market for professional sport in Los Angeles is so large that the Chargers have decided it’s safe to move back home. The talk is that they will share the $2.6billion stadium being built in the Inglewood area with the Rams.
The next change in ownership of the team came in 1972 when Robert Irsay purchased them for the mere sum of $19million. He then went on to trade his Rams for the Baltimore Colts and some cash. They certainly seem to like trading in the U.S.
Through the 1970’s the LA Rams were one of the best teams in the NFC. They were constantly winning their NFC West division and making it into the playoffs. The only problem was that the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings of the time were also very good. These two teams knocked the LA Rams out of the playoffs every year during the 1970’s right up until 1979 when they managed to beat the Cowboys 21-19 in the Divisional playoff round and the Vikings had failed to qualify that year after going 7-9 in the regular season.
This great playoff run was rewarded with the team’s first Super Bowl appearance. They would play well in the big game and lead for most of it but ultimately fail to stop the Pittsburgh Steelers from winning their fourth Super Bowl trophy.
On the Move Again
After their successful 1979 season, the LA Rams decided to move house and downsize a little. According to NFL rules, a game isn’t allowed to be televised if it doesn’t sell out within 72 hours of kickoff. At the time the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum had a capacity of over 92,000, meaning sell outs were difficult to achieve and therefore no TV exposure and no advertising revenue.
Because of this and the fact that southern California had seen a population boom, the Rams moved into their Anaheim Stadium which had a capacity of just over 69,000 meaning sold out games were far easier to achieve.
Not long after the Rams had moved out of the LA Memorial Coliseum stadium did the Raiders move into it. The Rams had just come off a disastrous season and the Raiders were flying high as Super Bowl champions. Combine that with the fact that all the other professional sports teams in the area were having great success and you get a decline in popularity and support for the Rams as they go through a rebuild. I guess this is the first circumstance where people started thinking of some of the LA fanbase as being fickle and why many didn’t want the team to recently move back to LA from St. Louis.
Surely Not Another Move Already?
After another successful decade during the 1980’s – from 1983 onwards anyway – in part behind the running of Eric Dickerson, in which the team went to the playoffs every year except for 1987 the team’s successes started to disappear. With this disappearance of success, which the fans during previous decades had grown accustomed to, the sellout crowds also disappeared and with them the TV airings…again. Because of the dwindling support, the team’s ownership started doing what most teams seem to do in this situation – as I’m finding out from multiple team research sessions – and blamed it on their stadium. They tried to get a new stadium in the Los Angeles area but local government didn’t allow it. Owner Georgia Frontiere, who’d taken control of the franchise after her husband Carroll Rosenbloom had died by drowning and by then firing her stepson Steve Rosenbloom (she sounds nice, huh?), had had enough of not getting the stadium she wanted and decided to move the team out of L.A. The desired destination was St. Louis but the NFL team owners get to vote on any major decisions such as this and they voted a resounding no by a 21-3-6 vote. Frontiere obviously didn’t like not getting her own way and threatened a lawsuit. The other team owners in the league seemingly couldn’t be bothered with going through an expensive lawsuit and decided to vote again. This time the proposed move got voted in favour of by 21 votes to 6.
St. Louis Rams
The team moved to St. Louis in 1995 and went 7-9 followed by 6-10 in their first two seasons. Whilst in St. Louis the team tasted success in the early years there. They built an offense that would become known as the “Greatest Show on Turf” and that would consist of the likes of QB Kurt Warner, WR Isaac Bruce, RB Marshall Faulk and OT Orlando Pace – three of who are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
They would go on to win Super Bowl XXXIV (34) by a score of 23-16 against the Tennessee Titans. They would also go to Super Bowl XXVI (36) two years later but lose to the New England Patriots 20-17. This Super Bowl also became famous as part of the Patriots videotaping “Spygate” scandal, which accused the Patriots of videotaping a St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough practice. No evidence was found of this happening and the paper that had first published the story eventually withdrew the allegations and made an official apology to the Patriots franchise.
After this early success, the team in St. Louis hasn’t achieved much. Ownership changed hands again when Georgia Frontiere died after losing her battle with breast cancer and her son and daughter, who had taken control of the franchise, decided to sell. The sold their share to the already successful sports businessman Stan Kroenke once he’d rearranged his Denver-based sports businesses to comply with the NFL’s rules on team ownership.
A couple of bright spots during this bleak period came in the form of QB Sam Bradford and his Rookie of the Year award and RB Steven Jackson finally surpassing the great Eric Dickerson as the Rams’ all-time leading rusher.
Time to go Home
In 2015 it was reported that owner Stan Kroenke was planning on building a new stadium and complex with hotels etc on a site in Inglewood, California that he already owned and that the Rams could move there. St. Louis countered with their own plans in an attempt to keep the franchise there but the L.A. deal was approved. The Rams beat out the Raiders and Chargers to be the first team selected to become the cities football franchise.
They currently play their games back at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was their home many years before, and are scheduled to do so until the new $2.6billion complex in Inglewood is completed in 2019.
The team’s first season back in L.A. was not a pretty one as they could only manage a 4-12 regular season record to extend their absence from the playoffs to 12 consecutive seasons. This after they gave a lot away to the Tennessee Titans so they could move up to the #1 spot in the draft in order to take Jared Goff as they saw him as the future of their franchise. He didn’t play very well at all and as a result, the jury is still well and truly out with regards to whether or not they were right to give so much away to move up to get him.
If they can get him going and he is indeed the future QB for them then I think they have the makings of a good team going forward. I, like so many others, believe success starts in the trenches and, as such, believe they desperately need to sort their offensive line and if/when they do they’re set. Easier said than done, though, when all teams in the league are trying to do the same.
The main rivalry of the LA Rams is with fellow west coast team the San Francisco 49ers. This rivalry started as far back as the 1950’s when the AAFC and NFL merged. This brought the 49ers into the NFL where the Rams were playing their football. The rivalry hit new heights in the 1970’s and 1980’s as both teams were on their best form and were consistently fighting it out for the NFC West division title.
The series of games in this rivalry is very close with the 49ers leading by only a handful of wins. This is due to both teams having rich histories with good runs of success.