This season, whenever I believe a team is eliminated from the playoffs, thus making their season (and decade) over, I will write their obituary.
Today I present to you the St. Louis Rams of the 00's.
The Rams spend the first nine years of the 1990's floating somewhere in between the words horrible and obscure. Things got so bad for the Rams that after the 1994 season the team moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis.
Then a funny thing happened; In the 1998 offseason the team pulled of a trade with the Indianapolis Colts which sent Marshall Faulk to the Rams. The team also used it's first round pick, #6 overall, to select wide receiver Torry Holt to complement Isaac Bruce. With former #1 overall pick Orlando Pace anchoring a solid offensive line, and Trent Green under center, the Rams looked like they were in shape to win about 8 games in 1999. But Green got hurt before the season could start and Kurt Warner, a little known QB from the Arena League, took over at QB.
The 1999 Rams would go on to a 13-3 record en route to the franchises first Super Bowl championship, and just like that the Rams would enter the 00's as the leagues best team, and enter the next three seasons as the Las Vegas odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl.
Although the team was now lead by Mike Martz, the 1999 team's offensive coordinator, for the Ram, the 2000 season began just where the 1999 season ended. Lead by Kurt Warner and a red hot Marshall Faulk, the team began the season with six straight wins before Kurt Warner went down in a Week 8 contest with the Chiefs.
Trent Green was given the keys to the Rams machine and the opportunity to win back the job Kurt Warner had stolen in style. Unfortunately for Green the Rams would win just two games under him, and Kurt Warner would finish the season as starter.
The brightest spot of the 2000 Rams season was the incredible play of Marshall Faulk, who in the first year of the decade achieved what I consider to be the finest single season performance of the decade, maybe ever. Faulk obtained 2,189 yards from scrimmage, 26 total touchdowns, and a well deserved league MVP award.
The 2000 Rams would head into the playoffs as the most dangerous road team in the NFC, but due to a shakey defense would lose to the New Orleans Saints 31 to 28. Mike Martz and his high powered offense would enter the offseason looking to fix up the defense before the window of opportunity closed.
The 2001 Rams would use three first round picks on their defense, drafting Ryan Pickett, Damione Lewis, and Adam Archuleta. The acquisition of Aeneas Williams, and the rapid development of rookie Tommy Polley, would help the 2001 establish themselves as a legitimate defensive contender.
With a chip on their shoulders, the 2001 Rams would open the regular season with six straight wins again, before losing to the Saints. This time, it was Marshall Faulk who would get injured, and this time it was Kurt Warner who would pick up the slack. The Rams would go on to win eight of their next nine games, and pick up a first round bye with a 14-2 record.
In 2001, with two less games than the year before, Marshall Faulk picked up 2,147 total yards, only 42 less yards than the season before. Faulk would also pick up 21 touchdowns; but it war Warner who would be the leagues MVP, passing for 4,830 yards, 36 touchdowns, and and a QB rating of 101.4. Under Warner's leadership, the 2001 Ram's offense became known as "The Greatest Show on Turf."
The Rams would enter the 2001 playoffs as the odds on favorites to win the Super Bowl, and they'd get their relatively easily dominating the Green Bay Packers before winning a close win with the Eagles. For the second time in three years the Rams would be back in the Super Bowl and people were beginning to use the word "dynasty."
Super Bowl XXXVI featured the heavily favored Rams against the underdog New England Patriots. We all know now about the result of the game, we know about the spygate scandal, and we know that Tom Brady and the New England Patriots defeated the St. Louis Rams on a legendary field goal by Adam Vinatieri.
Time will tell what the impact of Spygate will have on our recollections of Super Bowl XXXVI. Personally, I'd like to with hold judgement and proclaim the Patriots the fair winners of that game, although I have a suspicion that some time in our lifetime we're going to find out a lot more, and we'll consider the 1999-2001 Rams the dynasty that never was.
Fueled by the anger of the XXXVI upset, the Rams entered 2002 the favorites to go back to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately for the Rams, that anger lead to an 0-5 start. Kurt Warner looked horrible, Marshall Faulk was good but not great, and something needed to be done. That something occurred when Marc Bulger took over for Warner, who was ailing with an injury.
Bulger would help the Rams to a 6-1 record, before he too would get hurt. Despite the 0-5 start, the Rams would finish 2002 7-9, but they'd fall short of the playoffs. The team entered 2003 with a lot of questions, including how much longer would it be Marshall and Kurt's team?
The answer to that question would be "not much longer." Kurt Warner would start week 1 in a loss to the Giants, his next start would be week 1 of the following season in a Giants jersey. Bulger picked up the slack for Warner and lead the Rams to a 12-4 record, and a first round bye.
The 2003 playoffs began with a lot of people predicting a Rams Patriots rematch. That rematch would never occur as the Rams were one and done in the playoffs, suffering a loss to the Carolina Panther in overtime. Marc Bulger would throw for 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. Nevertheless the team entered 2004 confident that Bulger was their guy, and Kurt Warner signed with the New York Giants.
Nobody knew it, but 2004 would be the beginning of the decline of Mike Martz and the Rams. With an 8-8 record the team would win the Wild Card. The Rams would also go on to upset the division winning Seahawks in the first round of the playoffs before getting lit up by Michael Vick and the Falcons in the divisional round. Before the season the team had drafted young running back Steven Jackson to take over, and by the end of the season it became evident that they'd be waiving goodbye to Marshall Faulk very soon.
Faulk would come back to the Rams in 2005, but his role was very limited; as were the number of wins the team would get. Five games into the season Mike Martz was fired and the Rams would end 2005 with a 6-10 record. Marc Bulger got hurt, as did Isaac Bruce; Marshall Faulk retired, and the Rams entered 2006 with a handful of questions.
Scott Linehan would take over as the Rams head coach in 2006, but things didn't get too much better. The Rams lost the division to a mediocre Seahawks team. Marc Bulger stayed healthy and made it to the Pro Bowl, but with an 8-8 record, and lots of aging players on both sides of the ball, things were questionable going into 2007.
And in 2007, questionable turned into awful. Once again Marc Bulger couldn't stay healthy, and the Rams won only 3 games in a pathetic division. Just like that, the Rams decade of relevance was over.
The Rams stuck with Marc Bulger in 2008, and though he miraculously started 15 games, it didn't help much. The team won only 2 games all year, dispite a 1,000 yard in 11 games, season from Steven Jackson. After the season the team would part ways with Torry Holt and Orlando Pace. The only two remaining players from "The Greatest Show on Turf."
But if there's a rockbottom for the Rams, they still haven't hit it. 2009 looks to be just as bad as 2007 and 2008, and 1999-2001 seems like it's a lot further away than it really is. The team will probably have a top five draft pick and will probably give up on Marc Bulger and acquire a Quarterback to lead this team into the 2010's.
The Rams are in a rebuilding phase. There's a lot of talk of them moving back to LA. The team is in bad financial shape, and the most newsworthy they've been since 2003 has come through the denial of Rush Limbaugh to own a small percentage of the team.
But at least there was 2000 to 2004, the first five years of the decade in which the Rams were relevant. Where Faulk and Warner won back to back MVP's. When Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce made opposing defenses wet their pants. When Orlando Pace dominated guys like Michael Strahan, Simeon Rice, and Bryant Young.
It's going to be hard to forget those Ram teams, especially when those five aforementioned players represent "The Greatest Show on Turf" with metal busts in Canton.
MVP of the Decade: Torry Holt
Notable Players: Marshall Faulk, Orlando Pace, Aeneas Williams, Adam Archuleta, Kurt Warner, Steven Jackson, Isaac Bruce, Adam Timmerman, Jeff Wilkins, Leonard Little, Grant Wistrom, Az-Zahir Hakim, Donnie Avery, Will Witherspoon, Chris Long
Throwback Jersey That Will Be Cool in 15 Years: 2000 Marshall Faulk (2001 XXXVI will have the Patch... but who needs it.)