SUPER BOWL XXXIV CHAMPION 1999 ST LOUIS RAMS: One of the greatest of NFL champions

Wanna hear a strange fact? In week 3 of the 1999 season the Bengals hosted the Rams and these teams were tied for the most losses in the NFL for the 1990’s.  This game was a tiebreaker that the Bengals lost and “won” the title of the losingest team of the decade…the Rams …uh…well…they went in a different direction..

xxxivThe 1999 St Louis Rams…one of the best teams in history!  Greatest Show on turf!!  Everyone is so focused on the turnaround of this team that they don’t remember the feats performed during that year.  The NFL fan base was still reeling from the retirements of John Elway and Barry Sanders. The latter of the two we were used to serious moves and highlights since he was still at the height of his greatness just 2 years removed from his 2,000 yd season….enter Marshall Faulk.

I followed the trade from the Colts as “wow what’s going to happen to him?” yet had a feeling it was football karma’s reversing the Eric Dickerson trade.  You knew history would judge the Colts decision between what happened between he, and Edgerrin James.  The Rams won. Marshall replaced Barry Sanders as the league’s highlight reel and played his way into the Hall of Fame with 60TDs in 3 years, won 3 Offensive Player of the Year awards, and an NFL MVP in 2000.  Oh, I almost forgot 2 Super Bowl appearances and this championship.

So the ’99 Rams explode onto the scene and compile a 13-3 record:

  1. This team’s AVERAGE MARGIN of victory at home (YES 8-0) was a whopping 25 points a game during the regular season…Yikes!! Get this, of a possible 480 minutes in 8 home games; they were only behind for 4:24 seconds of it.
  2. Had the 6th best defense in the league with the leading sack artist in Kevin Carter with 17. Led the league with 8 defensive touchdowns that year and was #1 against the run!!!

*** IT WAS 2000 WHEN THEY HAD DEFENSIVE PROBLEMS…NOT 1999! ***

  1. Had the best kick return team in the league with Tony Horne taking 2 KO TDs back & Az-Zahir Hakim taking back a punt for a TD

xxxiv1CONSIDER THIS BEFORE

  1. Kurt Warner threw for 4,300 yards (this generations Johnny U) & became the story of the league and became the second quarterback in history to throw for more than 40 TDs with 41. This hadn’t been seen since 1986, although Brett Favre had thrown 39 in an MVP Super Bowl season, same here. Threw for a Super Bowl record 414 yards and a 73 yard game winning score.
  2. marshallfaulkhall

    Marshall Faulk on Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

    Marshall Faulk’s ridiculous year where he became the second 1,000yd rusher/1,000yd receiver in the same season to join Roger Craig.  Craig had 1,050 yards rushing, & 1,016 yards receiving.  Marshall blew by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 receiving! And he sat out nearly 3 quarters in the last game at Philly and countless blowout 4th quarters!

  3. Broke Barry Sanders total yards from scrimmage record with2,429 yards from scrimmage…yikes!  Now, Chris Johnson broke Marshall’s record on a team that kept feeding him the ball, had Faulk not sat out 3qtrs of the last game in Philadelphia where the Rams still scored 31.  Nor sat out several blowout 4th quarters, how high would Faulk have REALLY PUSHED THIS RECORD??
  4. The Rams were #1 in offense, #1 in scoring and the highest scoring league champion ever with 526 points.

 

* They would become the first team ever to score 500 pts in multiple seasons with 3 straight. In doing so became the highest scoring team ever over a 3 year period averaging 32 points per game.*

xxxiv3The turnaround can be attributed to Dick Vermeil’s adjusting to the practice habits of modern coaching.  He stopped overworking his team before the 1999 season after two underwhelming seasons in St. Louis.  He learned from other coaches and had a staff of Mike White, Jim Hanifan, and Al Saunders who were all NFL former head coaches.

That’s before bringing up offensive coordinator Mike Martz who would become the Ram’s coach in 2000 replacing Vermeil. That’s a staff of FIVE NFL Head Coaches!! They honed the Rams lethal speed into a precise machine that the NFL hadn’t seen before in a league champion. Defenses feared going into the Trans World Dome. It was great to see Vermeil be rewarded for taking a new approach.

pace-hall-speech

The Chancellor met Dick Vermeil before the ceremony and how close I was to witness Orlando Pace’s induction.

This 1999 team was a one of a kind meteor that was one of the best in NFL history for a season…more potent than any 80’s 49er team, more spectacular blowouts than the 70s Steelers teams.  They rank up with the 1985 Bears, 1972 Dolphins, and 1994 49ers as one of the most dominant teams in history for one season.  Just look at the numbers!!!!

 

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Edgerrin James Belongs In The Hall of Fame – From The [[_]]

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

The 49-45 upset of UCLA put [[_]] and Edgerrin James on the map. Miami return to prominence happend that day.

When you stop and think of professional athletes, so few live up to their potential. In the case of Edgerrin James, no other NFL player had to live up to more coming out of college and he had a hurricane to thank. Although he played for the Miami Hurricanes (The [[_]]), it was Hurricane George that postponed a Miami v UCLA game that was supposed to be played in September of 1998 to December 5th. For many, the college football season was over and the nation watched Heisman hopeful Cade McNown and the 10-0 Bruins who were 1 win away from playing for the national championship. In a wild 49-45 upset, James burst onto the national scene with a 39 carry 299 yard 3 touchdown performance that returned the [[_]] to national prominence and made himself a top NFL prospect.

Since Miami had been down for years following NCAA sanctions, this was the first national glimpse of this immense talent. What followed in the April draft 4 months later added more pressure. Everyone forgets the Indianapolis Colts had drafted Marshall Faulk to resurrect the franchise in 1994 and had just drafted Peyton Manning in the previous year. Having traded Faulk away, it was a forgone conclusion they needed a running back in the #4 spot and Heisman winner Ricky Williams from Texas was there for the taking. General Manager Bill Polian opted to take Edgerrin James instead and it was this move that solidified the franchise. Some experts doubted James calling him a one game wonder.

Going into the 1999 NFL season Edgerrin had a lot to live up to. Could he consistently show the power and speed he displayed to a nation when he dismantled UCLA in that landmark game?? How in the world did he get selected ahead of a Heisman winner who just rushed for 2,124 yards and 28 TDs and was considered a can’t miss NFL superstar by pundits and coaches?? If that weren’t enough, Faulk had been a 1,000 yard rusher 4 times in 5 years including 1,319 yards rushing and 908 yards receiving in 1998. Marshall caught 86 passes and had scored 10 touchdowns in a Pro Bowl season and a rookie that wasn’t Ricky Williams was supposed to top that?? The Colts had been 3-13 in 1998 and now Edgerrin is going to be paired with a second year QB that threw 28 interceptions as a rookie?? No way….

In leading the NFL in rushing with 1,553 yards and scoring 17 TDs he laid to rest the competition with Ricky Williams who gained 884 and only 2 touchdowns in an injury plagued year. In the video you just heard that he had a rookie year better than 5 of the 6 who had been rookie rushing champions. First include Hall of Fame member Earl Campbell who gained 1,450 yards in his initial campaign. He also outrushed Hall of Fame member Jim Brown in his. Now someone will scoff Brown played in a shorter season and he did, but his 942 yards in 12 games comes out to 78.5 per game. Far fewer than the 97 yards per game James accumulated while helping the Colts go 13-3 and win their first AFC East division championship since 1987.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

James in contemplation before the 2005 AFC Divisional Playoff against Pittsburgh.

For an encore he became the first back since Eric Dickerson to start his career with back to back rushing titles in 2000. In his greatest season he ran for 1,709 yards with 13 TDs while catching 63 passes for 594 yards and another 5 scores. If you’re keeping score at home that is 4,444 yards from scrimmage and 35 touchdowns in just 2 years. The only back that could compete with that was Marshall Faulk who had gone on to power The Greatest Show on Turf Rams.

In 2001 James suffered a devastating knee injury and missed 10 games which sank the Super Bowl aspirations of the Colts. In the following season he only rushed for 989 yards and 2 touchdowns. His average had dropped from 4.4 in the previous 3 years to 3.6 and the whispers around the league were he’d never be the same. Not only did he bounce back, over the next 5 seasons he topped 1,000 yards rushing including 2 with over 1,500 yards in 2004 & 2005. Five seasons with over 1,000 yards rushing after reconstructive knee surgery…what was there left to accomplish??

Unfortunately the Colts regular season successes didn’t equal playoff success. The ’99 season ended when Indianapolis was upset 19-13  by the eventual AFC Champion Tennessee Titans. Post season losses to the Jets, Patriots, and finally the Steelers in 2005 kept James from winning it all with Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison. The three had been the face of the team for 7 years together and his contract was up. The salary they would have to bring him back as a free agent would have crippled the franchise. Yet Colts owner Jim Irsay thought so much of James and his contribution to the organization that when the Colts did win it all in 2006, he presented him with a Colts Super Bowl ring even though he now played for the Arizona Cardinals. A classy move.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

A triumphant James walks off the field after winning the NFC Championship.

What looked like the swan song for James turned out to be false, he had one more surprise for critics that claimed he had lost a step. In 2007 he teamed with Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald on an improbable run to Super Bowl XLIII the very next year. Most of the publicity went to Warner since he was a reclamation project that arose like Lazarus, yet they don’t make it without James’ 1,222 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns.The combination of James on the ground, Anquan Boldin and Larry Fitzgerald downfield proved too much as the 9-7 Cardinals soared through the playoffs. They beat Atlanta, Carolina, and finally the Philadelphia Eagles 32-25 in the NFC Championship. Only to lose the Super Bowl on a last second touchdown to the Steelers 27-23 in one of the best games ever.

However every good thing must come to an end and James had led an incredible football life. Think about his accomplishments and what can be attributed to him. How many recruits chose to go to Miami after watching his exploits against UCLA that day when all other teams were not playing?? Miami had received the Death Penalty and had been down for four years after dominating college football for a decade. His performance announced the return of Hurricane football. In the next three years after his 1999 graduation, Miami won the Sugar Bowl and played in two straight national championships winning one in 2001. How many running backs went to The [[_]] because of his influence?? Clinton Portis, Willis McGahee, and Frank Gore came right after him. It was alleged he even donated $250,000 to the school at one time.

How about his low-key personality and league wide respect he garnered while he played with the Colts?? He was one of the first superstars that wore dreadlocks and coming from Miami he broke many stigmas that are unfairly attached to Hurricanes from a nation wide perspective. He was never in trouble away from the field and was thought of so highly he was given a Super Bowl ring by the team he no longer played for. Think about that for a second. All of this in the era of the “ME” athlete. When was the last time you heard of such things in the era of free agency?? Did the San Francisco 49ers give Joe Montana a Super Bowl ring when they won in 1994 after Joe left in 1993?? Give that some thought…

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

James and Colts Owner Jim Irsay at the Ring of Honor Ceremony.

He completed his career with seven 1,000 yard seasons in his career.  Finishing with 12,246 yards 80TDs, to go along with 443 receptions 3,364 yards and another 11 TDs. Up until his arrival in 1999 the Indianapolis Colts hadn’t won their division in 12 years. Afterward they won it 5 times during his tenure. In Arizona, the Cardinals had not played for the NFL championship since 1947 until James arrived. 1947??? That is 60 years!! He was voted All Pro four times and led the league in rushing twice. In a Hoosier Dome that once had Eric Dickerson and Marshall Faulk as tenants, it’s James who is the franchise’s all time leading rusher with 9,226 yards and 64 touchdowns. He’s also been inducted into the ring of honor for both the Miami Hurricanes and the Indianapolis Colts.

Did you know James, Barry Sanders, and Eric Dickerson are the only backs since 1980 to have 4 different 1,500 yard seasons?? Do you realize dating back to 1957, only James, Jim Brown, Earl Campbell, and Eric Dickerson are the only runners who began their careers as back to back rushing champions in their first two years?? Did you recognize every back mentioned with him in this paragraph are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame??

For induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, I present to you, from The [[_]], Edgerrin James!!

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