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!!!!

 

Legends Of The Fall: Barry Sanders

As I watched Barry Sanders A Football Life, they began the episode with Sanders reading his retirement. The closure gained from it was immense. It wasn’t as though I was still sitting here thinking he was coming back after 15 years. We’ve already witnessed his induction into the Hall of Fame, but to hear his words publicly, laid to rest those feelings and emotions that lay dormant from the years immediately following his retirement. He was simply the greatest running back ever in the Chancellor of Football’s estimation.

Sanders with defenders left in his wake.

Sanders with defenders left in his wake.

To a prior generation of NFL historians, Jim Brown was the measuring stick yet when you think about it, he wouldn’t have been as effective against modern defenses. He played at a time when the NFL didn’t play black players at linebacker or safety. Brown was bigger and more imposing than the players he faced which wouldn’t have been the case had he played decades later. Brown was 230 lbs at the time when defensive linemen were 260 lbs themselves.

Sanders’ speed and elusiveness translated to any and every era in NFL history. He also did it against better defensive athletes. He played against Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott, Reggie White, Mike Singletary, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, the Kevin Greene’s, Chris Doleman’s, Keith Millard’s, and Howie Long’s of the more modern game. Terrorists who could swallow offensive linemen, split the double team and had the athleticism to catch a back from behind before he could get to the corner.

With teams now putting the best athletes on the defensive side of the field, Sanders used to terrify them with his start and stop jump cuts. No offensive player over the last 30 years put more fear in coordinators or defensive players. He could make a move and leave a defender embarrassed and grasping at air. Leave them with “broken ankles” as we used to say. Simply put he’s the greatest runner the NFL has ever seen.

In 1995 Sanders conceded his role as the sole focus in the Lions offense. Not only did they become the NFL’s #1 offense they became the first team in history to have 2 receivers amass 100 receptions in the same season. Scott Mitchell (346 of 583 4,338 yds 32TDs / 12 ints) and Brett Perriman (108 rec. 1,488 yds 9TDs) should have made the Pro Bowl. Herman Moore (123 rec 1,686 yds 14TDs) did make it to Hawaii. Moore set the NFL record for receptions in a single season while these 3 put up 4 other team records. Why is this being brought up when this article is about Barry Sanders?? In this crucible of talent he still amassed 1,500 yards 11 TDs while creating this book of highlights

Most will recall that season opener against Pittsburgh when Sanders shook fellow Hall of Famer Rod Woodson right out of his ACL with two quick moves. This following vignette covers Sanders’ last five seasons in the NFL

Did The Chancellor of Football say greatest ever runner in NFL history?? First consider the average running back’s career lasts 4 years. Then take into account the greatest runners had their highest rushing totals within those 4. Sanders ran for 2,053 in year NINE. It took Jim Brown 9 years to gain 12,312 yards rushing, where it took Sanders 10 to amass 15,269. Everyone forgets the near rushing titles to go along with the 4 he won.

In his rookie year he was 11 yards short of eclipsing Christian Okoye (1,480 to 1,470), yet told Coach Fontes to let his backup get some playing time. Okoye got his rushing title yet carried the football 90 more times than Sanders! Next case in point is the slanted description of Emmitt Smith missing the first 2 games of 1993, then coming back to win the rushing title. For every Cowboy fan that touts this, they casually omit Sanders missed the last 6 games of that season with a knee injury.

At the time of Sanders retiement, he was in striking distance of Payton to begin '99.

At the time of Sanders retiement, he was in striking distance of Payton to begin ’99.

Interesting… to think that Barry entered the NFL in ’89 and Emmitt in ’90, folks forget how big a lead Sanders had at the time of his retirement. Sanders was due to break Peyton’s record late 99, it took Emmitt another 3 1/2 years to break it. Paul Tagliabue should have got involved behind the scenes and facilitated a trade to keep Sanders playing. He blew it….

Sanders would have pushed the record to 20,000 guaranteed. As we alluded to earlier, most running backs have their greatest single season rushing total in the first 4 years of their career. Barry crossed 2,000 in year nine. Even in year 10 he wasn’t slowing down.

One of the greatest battles in NFL history in terms of effort, you need to check out the birth of the Baltimore Ravens as an elite defense in the final week of 98. Barry was trying to extend his streak of 1,500 yard seasons when late in the 4th quarter he had 1,495 yards. The next 6 or 7 carries the Ravens were determined to stop him and they fought tooth and nail. Barry didn’t make it to 1,500 but he made folks miss like no one’s business. Man I wore that tape out watching that.

We didn’t know what was happening at the time with Walter Payton’s health but the 1999 season we expected to see Sanders vault to the #1 all time rushing spot… instead we got this:

Thank goodness for the emergence of Marshall Faulk and Edgerrin James because the beginning of the season didn’t feel right as Sanders’ abrupt retirement cast a pall over the start of ’99. It took years for the disappointment to go away and it was reawakened at the time Smith passed Payton.

One aspect of not gaining closure on Sanders is the abandonment of the house he provided those thrills in.

One aspect of not gaining closure on Sanders is the abandonment of the house he provided thrills in.

What was missing as a football fan and historian, I never had closure to his career. I can remember this Pro Football Almanac I purchased in the summer of 1990 and they foretold a fictitious story of Sanders crossing 15,000 yards in a decade. The Lions were supposed to be winning the Super Bowl over in Tokyo to conclude his tenth season also.

It was a very interesting take with half of it coming true. With all due respect to William Sanders, his son Barry was the greatest running back in NFL history.

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The Chancellor Weighs In: LaDainian Tomlinson Retires

Tomlinson set to retire as a Charger on Monday.

We’re hours away from the retirement of a future Hall of Famer when Tomlinson takes the podium. In the history of the NFL, Tomlinson is an evolutionary link to great runners of the past.  Ernie Nevers, Steve Van Buren, Jim Brown, OJ Simpson Continue reading

Marshall Faulk Makes The Hall of Fame

You can still hear Chris Berman saying “Marshall! Marshall! Marshall!” on NFL Primetime. Can’t you? When we think of great players we tend to think of them at their zenith. For Marshall Faulk it was definitely the years of “The Greatest Show on Turf” where he played his way into the Hall of Fame in just three years. The earlier years were just a harbinger of things to come.

Yet when I think of Marshall Faulk, I think of a faster version of Thurman Thomas. Better yet, if we spliced Thurman Thomas with Barry Sanders, this is the hybrid that would have been created. In fact it was Sanders departure that swung the door wide open for this talent to finally get his acclaim on a world wide basis. When Barry retired, the NFL lost it’s instant highlight reel. We were spoiled as fans because week after week we saw something spectacular and weren’t sure if we’d see that again. Enter Marshall Faulk.

The NFL world was mourning the loss of John Elway and Barry Sanders to retirement. Then we were thrown for another loop when the Indianapolis Colts selected Edgerrin James ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams. Almost as an afterthought Marshall Faulk was traded by the Colts to the Rams to make way for James. Instantly, I remember saying this is the Football Gods reversing the Eric Dickerson trade. Referring to the Rams trading Dickerson, the greatest runner of his era, to the Colts in 1987.

No one was really paying attention to Marshall Faulk going to St Louis yet being in Anaheim at the time, I was still in the Rams television market. My response was a flippant comment and not a premonition but it turned out to be. History would judge this trade on what happened with both teams. I thought the Colts had made a mistake letting Faulk go. So who won the Marshall Faulk / Edgerrin James trade??

Marshall Faulk in Super Bowl XXXIV

Super Bowl XXXIV Ring

The St Louis Rams became “The Greatest Show on Turf” thanks to a forgotten running back who could play receiver, had moves and an effortless running style with a burst. In three seasons (1999-2001) he rushed for 4,122 yards averaging 5.4 yards per carry while scoring 59 touchdowns!! Won 2 NFL Offensive Player of the Year awards and an NFL Most Valuable Player Award while taking the Rams to 2 Super Bowls. They won Super Bowl XXXIV beating the Tennessee Titans 23-16. Before Faulk the Rams had not been league champion since 1951.

In the 1999 championship season alone, he joined Roger Craig as the only other back to gain 1,000 yards rushing and receiving in the same season. When Craig did it he had 1,050 yards rushing, 1,016 receiving. Faulk burst by that with 1,381 yards rushing and 1,048 yards receiving while sitting out most of the last 3 quarters of the finale against Philadelphia.

That game the Rams lost 38-31 and Faulk would have stretched his numbers further had he played that game and the 4th quarter of 4 other blowouts at home. Not factoring that in, Faulk still broke Barry Sanders record for total yards from scrimmage with 2,429 yards. Greatness. He was the impetus for one of the NFL’s greatest champions.

How do you follow up a season like that? How about narrowly missing another 1,000/1,000 season with 1,359 yards rushing and 830 receiving while setting a new record by breaking Emmitt Smith’s TD record with 26 TDs. In 2001 he led the league with yards from scrimmage for the 4th straight year tying the record of Thurman Thomas. Yet all four of Faulk’s seasons were over 2,000 combined yards where Thomas only had 3. Now when you look back and see that in 1998, in his last season with the Colts, he ran for 1,319 yards and caught passes for 908 yards. He had four consecutive seasons  where he flirted with 1,000/1,000.

He broke records and tied another of Hall of Fame running backs, how could he not be enshrined with them with numbers like that?? All this to lead the Rams in becoming the first team to score over 500 points in multiple seasons with 3 (1999-2001). The Rams also averaged 32.6 points per game for those 3 seasons which was the best in history narrowly beating their 1951 predecessors with just under 31 points.

Marshall Faulk on Saturday’s Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Marshall went on to finish his career with 12,279 yards rushing with another 6,875 receiving and 136 overall touchdowns. Yet it was this amazing 3 year run that catapulted him to the halls of Canton. Now its interesting to note that while Faulk was doing all this, Edgerrin James (The U) twice led the league in rushing.

Yet the Rams were participating in Super Bowls and became one of the most memorable teams in league history. Another irony is they each went to the Super Bowl while teaming with Kurt Warner when….wait for it…..the Colts let James go via free agency. *In all due respect, the Colts gave Edgerrin a Super Bowl XLI ring for all that he had done for them up to that point.*  Jim Irsay don’t let any more running backs go because the one you let out of town in 1998 was one of the best in history. The Rams won that trade plain and simple. His induction speech was eloquent and he’s been the best analyst on the NFL Network. Congratulations Marshall Faulk…Hall of Famer

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