Last decade, Rams have taken quite a tumble
Mike Martz made it a point to relish the good times. The St.
Louis Rams’ three-year run from 1999-2001, including two Super Bowl
trips and the franchise’s lone title, was a “special place in
The victory total from any of those glory years, when the Rams
went 13-3, 10-6 and 14-2, easily trumps the awful 6-41 record the
Rams have mustered under three coaches, two front offices and a
revolving door roster the last three seasons.
“I’ve seen the good,” said defensive end Leonard Little, the
last remaining player from the title team. “And I’ve seen the
Heading into Sunday’s finale against the San Francisco 49ers,
the Rams (1-14) are one loss from clinching the first No. 1 draft
pick they’ve earned through incompetence since 1963. Back then,
they came off a 1-12-1 season and selected Oregon State quarterback
Terry Baker, the Heisman Trophy winner who was converted to a
halfback and lasted three seasons.
General manager Billy Devaney and coach Steve Spagnuolo are both
winding up a painful first season, presiding over a floor to
ceiling housecleaning. They absorbed dead money from foolish,
extravagant contracts, and cut ties with tackle Orlando Pace and
wide receiver Torry Holt, both seven-time Pro Bowlers who could
have helped this season’s bottom line.
“It’s been a long year,” Devaney said in an interview with The
Associated Press. “It’s been a grind.”
A grind with a purpose. Right now they’re too young, too
inexperienced and too beat-up, with 13 players on injured reserve.
The game plan: keep building with youth and selective stabs via
“People who think free agency is a cure-all have been sorely
disappointed over time,” said Kevin Demoff, the team’s vice
president of football operations. “When you look at the
organizations that draft well and keep their own players, those are
the organizations that traditionally have succeeded over periods of
Martz’s falling-out with the front office was the beginning of
the big dropoff. Martz missed the last 11 games of the 2005 season
due to a heart ailment and was fired after a 6-10 finish, but went
The Rams were 8-8 in 2006, Scott Linehan’s first season, then
fell fast and hard.
It’s no surprise that poor personnel decisions are behind the
decline, although Martz’s disputes with the front office in 2005
certainly didn’t help matters.
Before this season, the Rams were something of a family
operation, with team president John Shaw and director of football
operations Jay Zygmunt both longtime employees answering only to
owner Georgia Frontiere. They made the move to St. Louis in 1995
after totaling 23 wins in a dismal five-season stretch, then hit
paydirt in the late ’90s when they acquired Marshall Faulk from the
Colts for draft picks, and former Arena League quarterback Kurt
Warner improbably rose to stardom.
When that group began to fade, the replacements couldn’t measure
Of the Rams’ 12 first-round picks since winning the Super Bowl,
five qualify as busts. Wince at the memory of running back Trung
Canidate (31st in 2000), billed as Faulk’s heir apparent. Defensive
tackle Damione Lewis (12th in 2001) is a starter this season with
Carolina, but did little in St. Louis.
There are more sour faces at the thought of linebacker Robert
Thomas (31st in 2002) and defensive tackle Jimmy Kennedy (12th in
2003), a pick that so enthused Martz he did an impromptu dance at
the podium after the selection.
Cornerback Tye Hill (15th in 2006) was part of the
Devaney-Spagnuolo purge this year, released along with that year’s
second-rounder, tight end Joe Klopfenstein. That leaves only
seventh-round pick Mark Setterstrom, an offensive guard, from that
Pro Bowl running back Steven Jackson, a first-rounder in 2004,
is the last man standing from that class. Another seventh-rounder,
Chris Massey, is the only survivor from 2002.
The Rams wore throwback jerseys twice this year, hoping perhaps
to recapture a bit of the mojo from the Super Bowl seasons.
“It brings back great memories when we wear those jerseys,
because we won it all in those jerseys,” Little said. “When you
first put them on, it brings you back to when we won it all.”
Must be a fleeting feeling. The Rams lost 38-10 to the Vikings
in October and 16-13 to the Texans in December, the latter game
with paid attendance of 46,256, the franchise’s worst since the
move to the Midwest.