SC Remembers: The Greatest Show on Turf
As a kid I was mesmerized by the "Greatest Show on Turf" aka the St. Louis Rams. The high potent offence that could score in bunches, I never witnessed something like that in my early football fandom. I always loved watching Marshall Faulk, the best running back of his generation, Holt and Bruce one of the best duos in NFL history, and Kurt Warner as he became the most prolific passer between 99-01, Leading the NFL in completion for three straight seasons.
These 4 players were incredible at their position. Three of which are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Holt being the only one not in at the moment, though his numbers stack up amongst the very best. The group was ahead of their time, teams now are scoring over 500 points more commonly in the NFL, but back then the Rams offence were making history and breaking records. 20 years later, they are still talked about as one of the most exciting teams off all time.
In 98’ the team hit rock bottom, posting the worst record since their move to St. Louis (which was 4 years prior). Before Warner, the Rams had a young QB in Tony Banks, who the Rams were “banking” on to be their breakout star, it never happened. The following year Trent Green was the next man up. Green was good but struggled with injuries. This leads us to the former grocery bagger Kurt Warner.
A star in the Arena Football League, Warner had huge success. Critics didn't care about what he accomplished in the AFL however, as he was very much unproven at the NFL level. An emotional Dick Vermeil vowed to make it work. Smart guy.
Another big addition was Pro Bowl running back Marshall Faulk. A great route runner and hard to take down, the Rams running and passing game was going to get a huge boost.With Faulk, Bruce, and Holt at the skill positions the team seemed to be in a good spot, although concerns at the QB position still remained, Warner put an end to those concerns quickly.
The Rams started 6-0, scoring 30 or more points in 5 of those contests. They stumbled a little bit the next few weeks but finished the season with a 13-3 record. They were number one in total points, number one in offensive yards, they scored the second most points ever by an NFL team at the time, and became only the second team to score 500 plus in one season as well.
They would meet the Vikings in their first playoff matchup, who ironically scored the most points by any team the year prior. At any rate the Rams won in a shootout. Warner's performance against Minnesota set a playoff record with 5 passing touchdowns. NFL Films had Warner's playoff game against Minnesota in 99, as one of the top 10 playoff performances in NFL history.
Their next meeting was with Tampa, and it was the exact opposite of the Minnesota game. Scoring a season low 11 points, it was the first time all season St. Louis failed to score over 20 points. Incredibly though, the defense bailed them out giving up just 6 points the entire game. Proving that they were more than just an offensive team, the Rams found themselves in the Superbowl.
Superbowl 34, the Rams and Titans, a battle between two phenomenal QB's, Steve McNair and Kurt Warner. It was a back and forth affair the whole way through and with the score tied at 16 late in the 4th quarter, Kurt Warner made the biggest play of the game, and of his career.
St. Louis just a season ago won only 4 games, were now Superbowl champs. A Cinderella Story that was fitting with MVP Kurt Warner at the helm. Marshall Faulk became the second player ever at the time to have both 1000 yards rushing and receiving and won the first of three straight offensive player of the year awards. Bruce also broke a 1000 yards receiving to lead the way for the receiving corp.
In 2000, the Rams offence scored more points than the season under new head coach Mike Martz, as Dick Vermeil would retire. Despite putting up the most offensive touchdowns and most yards in a season they failed to repeat. They finished 10-6 and lost in the Wild Card round to the Saints.
In their 2001 season, St. Louis looked poised to bounce back and contend for another Superbowl. The Rams once again started out the gate going 6-0 for the third straight season. Winning 14 games, the most in franchise history, Warner and the Rams were back on top of the NFL heading into Superbowl 36 after beating the Eagles and Packers in the previous rounds. There they would face Brady and the Pats.
We know where it goes from there, Vinetari, Pats win, yada, yada. Unfortunately the organization went downhill after that season. Warner got injured, playing only six games in 2002, and was benched in favour of Marc Bulger. The following season the former 2-time MVP was released bringing an end to the show.
The Greatest Show on Turf left fans in awe. It would pave the way for how football would be played today. They broke records, excited fans and brought St. Louis a championship. The show may have had a short shelf life but it put its stamp on football history. Always replicated, never duplicated.