How the Greatest Show on Turf fell apart as quickly as it was assembled | Collapse

How the Greatest Show on Turf fell apart as quickly as it was assembled | Collapse

(nervous music) – The St. Louis Rams were
the kings of the NFL in 1999, led by MVP quarterback Kurt Warner, who was only a few years removed from working the graveyard shift stocking shelves in a grocery store preceding a stint in the
Arena Football League. The Rams obliterated
their opponents all year, earning the moniker Greatest Show on Turf before capping the season by hanging on to win the 34th Super Bowl
over the Tennessee Titans, but it sure didn’t look that way to start. The Rams spent big bucks to
sign Trent Green away from Washington to upgrade from
Tony Banks at quarterback. Those plans ended before they began when Green tore his ACL in the preseason on a low shot from Chargers
safety Rodney Harrison. So in stepped Warner,
who was only there in ’99 because the Browns chose not to select the unprotected signal-caller
in their expansion draft, and now, five years after going undrafted out of Northern Iowa, Green’s injury provided the opportunity he’d spent so much time preparing for. He’d immediately capitalize, passing for more TDs
through four career starts than anyone else ever on his way to authoring one of the greatest seasons a quarterback’s ever had. It was a Cinderella run beyond
anyone’s wildest dreams. Head coach Dick Vermeil then retired, leading to the promotion of Greatest Show on Turf
architect Mike Martz, and there was no slowing down this runaway locomotive over
the next two years, either. They were a embarrassment
of riches on offense, with Warner flanked by Pro Bowl wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, explosive slot receiver Az-zahir Hakim, ol’ reliable Ricky Proehl, whose game-winning
touchdown over Brian Kelly in the NFC Championship
propelled them to the Super Bowl, and electric tailback Marshall Faulk, who also doubled as a star receiver, even topping 1,000 yards
in ’99 when he broke the single-season record
for yards from scrimmage, and of course, Warner
needed sufficient time to execute all the seven-step
drops in Martz’s offense, which human brick wall Orlando
Pace provided at left tackle. By the close of the ’01 season, a snapshot of this three
year reign of terror shows an offense that led the league in points and yards each year, including the league’s first ever 7,000 yard season in
Y2K while lording over the rest of the league by scoring 583 points more than they allowed with no one else even
in their solar system. Warner book-ended these
years with MVP trophies sandwiched around a
season when Faulk won it in the wake of breaking Emmitt Smith’s single-season touchdown record. Throughout this time, they won a NFL-high 37 regular season games,
two conference titles, and that Super Bowl 34 championship. They were flying high,
on top of the world, until they weren’t. (foreboding music) After advancing to Super Bowl 36, where the Rams were down a touchdown with just a minute and change left, Warner connected with Proehl
for a game-tying touchdown, but then Tom Brady did
what Tom Brady does, Adam Vinatieri did what
Adam Vinatieri does, and just like that, an
era with so much winning and fireworks and fun
vanished in a puff of smoke. A month later, on March sixth, 2002, the Rams lost the heart
and soul of their defense when the Bills lured middle linebacker London Fletcher away,
and St. Louis missed him. Coordinator Lovie Smith’s unit, which was ranked third in 2001, slipped down to the
middle of the pack in ’02. On the offensive side, Az
Hakim left for a lucrative deal and the opportunity to start in Detroit, while Kurt Warner completely lost his mojo as his magical carpet ride from undrafted fourth stringer
to grocery store restocker to Super Bowl and league
MVP came to an abrupt end. The Rams lost each of the
first three games in ’02 with the reigning MVP
throwing just one touchdown against seven picks heading into a Week Four game against the Cowboys that would turn out to be his final Rams start in St. Louis. Warner broke his right pinky from a hit on just his second pass of the game which knocked him out of
action for nearly two months. Jamie Martin started the
next week in San Francisco and bruised his knee in a
loss that dropped them to 0-5, so in stepped Marc Bulger the next week for his first career game action, and he’d go on to start and
win the next five games, evening up their record at 5-5, but they hit some serious
speed bumps along the way. Aeneas Williams, their All-Pro corner who never missed a single game in any of his first 11 seasons, was already hampered by turf toe, victimized by the very playing surface that helped spark their offense
to unprecedented success. Then in Week seven, with
the outcome clinched and less than two minutes remaining ’til their bye week would provide a chance to get healthy, Williams suffered season-ending
leg and ankle injuries. In a Week 10 game versus the Chargers, Marshall Faulk messed up his
left foot and right ankle and was lousy down the stretch once he came back from those injuries in what marked the beginning of the end for the future first-ballot Hall of Famer. During their Monday
night win the next week, Bulger sprained his right index finger, but despite Warner’s dismal play early in the season burying the Rams before Bulger resuscitated ’em, Martz insisted there was
no quarterback controversy and the plan was to return to Warner for their next game anyway, and like clockwork, the Rams’ losing ways returned as they came up
short in DC and Philly. Another broken bone in his hand ended Warner’s season
while bringing a dark cloud of needless drama to the organization. See, Martz had explained
it was he who ordered x-rays for Warner’s hand, only for the quarterback’s wife Brenda to call up a sports talk radio show the next day to basically call the team’s head coach a liar, that “Martz did not insist
that he get an x-ray. “Martz had nothing to do with it. “The doctors never once said that “he should get an x-ray. “All week long, I said, “Kurt, I am a nurse. “You should get an x-ray. “He said the doctors
just think it’s bruised.” Thanks, Brenda. Anyway, with Bulger returning
to the lineup in Week 15, he got his sixth win in as many starts before he hurt his
spine on the first drive the following week in Seattle, ending his season as the Rams fell from the remarkable highs of
’99 through ’01 to 7-9 in 2002. So while both QBs were each
injured multiple times in 2002, among their starts where they weren’t knocked out in
the first few plays, Warner was 0-5 and Bulger was 6-0. Despite that, in February 2003, Martz let it be known
early in the offseason that Warner was his guy
going into the next season with no competition for the job necessary, but he’d lose another key weapon in free agency the next month. Post-season hero Ricky Proehl, who came up clutch time and time again, signed with the Panthers. In their opener, on just the second time that season Warner dropped back to pass, he was clobbered by Giants defensive end Michael Strahan with a hit that jarred the ball loose and
left Warner concussed. He’d go on to play the
entire game with the two-time MVP unable to
hold onto a football, fumbling another five times, and was even confused
when Martz called plays, leading to an overnight hospitalization. He’d be cleared to return
for their following game, but Bulger got the nod
to start in Week Two. Though initially trying to handle a brewing quarterback controversy by taking things week to week, Martz sort of tipped his hand. After Bulger and the
Rams beat the Cardinals in his third start of the season, Brenda Warner again took to the radio, this time to publicly inform the world that her husband wanted to play, and if that wasn’t in
the cards in St. Louis, he’d welcome a trade elsewhere. Those remarks led to Kurt’s admission that he was starting to imagine moving on from the Rams a little more every day, but the wins kept coming under Bulger, who still had the league’s top wide receiver duo to throw to, and following their Week
12 victory in Arizona, their eighth in 10 games
with him under center, Martz officially made
the change permanent, effectively ending the
Warner era in the process. Three weeks later, they
clinched the NFC West after beating the Seahawks
with a little help from the back judge who tripped Seattle wideout Bobby Engram on a potential game-winning touchdown, but in their first playoff game, Marc Bulger threw not one but two hideous fourth quarter interceptions, then added a third in OT before this Steve Smith walkoff touchdown on the first play of the sixth quarter ended the Rams’ 14-game home winning streak and their season. Four days later, Lovie Smith, who orchestrated a monstrous
defensive turnaround immediately upon his arrival, left to take the head
coaching job in Chicago, and as much as they’d miss Brenda Warner’s lovely radio bits, the time had come to move on from their legendary quarterback and they cut Kurt Warner
on June first, 2004. They’d regress from
12-4 to 8-8 that season, which would be the final
one for Aeneas Williams, who retired in the ’05
offseason to kick off a year of change and tumult
both on and off the field. For starters, second
year stud Steven Jackson took over as lead back
for the 2005 season, relegating Marshall Faulk to backup duty. A day after a Week Five
loss left them at 2-3, an ailing Mike Martz needed to step away from the team to treat a
bacterial infection of his heart, with linebackers coach
Joe Vitt filling in. His first game as interim
head coach was a disaster. Not only did they get blown out on Monday night in Indy, but Marc Bulger hurt his throwing shoulder early in the second quarter, knocking him out of the next two games, during which it was also announced Martz wouldn’t be returning that year, and it was during this
time away from the team that Martz’s relationship
with management deteriorated. In Week Seven against the Saints, during just their second game without Martz on the sideline, Martz tried to have a cellphone brought to his offensive coordinator to talk to him in the middle of the game. Executive Jay Zygmunt
put the kibosh on that and brought the issue to
team president John Shaw, who refused to allow an open phone line in the coach’s booth. Blocking that communication
pissed an ill Martz right off, especially since he wasn’t
given any sort of heads up. He’d already been butting heads with his front office
and now reached the point where he was unsure if
they could even coexist. So with turmoil surrounding
the organization, it didn’t help matters
when about a month later, Kurt Warner, now a Cardinal, made his first trip back to St.
Louis since they cut him. Warner carved up his old
squad in his finest game since his ’01 MVP season
four years earlier, and the loss not only
dropped the Rams to 4-6, virtually killing any postseason dreams, but also saw Bulger re-injure
his throwing shoulder, knocking him out for
the rest of the season. Then, with just a couple games left, Martz had gotten medically
cleared to return for the season finale, but the Rams chose not to let him, then fired him the day after
their 6-10 season concluded. To replace him, St.
Louis hired Nick Saban’s offensive coordinator, Scott Linehan. A few days before Linehan’s first training camp as a head coach, Marshall Faulk underwent major reconstructive knee surgery, wiping away his 2006 season while putting his career in serious jeopardy. They did kick off the Linehan era by winning four of their first five games, teasing their fan base into thinking they’d perhaps turned a corner, but nope! They’d immediately lose
seven of their next eight en route to an 8-8 season and another January on the couch. The Rams would head into 2007 having lost 17 of their previous 29 games, but those would seem
like the good old days compared to what was coming. First, in late March, Faulk’s career did indeed succumb to his knee problems, and the Hall of Fame
back officially retired. Then in the next month’s draft, picking 13th overall, the Rams chose Nebraska defensive lineman Adam Carriker, who played two years in St. Louis, missed a third with a shoulder injury, then was shipped to Washington for a couple of late round pick swaps. The very next selection
was Darrelle Revis, who quickly became the
top cornerback in the game and the best player on
a squad that reached multiple AFC Championship games. Oops. When the ’07 season rolled around, the wheels totally came off. They got horrific quarterback play from Bulger and Gus Frerotte, and they finished a 3-13 season a couple weeks before team owner Georgia Frontiere
passed away in January 2008. The next month, they said goodbye to the aging Isaac Bruce,
who in his time with the Rams had become the third leading
receiver of all time. With Bulger coming off a pitiful season and quarterback a glaring need heading into the 2008 draft, they opted to again go D-line, using their second overall
pick on Chris Long. Though Long would go on
to have a nice career, future MVP quarterback Matt Ryan was taken with the very next pick. They’d get blown out each of the first four games of the ’08 season, at which point they fired Linehan and promoted D-coordinator Jim Haslett, which was simply rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic
amid a 2-14 season. Steve Spagnuolo was the lucky winner who got to try and clean
up the rotten sewage that the organization had descended to, and for those who thought
surely it was impossible to sink to even lower depths, the ’09 Rams inspired folks everywhere by proving nothing is impossible. With a couple long-time stalwarts aging, the Rams had some painful
decisions to make. Four-time All-Pro left
tackle Orlando Pace, who was once an indestructible force and started every game in seven of his first nine seasons, had now missed 24 of the
Rams’ previous 39 games, and they cut the Hall of Fame blindside protector on March 10th. Three days later, they
cut wideout Torry Holt, the only man to ever post six consecutive seasons of at least 1,300 receiving yards. Again owners of the second
overall pick in the draft, the Rams chose Baylor tackle Jason Smith in an effort to replace Pace. He started 26 games for
them before the team moved on from their turnstile in pads. They’d go 1-15 in 2009, the first team to ever lose at least 13
games in three straight years, but the most delightful thing is that they barely ever even put up a fight, instead usually just laying
down for their opponent. In the quarter century
prior to the 2008 season, the entire NFL combined
for just one instance of a team losing seven games in a season by over 20 points. Then the Rams did so in both ’08 and ’09. They draft quarterback Sam Bradford first overall in 2010, and in August minority owner Stan Kroenke, who helped get the team moved from
L.A. to St. Louis in 1995, bought the majority share of the team from a couple of Frontiere’s kids. The Rams sort of rebounded
with a 7-9 season behind their Rookie of
the Year quarterback, but that was their apex under Spagnuolo, and topping out at seven wins is just not acceptable football for the Rams. So they went out and hired Jeff Fisher. He’d get one healthy season with Bradford before his quarterback’s
ACL started exploding any time someone looked at him wrong, which doomed any chance
of success together. Following the end of Fisher’s
fourth season in St. Louis, and a dozen straight seasons failing to post a winning record, Kroenke pushed Command+Z on the move 21 years earlier, and
on January 12th, 2016, the Rams said goodbye to St. Louis to return to the City of Angels. The Rams were a cheat
code for three years, but relentless injuries at the most important position in sports, drama and resentment
engulfing the organization, Father Time, and embarrassing draft miss after embarrassing draft
miss caused everything to collapse in the blink of an eye. (soft music)

100 Replies to “How the Greatest Show on Turf fell apart as quickly as it was assembled | Collapse”

  1. As a woman, it sure was nice to see Mrs. Frontiere(?) holding the Vince Lombardi trophy. Didn’t realize J. Fisher came later to coach.

  2. St. Louis Rams, oh man. The one time show as we know thanks to Warner after that SB XXXIV was a total fluke and completely collapsed ever since. Thought it was a next big thing to be a new millennium of the league turns out to be a dead end. Great roster all banged up to the max. Considered to be forgettable and now they are back to their original home. Let's not talk about how they got into SB LIII, the Super Bowl from hell. All embarrassing.

  3. thought this was going to be abut the New Orleans Saints… the real & consistent greatest show on turf… oh yeah we have to wait for the collapse when Brees retires

  4. I don't think it's right tonekd this story in 2016 when they became one of the most powerful teams in the league the very next year.

  5. It would have been nice to mention that the team had an ENORMOUS rebound when they moved back to LA..

  6. Wait… you made this 3 months after the Rams were literally in the Super Bowl?

    I feel like there is going to be a series called Phoenix Files that deep dive on teams that hit rock bottom and then came back to the top.

    Also, please have one reved up and ready to go for the NY Giants after this next season

  7. Barry Switzer, Mike Martz, and Mike Tomlin.

    Average head coaches handed top talent, and drove it off a cliff.

  8. Second collapse coming up, just teams will watch film from this last super bowl and they’ll be able to stop this offense no problem. How can this powerful 2018 offense could look like. Jeff Fishers offense in the most important game of all the super bowl ? Simple, it was all smoke and mirrors

  9. You coulda added another 2 minutes or done a video separately on how the Rams went from that, to the runner-up in the super bowl last year. But it was mainly Todd Gurley, then aggressively trading up to get Jared Goff, then making a 31 year old their head coach, then sigining Robert Woods as a Free Agent, trading for Brandon Cooks, and drafting Cooper Cupp. And drafting Aaron Donald and not letting him walk away, despite needing to pay him a ton of money.

  10. At the mention of the 2003 Divisional Round, that game would actually make a great rewinder episode. Steve Smith's most iconic catch at the end of honestly one of the wackiest games in playoff history. The fumble touchdown by the Panthers, the Rams comeback, the onside kick, the conservative play calling of Mike Martz at the end of regulation (I'm a Panthers fan and I was beyond baffled at the time as to why he didn't go for the win), the missed field goals (including one after a delay of game nullified a made one for the Panthers), the Ricky Manning interception, then X-Clown

  11. St. Louis is a winner's town, not a football town, not a hockey town, not even a baseball town. Win and we love you, lose and gtf out. Rams won it all in 99, but only had three other winning seasons in their 21 years. Blues finally won the Cup after 52 years, but they've always been consistent winners, missing the playoffs just 9 times in those 52, and at one point a 25 year consecutive playoff streak — 4 more years than the Rams actually played here! See the difference? The Cards need no explanation. The football Cards aren't worth mentioning.

  12. Salary Cap & Free Agency, kills any chance at dynasties unless guys take less money for more rings. Used to be teams just got old, now $$$ tears them apart.

  13. They will be a bust in LA, as are the Chargers even after their playoff run. But the NFL just loves that TV money !

  14. Holy crap. Marc Bulger. Can't believe I have already forgotten about him. Shame he'll be lost to history too

  15. Great educational video of The Rams' Cinderella time as I didn't know any of these things that brought them down.

  16. I remember watching those Bulger games in absolute amazement and disbelief. Bulger was fantastic at passes under 30 yards but any laymen could see he had no ability to throw the deep ball. I never hated any sports figure as much as I resented Martz..he used to undercut Vermiel when he was there and he was more concerned with trying to put his own finger print on the Rams. Im not saying Warner was the best qb ever but those three seasons that ended in 2 mvps, a sb mvp and win was the absolute best a qb has ever played. His ability to sit in the pocket and go through his reads and then find the open receiver and hit him with his lighting quick release just b4 the pass rush got him was phenominal. Bulger was always Martz boy toy unfortunalety he was a limited robot who never read defenses and audibled and had no ability to scan the field if his first option wasn't open. I don't mean to run on but watching Martz screw the pooch and ruin a dynasty was the most frustrating thing I ever experienced as a fan. I was never a big fan of Warner's wife but you could see where she was coming from bc there were so many instances of Martz undermining and sabotaging Warner that it's no wonder she felt the need to step in for her hubby. I never felt comfortable with how Vermiel left and always thought Martz did shaddy shit to make that happen doubt Martz was an offensive genius but he was never head coach material and the rest of his career proved it. He needed an overseer like Vermiel to keep his ego in check. Maybe Im a homer but if I had to take 1 qb to win the big one, it would be Warner. People don't realize how heroic and epic his performance against the Patriots sb loss was. He was getting clobbered and his ability to manipulate the pocket and scramble out of it to allow his recievers to get free of that cheating, smothering Pats D was epic. He was literally the only Ram who balled out against the Pats including Faulk who for my $ was the smartest and most well rounded rb to ever play.
    Fukn Martz man. Fook him.

  17. The wheels didn't come off in 2007. They were already gone. What happened is that the chassis came off, which was incredible because it was one of those uni body designs where that is not supposed to be possible but they did it anyway.

  18. It was obvious that the second Stan Kroenke became majority owner of the St. Louis Rams that he had in mind to relocate the Rams to L.A. and that became even clearer when he showed no interest in considering the plans of the city of St. Louis that was willing to build a new stadium for the Rams. Kroenke just wanted his team to return to L.A., period. He rather spent $4 billion of his own money to build his stadium in Inglewood, CA which is beginning to take shape and it is going to be THE STADIUM in the NFL. Let's see if the Rams can win a Super Bowl for L.A. for the first time.

  19. The Patriots won 38 games the last 3 years, have had two years of being the #1 seed in the conference, and one year of being #2 in the conference, and won 3 Conference Titles, and have won 2 superbowls

  20. As a born and raised St. Louisian and diehard Rams fan before the move to LA, the reason why was the front office. Virtually everything else about the team was incompetent, yes, but that front office couldn't find a coach, trade for a player, sign a free agent, make a draft pick to save their lives. It was simultaneously excruciating and bizarre to see every draft and every offseason get squandered because the people running the organization didn't have a damn clue what they were doing. It was like the front offices of the Redskins and the Browns(maybe the Jets got a little bit of a reach around too, idk) had a baby and then, disgusted by their creation, shipped it off to St. Louis.

  21. 1 thing people often overlook were kroenkes intentions to move the team to LA the second he bought it. That scumbag pulled the strings to get that franchise horrible enough to justify moving and ripped a franchise away from one of the best fan bases in sports (to be fair I'm biased but I've heard people from that time period say how much support that team had even when they were terrible) then Kroenke loads up of competant draft picks right before the move and rips the heart out of a city. What a scumbag.

  22. How abou the collapse of an entire sport? Jai Alai was rising up decades ago, and today its so gone that Jai Alai stadiums are today crumbling to pieces in complete abandonment.

  23. Kurt Warner

    41 touchdowns

    League MVP

    4 touchdowns in a Divisional playoff game vs Vikings

    400 yards vs Tennessee Titans (Game Winning touchdown in SBXXXIV)

    Most Valuable Player of SB34


  24. Can you do Tennessee Oilers/Titans (1997-2003) ??

    Eddie George

    Steve McNair

    Frank Wycheck

    Jevon Kearse

    Blaine Bishop

    The team the Saint Louis Rams faced in SB34?!

  25. Stories like these makes me wonder how many hall of Famers will never be, only because they didn't have a proper chance. Whether they were put out too early, had a horrible team, or just never had an actual shot. Just think about what would have happen if the QB didn't get hurt. And Warner stayed as a backup

  26. Please do an episode on the 2009 green bay packers, after they won the super bowl they got better but never got back.

  27. And now the Rams have rebounded with Sean McVay and Jared Goff, proving that just like in life, there will always be peaks and valleys.

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