The Worst Teams of All Time, Part 21: The St. Louis Rams’ 5-year Destruction Plan

I’ll stop writing the intro now because…well, you already know what the article is.

Since the 1979-1981 Northwestern Football post fell flat on its face, rotted into dust and then had the dust dumped over a beach cliff á la The Big Lebowski, I’ll just focus on what seems to work better instead. The Rams are still losing as of 2014, and even though they can beat better opponents sometimes, they’re still 4-7 and in dead last in the NFC West. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2004, and from 2007-2011, they lost more games in a five-season span than any team in history, going 15-65.

After an unsuccessful 2005 campaign, head coach Mike Martz was fired after creating and utilizing ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’, an offense featuring the likes of Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk, Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce. From 1999-2001, they became the only team in history to score over 500 points in three consecutive seasons, and reached the Super Bowl in both 1999 and 2001, finishing 10-6 in 2000 thanks to a defense that set an NFL record for the most points given up by a team with a winning record (471).

Scott Linehan was hired after the 6-10 2005 season, and they initially improved. They finished 8-8 despite starting 4-2, and St. Louis looked to 2007 as a potential playoff year.

What resulted from Linehan’s aging squad and lack of motivational ability was a disastrous 3-13 season that kick-started the five-year span of futility. The Rams began the season 0-8, allowing 24 or more points five times and scoring fewer than 20 six times. In Weeks 10, 11 and 13, the Rams secured wins over the Saints, 49ers and Falcons, but it didn’t make the season any less horrific. The offense could only muster 5 rushing touchdowns and a 3.8 yards-per-carry average, while turning the ball over 53 times.

After the season, Linehan was kept around in hopes that the terrible 2007 finish was a fluke, a sad cornerpiece in franchise history, and that St. Louis would turn it around and make the playoffs. Instead, they deteriorated even further, finishing 2-14. After an 0-4 start (and an 8 game losing streak dating back to 2007), Linehan was mercifully fired and replaced with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.

Scott Linehan

Linehan finished his St. Louis career with an 8-25 record, which spoke volumes about his supposed playoff team. An ESPN.com article written on September 29, 2008 just prior to Linehan’s firing gave a take on how pitiful St. Louis’ situation was.

…The franchise that billed itself as “The Greatest Show On Turf” under Dick Vermeil and Mike Martz has deteriorated to the “Greatest No-Show in the NFL” under Linehan. During St. Louis’ current eight-game losing streak — dating to last season — the Rams have been outscored 288-110. Other than maybe showing feistiness along the sideline, the team has been completely non-competitive.

The “feistiness” referenced players frequently snapping at Linehan, growing tired of his seemingly increasing level of incompetence and generally bored demeanor.

Marc Bulger 2

Marc Bulger was never on the mark for the Rams.

Although Marc Bulger showed success early on in the 2000’s, it had all vanished near the end of the decade. Bulger finished 2008 with 2,720 yards, 11 touchdowns and 13 interceptions to go along with a completion rate of 57% and a rating of 71.4. Bulger was 2-13 as a starter, leading the team to wins over the Redskins and Cowboys (the loss to the Rams would ultimately cost Dallas a playoff spot).

Then there was Trent Green, who managed to throw no touchdowns and 6 interceptions in one miserable start and three appearances scattered across the season. Predictably, he was 0-1 in his start.

Steven Jackson, before doing his best to ruin the Falcons’ offense, was in his prime in St. Louis, despite being in a team that stunk like dead fish. Jackson finished 2008 with 1,042 yards on 253 carries and 7 touchdowns, very good numbers considering that the league was pass-centric by that time. However, one man does not a rushing attack make, and the second leading rusher on the team, Antonio Pittman, only gained 296 yards, and the only other man to score a rushing touchdown was WR Donnie Avery.

The defense was arguably the league’s worst, however. They only picked off 12 passes the entire season and gave up a whopping 29.1 points-per-game. Predictably, it was way far off the offense’s 14.5.

Steve Spagnuolo

After the 2008 catastrophe, Steve Spagnuolo was hired to coach St. Louis. It couldn’t possibly get any worse for the Rams. They had suffered through 5 wins over two seasons, and they couldn’t become only the third 21st century team to go 1-15 after the 2001 Panthers and 2007 Dolphins, could they?

Oh, they could. And they did. Spagnuolo’s first season didn’t fill anyone with much promise, as the Rams crashed and burned to a 1-15 record. They ranked last in the league in scoring, and ranked 31st in points given up. They also went 0-8 at home.

It’s impossible to point to one big problem for St. Louis like you could for a team like the 1992 Seahawks, because both sides of the ball sucked. We can start with the offense though. The unit could only manage 175 points all season, which ranks as the 6th worst all-time. The team only threw 12 touchdown passes all season, 1 of which came courtesy of kicker Josh Brown.

Marc Bulger

Marc Bulger was still around, and he led the team in touchdown passes (5) while also leading them to their only win over 2-14 Detroit. In eight starts, Bulger only passed for 183.6 yards-per-game.

The other guys the Rams tried at quarterback include Kyle Boller, who went 0-4 as a starter while throwing 6 interceptions to only 3 touchdowns for a grand rating of 61.2.

Then there was Keith Null, who somehow managed to do an even worse job. He only threw for 141.5 yards-per-game, threw only 3 touchdowns and somehow tossed 9 interceptions in 4 starts. He went 0-4 overall as a starter.

The running game was again bolstered by Steven Jackson, who rushed for 1,416 yards on 324 carries and scored 4 touchdowns…the only scores the team would register on the ground all year. The second leading rusher on the team, Kenneth Darby, only ran for 152.

Way, way down on the bottom of the rushing list is Danny Amendola, who was busy rushing for -2 yards on 3 carries before he was catching passes from Tom Brady.

That’s all that can be said about the offense, it sucked. It was undoubtedly the worst in the league, but could the defense top it in terms of awfulness?

Well, maybe not, but it was still gag-worthy. The defense was pummeled into submission by just about every offense they faced, but it wasn’t entirely their fault. The offense punted so much, they were on the field too long and wore down. Nonetheless, the team gave up 436 points, an average of 27.2 per game, horrendous considering what the offense could muster. The defense as a unit allowed almost 6 yards per play and picked off only 8 passes the entire season, while giving up 24 rushing touchdowns and allowing 372.75 yards-per-game in stark contrast to the offense’s 279.3.

Yeah, this team stunk. Nobody ever really talks about them, though.

After the 2009 season, Spagnuolo was actually kept as head coach in hopes that he would be able to turn the team around. Marc Bulger was released before the season began, and the Rams wasted their No.1 overall draft pick on Sam Bradford, whom I think is one of the worst quarterbacks in the league and a total bum. If I had to pick between Sam Bradford and Blaine Gabbert, I’d probably pick Gabbert without much thought.

In 2010, the Rams did turn around somewhat, living up to their 6.8-9.2 estimated win-loss projection by going 7-9, and although the team’s statistics weren’t very good, they were worlds better than their 2009 team’s. Spagnuolo was toast of the league, and the Rams were going to turn the corner in 2011.

Right off the bat, St. Louis was smacked with the league’s hardest schedule in terms of winning percentage. Boy, did it show.

The Rams finished 2011 with a terrible 2-14 record, and a day after the season’s finale, Steve Spagnuolo was fired along with General Manager Billy Devaney. Ironically, the team went 4-0 during the preseason.

The offense was again one of the worst in the league, scoring only 12.1 points-per-game (11th worst all time) and somehow giving up 25.4 per game.

The team only passed for 9 touchdowns in total but rushed for 7, with 6 coming courtesy of Bradford to go along with 6 interceptions, 10 fumbles and a pedestrian rating of 70.5.

Steven Jackson had yet another efficient year, carrying the ball 260 times for 1,145 yards and 5 touchdowns. The next highest rusher, super-bust Cadillac Williams, only ran for 361 yards.

The defense gave up 5.6 yards-per-play and gave up 358.3 yards-per-game, while only picking off 12 passes and allowing 38 touchdowns.

The Rams have suffered through mediocre seasons the past few years under head coach Jeff Fisher (who will likely be fired), and although they don’t look poised for another 2-14 implosion, they’re 4-7 and might move back to Los Angeles, where the franchise started.

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