The 1978 Los Angeles Rams: The Best Offensive Line In NFL History?

Ramstalk

The 2014 NFL Draft is just around the corner. What areas of the team should the Rams be addressing in the draft? Perhaps the 1978 Los Angeles Rams can help provide some answers to that question.

Throughout the off-season, my thoughts on the upcoming draft have remained pretty consistent: The Rams should address the offensive line and secondary in-depth. The Rams' surest path to the playoffs is the development of a dominant offensive line, and a dominant defense.

I recently read an article listing the ten best offensive lines of all time (link). There wasn't a single Rams offensive line on the list. I immediately discounted the article, for I knew the Rams of the late 70's had perhaps the best offensive line in the history of the game. The 1978 unit stands out as the best of the best.

1978 Los Angeles Rams Offensive Line

The accompanying chart presents the Los Angeles Rams' 1978 starting offensive line, and its two key reserves:

Position Player Drafted Pro Bowls All-Pro Hall of Fame Years
C Rich Saul 1970 - 8th Rd. 6 12
RG Dennis Harrah 1975 - 1st Rd. (11) 6 1 13
LG Tom Mack 1966 - 1st Rd. (2) 11 1 1999 13
RT John Williams 1968 - 1st Rd. (Colts) 8
LT Doug France 1975 - 1st Rd. (20) 2 8
C Doug Smith 1978 - UDFA 6 14
RT Jackie Slater 1976 - 3rd Rd. 7 2001 20

From 1976-1978 the Rams compiled a 32-11-1 won/loss record (1976-77 were 14 game seasons). In that three year span, the Rams reached the playoffs every season, losing twice in the conference championship. These teams excelled despite less-than-stellar QB play, from the likes of Pat Haden and Vince Ferragamo. The 1978 team featured Haden at QB, Ron Jessie and Willie Miller at WR, and John Cappelletti and Cullen Bryant at RB. A competent group, but far from Pro Bowl calibre.

Of the starters on the 1978 Rams offensive line, all but John Williams made the Pro Bowl that year. Combined, the group played 88 seasons with the Rams, earning 38 Pro Bowl selections. Tom Mack and Jackie Slater are Hall of Fame inductees.

The Rams teams of the 70's were also characterized by dominant defenses. In 1978, 5 defenders were selected to the Pro Bowl: DL's Jack Youngblood, Cody Jones, Larry Brooks, and CB's Pat Thomas and Rod Perry. Fred Dryer and Hacksaw Reynolds were other prominent members of those famed defenses, both first round selections. Of the 11 starters on defense in 1978, 4 were first round picks, and 3 were second round selections.

Tom Mack retired following the 1978 season. In 1979, the Rams drafted Kent Hill to replace him. Hill was selected in the first round - 26th overall - and played 7 seasons for the Rams, earning Pro Bowl honours 5 times. The Rams reached the Super Bowl that season, losing to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

When I think of the upcoming draft - and the current edition of the Rams - I can't help but remember with fondness those teams of the late 70's, and the success they enjoyed. Those teams are a constant reminder for me of what a powerful offensive line - and a dominant defense - can achieve. They're also a testament to one of the oldest tenet's in football: Football games are won in the trenches. And an example of what a team can accomplish, when they hit on so many of their early-round draft picks. The 1978 Rams had 10 first round - and 7 second round - picks on the roster. We can always learn a thing or two about the present - and the future - from looking back at the past.

Mack_medium

1978 - Los Angeles Rams vs San Francisco 49ers

A nostalgic look back at footage of the entire game between the Rams and Niners. The Rams defeated the Niners 27-10. The win left the Rams undefeated at 6-0. The Rams finished the season with a 12-4 record, and a berth in the conference championship. This game is an example of how our beloved Rams used to pummel the San Francisco 49ers.!

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