Nearly two months ago, the Hall of Fame class was whittle down to 26 semifinal candidates, six former Rams among them.
Tonight, the list of 15 finalists was released and four of those six former Rams are still in contention to be named in the 2015 NFL Hall of Fame class: Kurt Warner, Orlando Pace, Jerome Bettis and Kevin Greene.
Warner's fame needs no spin for the Rams. A Super Bowl ring, a second appearance two years later (and one later on with some other team that escapes me...) and arguably the face of the Greatest Show on Turf, Warner has the profile and notoriety needed. He is though just 34th on the all-time passing yards list. Consider that Carson Palmer and Matt Hasselbeck are 22nd and 23rd on that list. It begs the question as to what makes the better Hall of Fame case - the long-burning flame or the explosion that burns out a bit too quickly. His heights though are nearly unmatched as he comes in at fifth all-time in passing yards per game.
Pace may be the better odds-on lock to make the class of the two GSOT members. A 13-year veteran, Pace spent all but his last unlucky 13th season with the Rams. The number one overall pick in the 1997 NFL Draft, Pace came out of Ohio St. an incredibly heralded prospect and made good on the promise. The seven-time Pro Bowler was a mainstay on the Rams' line for more than a decade and for good reason. He was one of the best.
Bettis, after strangely being left of the team story of former Rams in contention back in November, spent just three years with the Rams: the final two in Los Angeles and the virgin season in St. Louis. The 10th overall pick in the 1993 NFL Draft, Bettis exploded on the NFL scene with 1,429 rushing yards in his rookie season, the 13th-best rookie season by that metric in NFL history. After those three early years, Bettis would head to Pittsburgh for 10 years and cement his legacy. Now the sixth-best running back in career rushing yards, I don't know how Bettis wouldn't be included in the class with six Pro Bowls and a Super Bowl ring on his resume. Throw in the fact his was the first Rams jersey I ever bought (which is a huge factor in Hall of Fame voting...), and Bettis should be announced as Hall of Famer the night before the Super Bowl, Jan. 31.
Kevin Greene, like Warner, was never destined for greatness. A walk-on at Auburn, Greene was actually in the ROTC program at Auburn while playing football. A fifth-round pick, Greene failed to stand out in his rookie season with the Rams. His next two seasons saw him put up a total of 13.5 sacks as he began to put his game together. In 1988, he blew up. With 16.5 sacks, Greene exploded as a legitimate pass rush threat. After eight years and 72.5 sacks, Greene would leave the Rams and log seasons with Pittsburgh, Carolina, San Francisco and...Carolina again. It's worth noting that outside of his rookie season, his worst year was in 1991 when a young up and coming defensive coordinator moved Greene to right defensive end where he struggled. Greene would transition out of the position mid-season, but too much time had been wasted in the experiment. At the end of the year, the entire Rams staff would be fired including that young defensive coordinator...Jeff Fisher.
So there ya go. Four amazing careers, four former Rams.
The voting as mentioned above will take place the day before the Super Bowl and be announced that night, Jan. 31.