The Los Angeles Rams are one of the most exciting teams in the National Football League.
If you are still in the position of deciding who to root for out of the Rams or Cincinnati Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, at least you know with Los Angeles you’ll never be bored. This is a star-studded team that is filled with big names and recognizable players — and as an organization they are never afraid to make a splash.
This is the brief history of the LA Rams and everything you need to know about their journey to the 2022 Super Bowl, which will be played in their home stadium of SoFi.
Los Angeles has not always been their home
(In fact, the team was founded in 1936 as the Cleveland Rams)
Cleveland Rams: 1936-1945
There’s not much to note about the initial years of the team in Cleveland, but that changed when Hall of Fame owner Dan Reeves bought the Rams in 1941. Cleveland had one of their better seasons in Reeves’ first year with the team, finishing in third place in 1942.
But in 1943 the United States was facing a world war — and it was all hands on deck for the men of the time. The Rams did not have enough players to field a team, and even Reeves had been drafted into the military. They suspended their play for one season.
The Rams resumed operations and drafted Hall of Fame quarterback Bob Waterfield in the fifth round out of UCLA. Waterfield was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL as a rookie and led the team to a 9-1 record and a NFL championship (pre-Super Bowl era).
Ever wonder why you don’t see #7 on any Rams uniforms? Bob Waterfield holds that number forever as he rallied the Cleveland Rams to win the teams first championship in 1945. He was named 1st or 2nd team All-NFL 5 times. One of the game’s most versatile players! pic.twitter.com/2zgAVIL0PR— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) May 6, 2020
With the emergence of the All-American Football Conference and the threat of the deep-pocketed Cleveland Browns in 1945, the Rams packed up shop and relocated to Los Angeles. Reeves hoped that the more mild LA weather would help fill seats and grow the team’s following.
First stint in Los Angeles area: 1946-1994
The LA Rams had over 95,000 fans at their first preseason game in their new home city. The strong attendance continued for well over a decade - and the Rams set records and had multiple games with over 100,000 fans.
In the mid-1960’s, Los Angeles claimed one of the best defensive line units to ever play the sport of football — the Fearsome Foursome. Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy formed a formidable front that helped the Rams become consistently one of the best teams in the NFL from 1963 to about 1967 under head coach George Allen.
Deacon Jones backdooring the sweep to his side@AaronDonald97 pic.twitter.com/EgzlcF8bhZ— ᑭᖇO ᖴOOTᗷᗩᒪᒪ ᒍOᑌᖇᑎᗩᒪ (@NFL_Journal) February 3, 2022
LA won seven straight NFC West titles from 1973 to 1979, and the team made their first Super Bowl appearance (post NFL merger) during the 1979 season. The Rams and quarterback Vince Ferragamo lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Terry Bradshaw with a final score of 31-19.
Not only did the Rams lose the NFL championship in 1979, but they also lost owner Carroll Rosenbloom to a drowning accident. Georgia Frontiere inherited a majority ownership stake in the team and assumed total control of operations. Frontiere moved the Rams to Anaheim, California because the large seating capacity of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum was resulting in TV blackouts for the LA market. The Oakland Raiders relocated to LA in 1980 and laid claim to the Coliseum. In retrospect, this effectively split the Rams’ following in half.
.@EricDickerson— Old Time Football (@Ol_TimeFootball) May 3, 2021
Georgia Frontiere #Rams
Tonight’s yearbook 1985 Rams pic.twitter.com/gMjsxJRQ2M
The Rams hired head coach John Robinson from USC in 1983, and he most notably led the team to the NFC championship game in 1989. Los Angeles were badly beaten by Joe Montana and the San Francisco 49ers in that game — the final score being 30-3.
LA struggled the following two seasons, recording a combined record of 8-24. It was an end of an era.
St. Louis Rams: 1995-2015
The Rams’ stint in St. Louis in many ways began with a lot of similarities to how it ended: discontent with their home stadium and lawyers (lots of them). The NFL initially rejected Frontiere’s effort to relocate the team to St. Louis, but after a threatened lawsuit the league owners stopped resisting.
Frontiere hired head coach Dick Vermeil in 1997, but the coach’s first two years with the team were underwhelming. The 1999 season seemed to be on track to continue this trend after starting quarterback Trent Green suffered a season-ending injury during the preseason.
OTD 1999: In his first year with the #StLouis Rams, QB Trent Green suffers a season-ending knee injury on a hit from Chargers safety Rodney Harrison in a preseason game.— Kevin Gallagher (@KevG163) August 28, 2020
Head coach Dick Vermeil: "We will rally around Kurt Warner, and we will play good football."
St. Louis rallied around a former Arena Football League quarterback and part-time grocer and they played good football ... really, really good football.
Hall of famer Kurt Warner led a high-flying offense, known as The Greatest Show on Turf, all the way to a Super Bowl his first season as the starting quarterback for the Rams. Given STL’s recent on-field struggles and Warner’s lack of NFL pedigree, it was a stretch of success that defied all odds. The Rams beat the Tennessee Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV, which still stands as the team’s only NFL championship in the post-Super Bowl era.
4th and 15? No problem. Kurt Warner finds the Wizard of Az (Hakim) for 6!— RAMS ON FILM (@RamsOnFilm) April 5, 2021
You just had to be there. Greatest Show On Turf pic.twitter.com/BkmFSZBvWP
St. Louis also earned a trip to the Super Bowl in 2001, but the Rams ran into an eventual dynasty. With a tied ball game and time expiring, the Patriots could have taken the contest to overtime — instead they put the game in young quarterback Tom Brady’s hands and he got them into position for the game-winning kick as time expired.
The remainder of the team’s years in St. Louis are marred by a lack of success. Between 2002 and 2015 the Rams accumulated a 76-140 record.
The Rams got their first win of 2008 over the Washington Redskins with the help of Donnie Avery.#stlrams pic.twitter.com/EuJeX5uoez— St Louis Rams History (@STLRamsHistory) January 26, 2022
In 2010, Stan Kroenke, who at the time held a minority ownership stake in the team, elected to use his right of first refusal to deny Shahid Khan (now owner of the Jacksonville Jaguars) an opportunity to purchase the franchise and instead Kroenke bought the remaining 60 percent. Kroenke purchased a parcel of land near the Los Angeles airport in early 2014 — this site would later be developed into Hollywood Park and SoFi Stadium.
With Kroenke and the Rams displeased with the St. Louis stadium, of which the city had promised to maintain in the top 25 percent of the league, the team left St. Louis and returned to Los Angeles.
Second stint in Los Angeles: 2016-Current
The Rams have made exciting acquisitions of players throughout their time in LA, but the first of these moves was trading up to the number one overall selection in the 2016 NFL Draft in order to select California quarterback Jared Goff. Goff’s first season went about as poorly as possible, and head coach Jeff Fisher was fired during the regular season.
On Jan. 12, 2017 — exactly one year after announcing their relocation to Los Angeles — the Rams hired the youngest head coach in the history of the NFL: Sean McVay. He and Goff instantly formed a dynamic pairing that revolutionized the modern passing game. LA almost universally deployed 11 personnel, meaning they’d have one running back, one tight-end, and three receivers on the field for the vast majority of their offensive plays. McVay described the principles of his system as the “illusion of complexity”, meaning the goal is for plays to start out looking the same in order to lull the defense into giving up chunk yardage plays.
The Rams earned a trip to the Super Bowl in McVay’s second season with the team — and the head coach was the youngest to take his team to the big game. He showed his lack of experience against Bill Belichick and the Patriots, indicating after the game that he had been “outcoached.”
Sean McVay says he “got outcoached” and is “numb” right now. pic.twitter.com/IAjwTrG3eA— Sheena Quick (@Sheena_Marie3) February 4, 2019
It took some time, but LA made some changes in the fallout of the 2019 Super Bowl loss:
First, in order to complement their leading offensive schemes, the Rams hired Brandon Staley (now HC of the Los Angeles Chargers) as defensive coordinator. Staley was tasked with installing Vic Fangio’s style of defense that keeps a roof of coverage and allows secondary defenders to play from depth. The goal of this system is to stop explosive passing plays.
The second move the Rams made was a swap at the quarterback position, trading five-year starter Jared Goff and significant draft capital to the Detroit Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. McVay and Goff’s relationship had frayed at the edges, and the hope was that this trade could allow the coach to tap into offensive approaches that had not been available to them with Goff.
2021 Los Angeles Rams
McVay and Stafford seemed to click almost immediately — and the team jumped out to a 7-1 record during the 2021 season. The Rams were among the best offenses in the NFL at creating chunk yardage through a downfield passing attack — until they hit a three-game slide in the middle of the season.
This Stafford guy can SLING IT— Los Angeles Rams (@RamsNFL) September 13, 2021
His first touchdown as a Ram to @VanJefferson12! pic.twitter.com/t1938rUAJ0
Sticking to their DNA, the Rams acquired one of the best pass rushers in the history of the NFL in Von Miller just prior to the league’s trade deadline. Miller joined a defensive unit with three-time Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and star corner Jalen Ramsey. Similar to Stafford, Ramsey is a key player the Rams added via a blockbuster trade in 2019. Los Angeles also signed flashy receiver Odell Beckham, Jr. just after acquiring Miller.
The Rams finished the regular season on a 6-1 tear, dropping a tough Week 18 loss to the 49ers - which marked their sixth loss in a row to their divisional rival.
The additions of Stafford, Miller, and OBJ proved invaluable for LA in the playoffs:
- Miller and Donald pressured the young Kyler Murray into having one of the worst games of his career in the wildcard round. Beckham also completed a 40-yard pass in this game.
- Tom Brady rallied the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from a 27-3 second half deficit in order to tie the game late in the fourth quarter. Stafford completed a bomb with less than a minute left to Cooper Kupp, and kicker Matt Gay converted the game-winning field goal.
- OBJ had the best game of his recent career in the NFC championship game. Stafford once again led his team into scoring position and set Gay up for the winning kick as the Rams finally snapped their losing streak to San Francisco.
LA is headed back to the Super Bowl for the second time under McVay. This time around things feel different.
#Rams Von Miller and Aaron Donald know they're not done.— Dov Kleiman (@NFL_DovKleiman) February 2, 2022
"Love you bro. We got one more game."pic.twitter.com/0grysmocU8
The Rams are still looking for their first Super Bowl victory as a Los Angeles-based team, and now they have a chance to earn this accolade in their home stadium. It seems the young head coach learned tough lessons from his first trip to the championship, but now he will be coaching against one of his former assistants — Zac Taylor — who was a member of the 2019 staff that made to the big game.
Will McVay use his experience to out-maneuver Taylor and the Bengals? Stafford and the other high-profile additions are playing some of their best football of late, though they will face a tough test in Joe Burrow and a young, eager Cincinnati team.
How will history remember Super Bowl LVI and the 2021 Rams?