There are two ways to talk about the Los Angeles Rams and safeties. Here, we are taking about the five best Rams safeties of all-time.
When it comes to the position on the field, the Rams have had some of the best. We will get to that.
But the safety, the two-point play on defense, the Rams have the greatest safety history of any NFL franchise.
In 1984, the Rams became the first (and only) NFL team to have three safeties in the same game against the New York Giants. The first was a blocked punt out of the end zone, the second was a sack of Phil Simms in the end zone and the third was another blocked punt recovered by the Giants in the end zone. It all happened in the third quarter.
The Rams won the game 33-12.
The Cleveland Rams, yes, the original Rams, also had the most important and controversial safety in NFL history. It was the 1945 NFL Championship Game and the Rams were in Washington. It was -8 degrees. Washington QB Sammy Baugh tried to throw a pass from his end zone and it hit the goal post which were then on the goal line. By rule (for some reason), it was an automatic safety.
Did it matter? It did! The Rams won the game 15-14, and Washington crackpot owner George Marshall went on a crusade to change the rule. The NFL did. The goal posts moved to the back of the end zone in 1974. Now if the ball hits on a pass, it’s automatically incomplete.
That’s the Rams wild (two point) safety history. These are the five best Rams safeties of all-time.
5. Dave Elmendorf
Maybe the best stat about Elmendorf is that he played nine years. And he played every game for nine years from 1971-79. No one does that anymore.
Elmendorf was a third-round pick out of Texas A&M where he was a two-sport star (the Yankees took him in the MLB Draft). He helped the Rams reach the playoffs seven times. His final game was Super Bowl XIV, the 31-19 loss to the Steelers.
Elmendorf was a hybrid run-stopper, coverage man for the Rams. He recovered 10 fumbles in his Rams career and ranks ninth in franchise history with 27 interceptions. He was put in the College Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
4. Keith Lyle
This was one of those names I saw and I was like, “oh yeah.”
Kyle Lyle could play. Lyle was a third-round pick out of Virginia and played one year for the Rams in Anaheim before they moved to St. Louis. He had an amazing four-year run from 1995-1998 with 23 interceptions, the most in the NFL at that time. Lyle helped the Rams win the Super Bowl in 1999. He was also the Rams holder on special teams.
Lyle left the Rams in 2000 and spent a season each in Washington and San Diego.
His 28 interceptions rank him fifth in Rams history.
3. Bob Waterfield
Imagine Matthew Stafford today starting at quarterback for the Rams, and then switching over to play some safety in the same game.
That was Waterfield. Football was a different game in his day and Waterfield played both ways for the Rams when he entered the league in 1945. As a matter of fact, he wasn’t just the QB and safety, he was also the place kicker and punter.
Waterfield helped the Rams win two NFL titles (1945 & 1951). He had six interceptions in 1945 and finished with 20 in his career. My favorite stat about Waterfield is he also threw 128 interceptions as quarterback.
Waterfield’s No. 7 is retired by the Rams. He was a movie star, married to Jane Russell (think Kim Kardashian of the 50s). He became head coach of the Rams from 1960-1962 and was put in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1965.
2. Nolan Cromwell
I’m biased, Nolan Cromwell may have been my favorite Rams player growing up. I don’t know why. Maybe it was the No. 21 he wore.
The 6-foot-1, 200-pound Cromwell was The Goods. He was a second-round pick out of Kansas where he was a football and track star. He played 11 years with the Rams, taking over as free safety in 1979. The Rams made the playoffs seven times and went to Super Bowl XIV, but in the 80s, they couldn’t get past Joe Montana and the Niners.
Cromwell made four Pro Bowls, was a three-time All-Pro and a member of the All-Decade team for the 80s. He is not in the Hall of Fame.
Cromwell finished with 37 interceptions in his Rams career, second most all time. He married a Rams cheerleader. After his playing days, he coached with the Rams and the Packers.
1. Eddie Meador
He came from nowhere and became an NFL star. Meador is the Rams all-time leader in interceptions with 46. He was a seventh-round pick in 1959 out of that famous football factory Arkansas Tech (sarcasm) where he played both ways in football and also ran track and played hoops.
Meador made the Pro Bowl six times and was twice All-Pro. He recovered 18 fumbles in his career and blocked a whopping 10 kicks. He was nicknamed ‘Mouse Meador’ or the ‘Rams Little Assassin’. Meador played when the Rams had the legendary Fearsome Foursome up front, but Meador allowed those guys to get after it because he had the back end so well covered.