The Rams have been around. I mean around. But who are the greatest Rams ever?
This is a franchise that started in Cleveland in 1937, moved to Los Angeles in 1946, then to Anaheim in 1980 (ok, that’s technically still Los Angeles), then St. Louis in 1995, and back to Los Angeles in 2016.
It has four NFL Championships, ironically one in each spot.
Today the Los Angeles Rams sit atop the NFL mountain, having won Super Bowl LVI. The franchise has produced incredible moments and some of the greatest players ever have won the blue and white, or the blue and gold.
Discerning the best Ram of all time is no easy task, I mean, just look at the defensive linemen. But I’ve been around too. Here’s picking the 10 greatest Rams ever.
10. Roman Gabriel
The Rams have had quarterbacks win Super Bowls (Kurt Warner and Matt Stafford), but they’ve never had a quarterback who was better for longer than Gabriel.
Gabriel was drafted No. 2 overall out of NC State in 1962 and became the Rams’ starter in 1966. He was Captain Comeback before there was such a thing, engineering 16 fourth-quarter comebacks. He was league MVP in 1969. Gabriel owns the record for most TD passes for a Ram quarterback (154) and most wins as a starter (74).
9. Jackie Slater
Every NFL team looks for that offensive tackle in the NFL Draft that they plug in on the left side and then don’t worry about the spot for 10 years.
Jackie Slater did it for 20.
Slater was a third-round pick out of Jackson State in 1976. He became a starter in 1979, the year the Rams went to Super Bowl XIV. He then started 211 games at the spot. It’s hard to quantify how good any offensive lineman is, but we should try with Slater.
He’s part of a line that helped clear the way for the most yards a running back ever gained in a season. One hundred and seven times a runner gained over 100 yards with Slater up front. He’s the only player in league history to play for one franchise in three different cities: L.A., Anaheim and St. Louis.
He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in 2001.
8. Elroy Hirsch
Elroy is responsible for one of the greatest nicknames in all of sports: “Crazylegs.” Think of him as the Isaac Bruce of his time, the NFL’s first sure-handed deep threat.
Hirsch played for Michigan, Wisconsin and Uncle Sam (he was a marine) before joining the All-American Football Conference in 1946 with the Chicago Rockets. After three ho-hum seasons there, he signed with the Rams in 1949. He teamed with quarterback Norm Van Brocklin to become one of the league’s greatest combinations (remember, no one threw the ball back then). In 1951 he set a new NFL record with 1,495 yards, which was ridiculous at the time. In nine years, he had 343 catches for 6,299 yards and 53 touchdowns. He’s still fourth in franchise history in yards, and third in TD receptions.
7. Isaac Bruce
His first catch of his Rams career was a 34-yard touchdown (props if you know who threw the pass). With every catch, the Rams crown in St. Louis would chant “Bruuuucce.” And the man had a lot of catches.
Bruce ranks No. 2 all-time in franchise history in touchdowns (84). His 14,109 yards receiving is the most in Rams history. He was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2020. Bruce is also the last original LA Ram to retire. He spent one season in Anaheim in 1994.
That’s where he caught his first pass, from Chris Miller.
6. Eric Dickerson
I can still see Dickerson in my head. His straight-up running form, the big goggles, the giant No. 29 just running away from people.
Dickerson only played four-and-a-half seasons with the Rams, but he was the star of the league. His rookie year in 1983 he went for 1,808 yards and was Offensive Rookie of the Year.
It’s one of the magical numbers in football. Dickerson ran for 2,105 yards in 1984, still the most by any runner in one season. But his Rams career ended quickly, after squabbling over money, he was traded to the Indianapolis Colts in 1987.
Dickerson was added to the Hall of Fame in 1999. He’s ninth all-time in career yards with 13,259.
5. Marshall Faulk
He should have won the Heisman Trophy, first of all. Faulk lost it to Gino Torretta in one of the biggest jokes ever.
Originally drafted by the Colts, they traded Faulk to the Rams for two picks in one of the most lopsided trades in history. Faulk became the catalyst for the Greatest Show on Turf. He had 2,429 all-purpose yards in the Rams’ Super Bowl winning season.
In his seven years with the Rams in St. Louis, he was three-time NFL Offensive Player of the Year. He has the most games of any player with 250 yards from scrimmage or more. He’s the only NFL player with over 6,000 yards rushing and 6,000 receiving. No one was more exciting than No. 28.
4. Deacon Jones
The man invented the word ‘Sack’ for taking down a quarterback behind the line of scrimmage.
Jones was a 14th round pick out of Mississippi Valley State in 1961 (shows you what scouting was like back then). The league didn’t keep sacks as an official stat until 1982 but has since had to go back and count Jones’ numbers. Unofficially, he had 173.5 in his career. He led the league in sacks five times and had 22 sacks in both 1964 and 1968.
Jones was part of the Fearsome Foursome (more on them later) and was named All-Pro five times and to eight Pro Bowls.
3. Jack Youngblood
A star out of Florida, Youngblood played his entire career with the Rams from 1971-1984. He took over for Deacon Jones at defensive end and was a five-time All-Pro choice.
Youngblood may be best known, however, for playing in Super Bowl XIV with a broken fibula. That’s right, a broken leg. He played in the Pro Bowl the next week too. Today they don’t even tackle in the Pro Bowl. Youngblood played on a broken leg.
Youngblood set a record for most consecutive games played by a Ram with 201. He played in 17 playoff games and blocked eight kicks. Unofficially, he had 151.5 sacks. Youngblood was put in the Hall of Fame in 2001.
2. Aaron Donald
Too soon? No way. Recency bias? Have you seen the man play?
Donald is the greatest Ram since, well, you’ll see No. 1 in a second. In his eight-year career, he’s been to eight Pro Bowls. He’s been NFL Defensive Player of the Year three times. He just turned 31.
In a league that has tilted all the rules and gameplay to the offense, Donald is the game’s most unstoppable defensive player. He already leads the franchise in quarterback hits and tackles for loss. He has 98 sacks. If he maintains this pace, he’ll set all the records.
1. Merlin Olsen
Olsen was the other big star on the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome defensive line and for 15 years he was one of the best players in the game. He was selected to the Pro Bowl 14 times. He made the All-Decade team in both the 60s and the 70s.
Olsen was adept at defending the run and the pass (kind of like No. 2 on this list). He played on 10 winning teams, but alas, never won a playoff game. Olsen retired and went to great acclaim as an NFL broadcaster and actor. He was put in the NFL Hall of Fame in 1982, the first year he was eligible.
He played 208 games for the Rams and was synonymous with the franchise until his death in 2010.