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  1. #1
    RamWraith's Avatar
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    Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    By Steve Reynolds


    The Greatest Show on Turf era's St. Louis Rams boasted a cast of characters whose collection of offensive talent was unlike anything the NFL has ever enjoyed. Unfortunately, age, defections and coaching controversy eventually eroded the greatness of that team.

    But, for a too brief three-year period, it was sublime for NFL fans.

    The Rams of today have made some compelling offensive acquisitions thus far this offseason. Already among the top offenses in the league, St. Louis has acquired the services of proven veterans Drew Bennett and Randy McMichael. Adding these weapons to the already impressive offensive toy box means the Rams could now potentially possess an offense that, in terms of talent, rivals the Greatest Show on Turf era (1999-2001).

    Let's compare the Rams' offense of that glorious era gone by to the 2007 incarnation to see if today's team can truly stack up:

    Quarterback: Kurt Warner vs. Marc Bulger

    Now get this straight, Rams fans: For the basis of our comparison we are using the Warner of yesteryear with the uncanny accuracy. Remember him? We're using the QB who would stand resolute in the pocket, take a Jevon Kearse clothesline to the larynx just to get the ball off, magical late '90s Warner. We are not using the backward-bent-thumbs, my-spiky-shorn-wife-wears-the-jockstrap-in-the-family, God-got-me-benched quarterback who is a shell of his former self as a backup with the Arizona Cardinals .

    Bulger seems to finally be receiving the accolades he so richly deserves and is one of the elite QBs in the game. However, Warner was a touchdown-throwing machine, and Bulger, despite his impressive play, can't stack up to the otherworldly numbers amassed by Warner during that three-year span (12,612 yards, 67.2 average completion percentage, 98 TDs). Advantage: Greatest Show.

    Number one receiver: Isaac Bruce vs. Torry Holt

    If nothing else, Rams fans, you can't complain about the quality of starting wideouts over the last 20 years. From Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson to Holt and Bruce, the Rams have enjoyed some of the best receivers the game has ever known. It's a difficult proposition at best choosing one Hall of Famer over another in this case, and during the era in question it can be argued that Holt assumed the title of "number one" at some point. Therefore, in light of these facts and as the Bruce of that era and the Holt of today are/were nothing short of incredible, we'll take the coward's way out. Advantage: Wash.

    Second receiver: Torry Holt vs. Isaac Bruce

    Holt began his career relatively slow by his standards (788 yards and 6 touchdowns in his rookie season), then proceeded to go on a tear unlike anything the NFL had ever seen, posting 1,300-plus yards for six straight seasons until injuries last year limited him to a "mere" 1,188 yards and 10 touchdowns. However, for the basis of this comparison, we are looking at Holt as the number two during the Greatest Show era and Bruce as the number two of today.

    Make no mistake: Bruce could be a number one on countless NFL squads even today. He is still among the better route runners in the league and added yet another 1,000-yard season to his collection last year. However, Holt was putting up best-receiver-in-the-league-type numbers when he was a number two, and while still potent, the Bruce of today can't compare. Advantage: Greatest Show.

    Running Back: Marshall Faulk vs. Steven Jackson

    Jackson is a rare combination of strength and speed. Like a bull sporting "Predator" dreadlocks, he is equally adept at running around or over an opponent. Faulk was a smaller package, not as strong but quicker with uncanny intelligence and agility. Faulk averaged well over 5 yards per carry in the Greatest Show days and was constantly finding the endzone.

    Jackson has proven himself to be more than a capable receiver, but Faulk could have just as easily been a wideout in the league. Jackson may get there yet, but Faulk was deservedly the league's MVP. In short, Jackson is spectacular, but Faulk was unreal. Advantage: Greatest Show.

    Third receiver: Az-Zahir Hakim vs. Drew Bennett

    Hakim was exciting in his time with the Rams and made his share of big plays. Bennett is a much larger target but nowhere near as fast as the nimble Hakim. Bennett proved he could be a number one receiver in his time in Tennessee and should be a nightmare to cover when matched against an opponent's third cornerback or linebacker. The difference maker is that Bennett has one turnover in his entire career and Hakim never met a ball he didn't fumble. Advantage: 2007 Rams.

    Tight end: Ernie Conwell/Roland Williams vs. Randy McMichael

    Conwell was a willing blocker and Williams was a capable receiver, but neither had a truly significant impact in the Greatest Show years. While only an average blocker, McMichael is an adept receiver who is already proven due to his production in Miami. He could further flourish with the Pro Bowl-caliber Bulger throwing to him. McMichael is the real deal and has the quality role players from the Greatest Show beat. Advantage: 2007 Rams.

    Offensive Line:

    Let's see, there's the young, hungry, best tackle in the league in Orlando Pace against the still-talented, oft-injured, money-hungry Pace of today. Back then, it was a young veteran line consisting of players like Tom Nutten and Pro Bowler Adam Timmerman against the wet-nosed pups of today. And don't forget the right tackle brothers from different false-starting mothers in Alex Barron and Fred Miller.

    While today's line shows promise and was instrumental in assisting Steven Jackson to his 1,500-yard breakout season, Bulger still ends up on the turf in a crumpled heap with alarming consistency. The Super Bowl era Rams line was a model of teamwork and usually kept Warner upright despite not getting a lot of help because of their coach's penchant for running four-wide sets and using Faulk so often as a receiver. Advantage: Greatest Show.

    Fourth receiver: Ricky Proehl vs. ?

    If not for Proehl's famous acrobatic touchdown grab in the 1999 season's NFC Championship against Tampa Bay, we may never have heard of the Greatest Show at all. It is uncertain whether Dane Looker will assume the number four role or if the Rams will fulfill that need in the draft. Proehl's tangible, quality contributions versus a player to be named later is a no-brainer. Advantage: Greatest Show.

    Head Coach: Mike Martz vs. Scott Linehan

    The brazen, near-omnipotent machinations of Mike Martz' "Max Q" offense, or the toned down, methodical approach employed by Scott Linehan? While most fans are happy that Martz was tossed out of Rams Nation on his ear, one thing is certain concerning his time with the club: The former coach's offense is directly responsible for two Super Bowl appearances and one world championship. Even the most ardent Martz detractors must admit to this fact.

    While the comparison to Linehan may be unfair (considering his body of work consists of only a single season), of the Rams' current head coach we can at least say one thing: that, despite his reputation for offense, he is much more conservative when compared to Mad Mike (although, truth be told, Martz makes Don Coryell look like Chuck Knox).

    Linehan hasn't exactly been a model of consistency either. Errant coaching decisions must take at least a portion of the blame for both Seattle losses last season. However, Linehan's game management skills show signs of improvement, and unlike Martz, he doesn't burn timeouts because his shoe is untied.

    When it comes down to it, Martz was the brain behind the golden age of Rams football, and you just can't argue with the Lombardi Trophy (people would think you were crazy). Advantage: Martz Madness.

    It appears as if the 2007 Rams offense doesn't quite stack up to that of the Greatest Show on Turf, being outclassed 6-2 according to the given criteria. But that doesn't mean they don't belong in the conversation; and while this comparison doesn't take defense in to account, it seems as if the Rams are one or two competent defensive tackles away from being a contender next year.

    Perhaps the offense won't be revisiting the glory days of the Greatest Show on Turf, and perhaps there will instead be a need for an entirely new moniker. If the new pieces can jell, though, it's certainly possible.

    We'll find out in September.


  2. #2
    RealRam's Avatar
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    But, for a too brief three-year period, it was sublime for NFL fans. -- S. Reynolds
    'Sublime' is the word alright! Let's go for an encore.

    Reality is, we probably will never see the power and performance of the 1999-2002 GSOT again. It's too much to ask for, that combination of players, in their prime, the madness of Coach Martz.


    ...It was the romantic and frenzy era that belonged only to the Rams and a devastating football offense that made history. History and an awesome Super Bowl victory.

  3. #3
    general counsel's Avatar
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    Lets not forget that for all its production, the gsot turned the ball over an awful lot. With peak red zone performance and better care of the ball, this offense has the potential to equal those great teams. Notwithstanding the foregoing, we need consistent offensive line play and development out of our young o lineman to have a chance to duplicate that productivity. It all starts in the trenches.

    ramming speed to all

    general counsel


  4. #4
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    I don't think most of us aren't expecting this team to be the reincarnation of GSOT. Any comparisons are unfair since not one single snap has happened in the 07-08 season. The team back then was truly a special one and will never be duplicated. Now, do I think this team measures up to their great legacy? Yes I do, at least on paper. But the real measure of this team will be when they hit the Field for a solid sixteen games. I for one am tired of living in the past and I want to win, now.

  5. #5
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    Quote Originally Posted by mikhal5569 View Post
    I for one am tired of living in the past and I want to win, now.
    Absolutely. That's how I feel.

  6. #6
    laram0's Avatar
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    I don't think Marc Bulger "is" getting the accolades he deserves. Not yet anyway.

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    sbramfan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    Definitely comparing apples to oranges.

    Linehan will not open up this offense the way Martz did. It will be ball controlled, a heavy does of Steven Jackson and the Tight ends, but not lacking in 25-30 yard strikes to Bruce/Holt, and the occasional shot down the field.

    I have a feeling we'll be asking for Linehan to open up the offense more by midseason, and like last year, he probably will after the bye. He appears to add new plays slowly, whereas Martz drew them up in the dirt the week before and had the guys on the same page as him and the plays often worked.

    Ball control works, can't argue with the Pats success. I think our turnover ratio will again be good, and hopefully even more picks on the defensive side.

    As for the comparison to the GSOT, the GSOT was small and fast, whereas this unit is now bigger, but slower. Speed could actually be a concern in getting guys open this year against fast defenses.

    Really not picturing any circus, just solid football.

  8. #8
    z.nrd Guest

    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    Quote Originally Posted by sbramfan View Post
    Definitely comparing apples to oranges.

    Linehan will not open up this offense the way Martz did. It will be ball controlled, a heavy does of Steven Jackson and the Tight ends, but not lacking in 25-30 yard strikes to Bruce/Holt, and the occasional shot down the field.

    I have a feeling we'll be asking for Linehan to open up the offense more by midseason, and like last year, he probably will after the bye. He appears to add new plays slowly, whereas Martz drew them up in the dirt the week before and had the guys on the same page as him and the plays often worked.

    Ball control works, can't argue with the Pats success. I think our turnover ratio will again be good, and hopefully even more picks on the defensive side.
    .
    Actually, I thought the biggest change was Olson calling plays.

    I thought that in the end Olson was a better play-caller than Linehan. With this personnel anyway.

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    sbramfan is offline Registered User
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    Actually, I thought the biggest change was Olson calling plays.

    I thought that in the end Olson was a better play-caller than Linehan. With this personnel anyway.

    I think you're right, it was Olsen, and also the O'line getting solidified somewhere towards the latter part of the season. But I still think Linehan sets the tone of how this offense will go, and I'm guessing we'll start out conservative, and open up the playbook as the season goes on, so I don't think we'll be getting any comparisons to the GSOT, but hopefully we'll get near that 500 points mark.

    Actually, Martz may have something going up in Detroit with similar cast to the GSOT and another year of running it up there. They'll probably put up some points.

    It'll be an interesting season.

  10. #10
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    The Hawks got a brand new secondary squad to put on the field this year. We will need it if we hope to stop you guys this year. Holt is still great. Jackson of course, can't forget about him, need to stop that run.

    Should be fun and exciting games though. The Hawks/Rams rivalry games are a couple of my favorites each year.

  11. #11
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    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    i totally agree GC... our whole season begins and ends in the trenches... the rams in the 90's had alright talent at the skill positions but no talent in the trenches... jerome bettis could of been great for the rams... there was a reason why tony banks was the rams qb for a while folks... BUT THERE WAS NO TALENT ON THE LINE... DO WE HAVE ENOUGH IN THE FRONT LINE??? HMMMM...IDK...

  12. #12
    The Shredder Guest

    Re: Rams set to rival, relive Greatest Show on Turf days

    It should read Vermeil vs. Martz vs. Linehan

    The only thing Vermeil ever did was win STL it's only SB ever and he's not even listed.

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