The St. Louis Rams celebrated the 15th anniversary of their Super Bowl championship Sunday night at Union Station, and could not have put on a better show in honoring The Greatest Show on Turf.
Rams fans were treated to a great setting, terrific food and an entertaining look back at one of the greatest stories in NFL history. More than 50 coaches, staff and players were on hand, and we got a chance to hear from almost all of them.
There were several chords that were consistently struck, and they would all be beneficial for the current Rams. Numerous players talked about the family atmosphere fostered by head coach Dick Vermeil. The offensive linemen went out for dinner every week to strengthen their bond. The defensive line talked about how fun their room was – and how you better not be sensitive to be in there. Mike Jones mentored the linebackers, and second-year safety Billy Jenkins Jr. taught Dre Bly how to work like a pro. (For any current Rams who may need to mature as a professional, you can’t go wrong by watching the likes of Chris Long, James Laurinaitis, Kenny Britt and Jake Long for their effort and work ethic.)
But it went beyond position groups; it was a team effort. Running back Justin Watson mentioned that before the regular-season finale in Philadelphia, he looked around the locker room and said to himself, “I love all these guys.” Marshall Faulk, who was as brilliant conversing about that season as he was as a player, mentioned that while he scored the touchdowns and he’s in the Hall, he wouldn’t be if it weren’t for the others.
Kevin Warren, the team’s director of player programs, told a story about how Vermeil would have the different positions over for dinner, and Warren would be at all of them. After about 10 of these dinners, Warren asked Vermeil why he had the same menu every time – salad, potatoes and prime rib. Vermeil said “because I don’t ever want these guys talking to each other about these meals, and have someone think they’re less important than anyone else.” Vermeil was the best at making everyone feel important, and Warren’s story defines his personality in leading an organization.
The other common denominator among the players from that 1999 team was how smart and competitive they were. Faulk says he knew the team was special after its first loss, in Tennessee. The heartbreaking defeat ended a season-opening six-game winning streak. Faulk said the locker room after that game was sullen, with players crying and upset. As he pointed out, everyone loves winning; but it was the obvious pain of losing that made him believe that team was special.
Kurt Warner talked about the intelligence of the offense. It seems amazing, but Mike Martz would go into games with 200 passing plays available. At times Martz would draw up plays, but the team wouldn’t practice them. Warner said on more than one occasion, Martz would call such a play, and it would be run as if it had been practiced a hundred times and wind up in the end zone for a touchdown. And Roland Williams mentioned that on the first touchdown pass of that ’99 season from Warner, he was the fifth option in the pattern.
Everyone associated with that team knew that they were in a special place and time, and that feeling permeated the evening. To a man, they were thankful to the fans, and they remember how loud and crazy the Edward Jones Dome was that season. Isaac Bruce, Bly, Az Hakim, Torry Holt and Vermeil all made a point to talk about the incredible support that team received. They know how unique what they did was. Their ascent wasn’t a run-of-the-mill worst-to-first situation because their team was so talented, and they sustained their excellence for three seasons with a team that already has one offensive Hall of Fame inductee in Faulk, and could have four more in Warner, Holt, Bruce and Orlando Pace.
Although they didn’t appear on stage, it was also great to hear that Georgia Frontiere’s offspring, Chip Rosenbloom and Lucia Rodriguez, were on hand representing their mother. Although there was some clear dysfunction in the front office before and after Vermeil’s arrival, Georgia made a great choice in bringing him back to the franchise, and he laid the groundwork for the stretch in which the St. Louis Rams enjoyed their only four winning seasons in a five-year span.
Regardless of where the franchise lands in the next few years, nobody can take away the great times and great memories we have from that run. And at Union Station on Sunday night, the team did a fantastic job of letting us relive our only Super Bowl championship.