The two best eras of pro football in St. Louis came from different organizations, in short spurts.
The 1974-1976 football Cardinals went 31-11, going to the playoffs twice behind a trend-setting passing offense.
Then, the 1999-2001 Rams went 37-11, going to two Super Bowls and three post-seasons…behind the greatest three-year offensive run in the history of the NFL.
What did those two eras have in common?Both were heavily influenced by early round offensive tackles that happened to hail from Ohio.
The 1974-’76 Big Red offense was anchored by the University of Michigan’s Dan Dierdorf,
who was in his fourth year when the winning started.Dan was the perfect offensive lineman…a superb pass blocker and a mauling run blocker for Terry Metcalf and Jim Otis.
The 1999-’01 Rams, of course, were anchored up front by Ohio State’s Orlando Pace.
The first pick in the 1997 draft hit his stride in ’99, and he turned in perfect pass protection efforts on a regular basis.Not only that, but Pace was effective enough in the run game that Marshall Faulk ran for 1,381, 1,359 and 1,382 yards in those seasons.
Dierdorf played 13 years in the NFL, was named to the all-decade team of the 70’s, and eventually was enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
Yesterday, Pace was waived after his 13th season, his first with the Chicago Bears.He didn’t play very well, leading ESPN’s Ron Jaworski to say “there’s nothing there” when discussing Pace’s ability.Orlando is likely done as an NFL player.But, along with Walter Jones and Jonathon Ogden, Pace became the gold standard for offensive tackles in this era.Every OT taken in last year’s draft and this year’s are taken with the hope that they become the “next Pace,” “next Jones,” or “next Ogden.”
It may take a while, but eventually Pace’s family will make the two hour drive southeast from Sandusky to Canton, and he’ll have a bust molded for the Hall of Fame, too.Pace is probably done as a player…but when he did play, he was one of the best ever.