The history of the Los Angeles Rams features plenty of successes as well as heartbreaks across their time spent in both St. Louis and L.A.
Of course, the team broke Los Angelinos’ hearts when they left for St. Louis in the 1990s. The Rams then spurned St. Louis when they returned to L.A. in 2015, too. They won their only title in Missouri and the state offered to use public money to build them a state-of-the-art stadium to stay. It wasn’t enough
The series of moves aside, these are the four greatest heartbreaks in Rams franchise history.
Trading Eric Dickerson
It’s lazy to limit the Rams’ greatest devastations to their Super Bowl losses. That’s why Eric Dickerson’s trade must get mentioned as well.
Los Angeles was 2-7 after a strike season before Dickerson burst on the scene. He helped the Rams make the playoffs in 1983 and in turn won Offensive Player of the Year. The Rams made the playoffs in all of Dickerson’s full seasons with the team.
Nonetheless, Dickerson was traded for a few players and draft picks midseason in 1987. Dickerson, at age 27 and in the last year of his contract at the time, was off his third consecutive season with more than 1,200 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. That included a season where he racked up 2,105 rushing yards.
Dickerson ran for three more thousand-yard seasons in Indianapolis. In return, the Rams ended up with Darryl Henley, Frank Stams, Cleveland Gary, Fred Strickland, Greg Bell, Owen Gill, Gaston Green and Aaron Cox. While a few of those players started some games for the Rams, none of them were Hall of Famers like Dickerson.
The Rams missed the postseason the year he was traded, got eliminated in the Wild Card the next year and got devastated in the NFC Championship game in 1989. Maybe their run would’ve been greater and longer with Dickerson, which hurts Rams fans to the core.
Finishing Short in Super Bowl XIV
Los Angeles made the playoffs from 1973-80, but 1979 was the closest they got to winning a Lombardi Trophy. Then-Rams head coach Chuck Knox inherited a team that won five games in two years. He took them to NFC West titles and the first back-to-back postseason runs from 1973-77. Knox’s Rams lost to the Vikings or Cowboys in the postseason every year in that run. Each year postseason heartbreak came until Knox stepped down after a 14-7 playoff loss to the Vikings in the 1977 “Mud Bowl.”
Two years later, the Rams finally broke through under head coach Ray Malasavi by beating the Cowboys in the Divisional round and defeating the Tampa Bay Buccanneers in the Championship. Still, Los Angeles came up short, 31-19, versus the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIV.
This was the ultimate reminder that the Rams wee good but just a step behind the top team. The Steelers beat the Rams for their fourth title in five years and second of back-to-back championships. Along the way, that Pittsburgh dynasty beat those same Dallas and Vikings teams the Rams could not get past.
Each of those losses hurt enough but this one hurt more because the Rams were that close to validating themselves as a great team in 1979.
An Upset in Super Bowl XXXVI
The Rams finally won over the Titans in Super Bowl XXXIV. Calling St. Louis home at the time, the 17-2 Rams looked ready to start a dynasty versus the young and unproven Bill Belichick and Tom Brady Patriots a few years later.
In 2002, Tom Brady was a 24-year-old who earned his starting job due to injury and Bill Belichick was unproven with a losing record in his first six seasons as an NFL head coach with the Cleveland Browns and New England. They faced a Rams team nicknamed “The Greatest Show on Turf” which was also one of a handful of two-score favorites in the Super Bowl ever. This Rams offense featured Hall of Famers at running back (Marshall Faulk), left tackle (Orlando Pace), wide receiver (Isaac Bruce) and quarterback (Kurt Warner).
Still, they could not overcome the Patriots. New England’s defense made it 14-3 at halftime thanks to a pick-six from Ty Law and a two-minute drill setup by a Patriots fumble recovery. The Rams would rally in the second half, but a late drive from Brady set up a 48-yard-field goal attempt with the game tied at 17. Rams fans hearts simultaneously broke as Adam Vinateri converted the field goal to make the game 20-17 as time expired. St. Louis’ dynasty was ended by an underdog team of destiny in a true David vs. Goliath matchup.
Surely, this loss hurt even more as the Pats continued to win Super Bowls. This Rams loss started New England’s run to six titles and nine Super Bowl appearances from 2002-18.
Super Bowl LIII Flop
L.A. won zero titles after that first loss to the Pats in Super Bowl XXXVI. In 2018, redemption for Rams fans was on the ticket as the Rams and Patriots presented a Super Bowl rematch.
This time, the Rams were the young and upcoming team with second-year head coach Sean McVay and quarterback Jared Goff led an explosive offense. Other key players in their prime like Todd Gurley, Brandin Cooks, Aaron Donald, Cory Littleton, Lamarcus Joyner and Marcus Peters made it feel like this was the start of a new run for Los Angeles.
On the other hand, the Pats were led by a much wiser Brady and Belichick. Cracks were showing in New England as they were upset in the Super Bowl by the Eagles the year before.
However, the L.A. offense came out flat in the lowest scoring Super Bowl ever. The game was tied at 3-3 entering the fourth quarter before Brady led a touchdown drive.
The Rams put the Patriots right where they wanted them, down only seven in the fourth. Yet, Goff threw an interception to Stephon Gilmore with less than five minutes left. Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski iced the game with a 41-yard field goal in the game’s waning moments.
This 13-3 Rams loss was devastating, especially since L.A. missed the playoffs the following year. Now, players including Cooks, Gurley, Joyner, Littleton as well as both coordinators are gone. It remains to be seen if the Rams can get to that point again with so much turnover on the roster and coaching staff.
Not to mention, Brady became the oldest quarterback to win a Super Bowl. He left the Patriots a season later, ending the Brady-Belichick run. Thus, the loss hurts Rams fans even more, as it left two great Rams teams to be remembered as nothing more than bookends for the Patriots’ historic run.
It is one more heartbreaking reminder that even the greatest Rams runs never came at the best times.