Interested in rooting for one of the NFL's 32 teams -- but don't know where to start? Adam Rank has you covered with this series, which will present a handy guide to becoming an instantly rabid fan of each organization in the league. Below, find out why you should root for the Los Angeles Rams.
What you need to know so you don't sound stupid
The team started in Cleveland (Cleveland!), then moved to Los Angeles for the 1946 season, becoming the biggest thing on the West Coast. The Rams won the NFL title in 1951, the same year Norm Van Brocklin set a single-game record with 554 passing yards (a mark that still stands today). They went to Super Bowl XIV in January of 1980, but moved to Anaheim the next season. Threatened to move to Baltimore. That fell through. Signed an agreement to move to St. Louis. Denied. Some money changed hands, and the move was approved in 1995. Then the team came back to Los Angeles in 2016. So where they actually belong is kind of tough to gauge.
I'll admit: I grew up going to Rams games at Anaheim Stadium. My neighbor had season tickets, and I always found a way to sneak an invite to some preseason games. Before one game, my friend Vandy -- with a photo of Eric Dickerson in one hand and a Sharpie in the other -- called for the running back, but Dickerson just waved and ran past. It was the second-most-heartbreaking thing that would happen to us that year with Dickerson, but more on that in a moment.
Thankfully, current Rams running back Todd Gurley signed an autograph for my daughter, Ahsoka, so we're already ahead of the game.
What about all those years in St. Louis?
This is a tough one to navigate. Most folks (including me) lost interest in the Rams once they left Southern California. My mentor, Earl, still supported the club because, as he groused, he wasn't able to afford the games anyway and only watched them on TV, so the Rams' move was like your favorite TV show changing its set location. Solid point. I didn't agree. But solid point.
Similarly, most people in St. Louis have given up on this team now that it's back in Southern California. Of course, it's not like St. Louis never happened. Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt had one of the most exciting offenses in NFL history in St. Louis, leaving me to just kind of watch the games like they were my ex and I was stalking them on Facebook. That said, I'm sure most current Los Angeles Rams fans don't care about the time in St. Louis, including that Super Bowl win over the Titans. To me, it's like the titles the Lakers won in Minneapolis. Cool that they happened, but ultimately, I don't care. Sorry not sorry.
Wait, so are you back with this team?
I'm not, personally. It's like this. The Rams were your high school sweetheart. But she moved away. Became an actor. Won an Oscar. Took the stage and, instead of thanking you, said leaving you was the best thing she ever did. Then she quit acting and moved back to town to live with her parents, and now she doesn't understand why you don't want to meet up with her at La Cabana. Look, Rams: There is still some love there. We shared something special. I wish you well in the future. I hope you make a great life for yourself. But I've moved on.
Man, this should be a movie. I think Patrick Dempsey should play me, though he's going to have to shave his head.
Don't ever talk about ...
I was trick-or-treating in an Eric Dickerson jersey in 1987. I came home that night to find out he had been traded to the Colts. As you could imagine, I didn't give a crap about Halloween for a while. And it was my favorite holiday, too!
The star running back was dealt away for a bunch of draft picks in what really could have been the equivalent of the Herschel Walker trade for the Rams. But Rams decision maker John Shaw was clearly no Jimmy Johnson. In 1988 and '89, the Rams whiffed on their draft picks like so many defenders trying to catch Dickerson. Yes, Flipper Anderson was dope, but the rest were also-rans: Gaston Green, Aaron Cox and a bunch of jobbers whose main contribution on defense was allowing John Taylor to catch two 90-yard touchdown passes on a Monday night game on Dec. 11, 1989 -- the day after my birthday.
In that span, the Rams passed on future Hall of Famers Randall McDaniel, Dermontti Dawson and Thurman Thomas (and they could have drafted all those guys and still landed Flipper).
About Son of Bum
My favorite personality on today's Los Angeles Rams is new defensive coordinator Wade Phillips. This dude is hilarious. And not just in a "funny for a football coach" way, but as an actual, charming human being. If you're not following him on Twitter, please do so, because, well ...
If there was one person who could bring me back, it'd be Wade.
The Rams of the 1960s had the Fearsome Foursome (legends Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen, Rosey Grier and Lamar Lundy). The current Rams have Aaron Donald. Donald is my pick as the best defensive player in the game, or at least the best at pingpong. The dude is a beast -- I mean on the field, too.
Don't be a Gurley man
Mention the name Todd Gurley, and you're likely to get some heat from a lot of people -- mostly, of course, fantasy enthusiasts who used a first-round pick on him last season. Now, let's commence with the real talk: I'd put Gurley's miserable 2016 (885 rushing yards and six touchdowns) on then-coach Jeff Fisher, the same guy who nearly ruined Eddie George.
I know the fantasy community is up in arms about the notion that Gurley might catch fewer passes. But I'm not worried. Gurley is going to bounce back this season under new coach Sean McVay, who actually knows how to run a modern NFL offense. Gurley's 2016 campaign was the equivalent of trying to put a flash drive in a VCR -- it just wasn't meant to be. The Gurley of 2015 (1,106 yards and 10 touchdowns in 13 games) will return this season. I swear.
The NFL's Jackie Robinson
The Rams enjoyed great success in Los Angeles in the 1950s, but it wouldn't have been possible without the contributions of Kenny Washington and Woody Strode.
Black players were not allowed in the NFL from 1934 through 1946. But when the Cleveland Rams wanted to move to Los Angeles, they faced pressure to integrate their roster. The choice was easy for the Rams: Kenny Washington. (Strode would be added to make it an easier transition for Washington.)
Washington was a local standout from Lincoln High and UCLA. He was an instant draw, even though he was a few years removed from his time in Westwood. He also had a number of knee injuries, which took their toll. But still, you could see his skills, as he averaged more than 6 yards per touch that first season, and just over 7 yards per touch in three seasons.
And realize that he faced the same resentment as his college teammate, Jackie Robinson, when Robinson integrated Major League Baseball -- though it was especially hard to escape at the bottom of a pile.
The franchise's best
David "Deacon" Jones is the pick here. Jack Youngblood and Kevin Greene were my dudes when I was a kid. (I had a Jack the Ripper T-shirt, which seems wildly inappropriate to me now, though I would love to find one again.) But it's hard to argue with the dominance of Deacon. What I wrote about him after he died in 2013 sums it up:
Deacon towered over players with his 6-foot-5 frame, giving him the size to bully opponents, but it was his hands that truly set him apart. Deacon perfected the "head slap," a jarring jolt delivered to the side of an offensive lineman's head. He delivered it with the grace of an artist's stroke, but it packed the devastation of a bomb.
Jones coined the term sack, and nobody had more of them during his career and for many years after. The sack wasn't counted as an official statistic until 1982, but he unofficially had 173.5. Clearly the leader in the clubhouse.
(BTW, I know you've reached a certain level of narcissism when you're quoting your own stories.)
Not enough credit
Kenny Washington is not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. This seems like a rather jarring omission. Even if his career numbers weren't legendary, you can't argue against his contributions to the game. Thankfully, there is a group of students in upstate New York who have made it their cause to have Washington inducted.
Go get 'em, kids.
The narrative that Southern California didn't support the Rams. It's nonsense. The Rams had a lot of great fans, especially in Anaheim. There were dudes with watermelons on their heads. But what did you want us to do when the team was dismantled like it was in the movie "Major League" or something? The Dickerson trade was just the start. After all, the club still managed to be good after that. But bad personnel decisions and the swirling rumors of relocation dogged the team in the 1990s. Even Jerome Bettis as Offensive Rookie of the Year couldn't save this squad. Don't blame the fans.
I'm a Jim Everett guy. Dude threw for 3,964 yards and 31 TDs in 1988 and 4,310 yards and 29 TDs in 1989 -- back when those were gaudy numbers, not just the norm. He was second to Dan Marino in yards in '88, but got Marino in yards in '89 and touchdowns in both of those seasons. Dude was talented. (I know which joke you're going to make about him, so just stop it. Because I don't really want to hear it.) Everett was the best Rams QB of my lifetime (I wasn't alive for Norm Van Brocklin), and I don't care about you guys wearing that Mitchell & Ness Vince Ferragamo jersey that became all the rage a few years ago.
Closing fun fact
The Rams' 1951 NFL championship was the state of California's first major professional championship, and it still stands as the club's only title in Southern California.
The Rams would be a great team to root for. Despite what I said earlier, I was torn when this team returned to Southern California. I'll let my daughter decide which NFL team she's going to follow, even though she still has a Bears helmet in her room and both of my parents were ardent Bears fans. I will allow her the chance to keep the synergy with the Angels, Kings and Lakers.
Plus, there is a lot of excitement building here. They have a young, enthusiastic head coach in Sean McVay, which is awesome. After all, the retread route isn't always the best option. (I mean, unless it's Phil Jackson. That worked out well for L.A. But then again, Pat Riley was a 30-something wonder with a cool hairstyle who led L.A. to the promised land.) And the Rams are a lot closer to competing than everybody wants to give them credit for. I mean, Wade Phillips as defensive coordinator makes them instantly credible. (Again, don't forget to follow him on Twitter, because he is awesome.) It would be pretty cool if the Rams were ever to win it all out of Southern California. And that new stadium looks like it'll be amazing -- no matter when it opens.