Not every franchise is easily defined by four faces. And NBC Sports cousin Mike Florio on his Pro Football Talk has taken on one of the more slippery ones in the St. Louis Rams.
Or is it the Los Angeles Rams? Or Cleveland Rams?
Mike does another creditable job sifting through fact and imagined greatness but he does fall victim to some of the hype that often washes over some in the game.
Deacon Jones. Zero question here. Memories of his head-slap are exaggerated, because he was beyond great as a pass rusher and more.
Marshall Faulk. Another gimme. His trade from Indianapolis to St. Louis was the true launch point for “The Greatest Show on Turf” and for all of the pyrotechnics by the receivers in that offense, it ran through Faulk. If Mike Martz had managed to turn Matt Forte into Faulk, he might still be OC in Chicago. Well, maybe not… .
After that, though…, Mikey, Mikey, Mikey. Things jump the rails a bit.
Jack Youngblood? As Mike said during the unveiling, anybody who plays on a broken leg deserves to be on his team’s Mt. Rushmore.
But that’s the point: Youngblood was a great defensive end but is best known for playing in the Rams’ 1979 Super Bowl with a broken leg. That’s amazing; that doesn’t land you on the Mt. Rushmore for the Rams
The no-brainer for defensive linemen after Jones is Merlin Olsen. Google him. YouTube him. He missed two games in 15 years and did that level of durability with excellence. He was Mr. Inside to Jones’ Mr. Outside. If you’re doing a Rams pickup game, and you need defensive line, you take Jones and then you take Olsen. Period.
Kurt Warner probably warrants serious consideration, if only because the Rams won a Super Bowl on his watch. But Warner’s run in St. Louis was so short, really only three seasons as the starter for close to full seasons. Roman Gabriel was a more lasting face of the Rams’ franchise than that, and if Gabriel had had what Warner did for huddle-mates, it’d be “Kurt Who?”
Besides, Warner’s stature (and statue) grew enormously after he left St. Louis and went to New York and then Arizona, where he reached another Super Bowl. Being a two-time league MVP is huge, but remember: Things like MVP’s and Pro Bowls are voted-on honors, not something actually “won.”
Orlando Pace was the best left tackle in franchise history, and Jackie Slater was the best right tackle. Either one of those could have slipped in among the final four, and Pro Football Talk host Erik Kuselias made a strong case for Slater, who played 20 years for the Rams and was the standard. Either one of them, probably Slater, who was more recognized for a longer time, belongs ahead of Warner.
But fans put Eric Dickerson in the fourth spot and it’s very difficult to take issue with a Hall of Fame running back being a franchise face.
Besides, even though he, like Warner, wasn’t a Ram all that long (five years), you have to have that face on the Rams’ Mt. Rushmore. Never mind what the ’85 Bears did to him. Focus on the goggles.