Are 2017 Rams better than The Greatest Show on Turf?

3 Feb 2002: Quarterback Kurt Warner
3 Feb 2002: Quarterback Kurt Warner /

It’s pretty safe to say the Los Angeles Rams have exceeded nearly everyone’s expectations, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves just yet.

Before the season opener I had the Los Angeles Rams scoring “20.0 to 21.5 points per game average by midseason.” Yes, some thought I was nuts because it wasn’t some ‘bold prediction’ given for attention. It was an honest opinion based on what I’d seen and where I knew their collective mindset was headed. So following a brief snicker and my reasons for believing explained, these non-believers served up, “You’re serious!” as more of a statement to themselves.

Here we are at the halfway point following Sunday’s thumping of the New York Giants and I’m uttering the same feelings about the team. They’re serious! This is crazy!  

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What’s going on in Los Angeles scoring-wise isn’t the only completely bonkers thing. What’s nuts to me is that from what I’ve seen, this young team still has yet to play four complete quarters of football. This should strike fear in the hearts of 31 other teams should the Rams make the postseason. Think of how they’ve grown from preseason play to now. Consider their next eight weeks under those new three-plus wise men.

If you need more assorted nuts check out tweets by @ESPNLosAngeles‘s J.B. Long:

I’ve heard it already so you probably have as well, references to the turn of the millennium’s Greatest Show on Turf — attempts at finding nicknames for the new squad. The Greatest Show on Surf stands out to me as the most ridiculous. It implies a limit to their success to the borders of California or coastal areas, not the entire NFL. Plus, these guys are less ‘show’ and more freak show.

It would be a mistake to compare this team to the GSOT. Not just because it’s still too early but because they aren’t built the same at this time. This team could be built better.

Comparing them to the Greatest Show on Turf

The offensive system of then offensive coordinator Mike Martz was based on precision and timing, not toughness. Its top two starting receivers, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, were far more naturally gifted than anything on this year’s roster. Their running back, Marshall Faulk, is still to this day the prototypical all-purpose back Frankensteined with the brain of an experienced coach. Martz himself, the mad scientist whipping up successful concoctions of yardage advancement elixirs by the hundreds.

But while this mysterious new laboratory in Los Angeles is well on its way to cloning another mad scientist in Gatorade-friendly head coach Sean McVay, the brew over fire now is different. Very different. This one’s built to last.

The receivers aren’t as precise, but tougher. The running back may not be as smart at this point in his career, but more capable of going through or over would-be tacklers to get the tough yards. The quarterback (shocking to say after last year) might be better in time at extending plays. And last but certainly not least, the front office doesn’t need a quick retirement decision from the head coach.

Say what you will, the front office is possibly the biggest upgrade

Master play-caller Martz was the hot new i-phone in demand after that magical championship season. The Rams didn’t want to lose him. And of the two, Hall of Fame head coach Dick Vermeil was likely to have appeared more expendable at the time. He’d already been there a few years with little success despite his track record.

What that front office probably didn’t know was that Vermeil and Martz were two sides of one brain. Vermeil was among the best all-time and what he did best, coach and motivate. Martz was the best during that era bar none at calling plays. And that’s it. Not a motivator, not a game manager and certainly not Bill Belichick with in-game adjustments. The man had one speed, full tilt win or bust, with a daring sense of confidence that back-fired on occasion.

This difference in then and now includes the fact that McVay might be both sides of that same brain in one body. He calls plays rather well and has appeared to inject new energy and a renewed winning desire into a group of today’s young men. Their focus is not perfect, but vastly improved over seasons past. He’s not only a great teacher, but student to boot. What knowledge McVay doesn’t possess, he openly seeks from more experienced minds, as opposed to the arrogance that may come with being the best.

The big difference in the team itself is its heart. There’s more of it throughout all combined units. The New England] Patriots of the world won’t be able to punch them in the mouth and get away with it (ala the 2001 season Super Bowl XXXVI). This team will not only punch back, but they’re more likely to punch first than any St. Louis Rams squad. The defense is better equipped and is now getting the ball back to the offense. The special teams are better and the kicking is the best.

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The Greatest Show on Turf was fitting in St. Louis, perhaps even Las Vegas. In Los Angeles, however, they do things on a broader scale. They have events, happenings and set trends. But instead of calling them the greatest anything, at this point why not just call them winners?

They have a long way to go to be included in the same conversation with the GSOT. Still, you have to admit they’re heading in that general direction at the same mind-boggling speed. Then you have to realize that should they reached their destination it’s not all by speed, fluff and show. They’re now built to handle in-game bullying and anything else that’s thrown their way.