Kurt Warner is flying as high as ever. Not so his old teammates. Their catchy “Greatest Show on Turf” nickname, though, remains harder for the St. Louis Rams to kill.
Kurt Warner is flying as high as ever.
Not so his old teammates.
Their catchy “Greatest Show on Turf” nickname, though, remains harder for the St. Louis Rams (2-8) to kill.
“People like to associate us with that, especially outside of St. Louis, but it’s been three years since Coach (Mike) Martz left here,” quarterback Marc Bulger said on a teleconference. “Our team has taken on a different identity.”
One that looks like the pre-Warner Rams.
When Warner — an MVP contender again at age 37 in Arizona — first became a starting NFL quarterback in 1999, the Rams went from 4-12 to 13-3 Super Bowl champions overnight. In a five-year span, including the first season and a half with Bulger at quarterback, the Rams went to two Super Bowls, set a slew of passing and scoring records and won at least 10 games four times.
Before that, the Rams had nine consecutive losing seasons. Since then, this will be their fifth year in a row without a winning record. They are 5-21 the last two seasons.
“It’s an awkward situation for me. I wasn’t around,” said interim coach Jim Haslett, the former Saints coach who was promoted from defensive coordinator after the Rams lost their first four games. “When they had the greatest show on turf, we were playing against them. When we got here, the dynasty ended and they were moving on.”
The Bears (5-5) won’t face one of the NFL’s great offenses Sunday. Instead, Chicago will play a team without three-time 1,000-yard rusher Steven Jackson and seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace, both out with injuries. Torry Holt, the fastest receiver in NFL history to 11,000 yards, is now surrounded by three rookie receivers and, at age 32, is about to have his string of eight consecutive 1,000-yard seasons stopped. He has 412 yards.
“Based off the teams in the past, everybody thinks you should be scoring 38, 39 points a game, which is not the case any more,” Haslett said. “Players have moved on. Players got old. The offensive line, a bunch of them are gone. It’s just changed.”
Even Bulger has changed. The quarterback who broke in with a 101.5 passer rating in relief of Warner in 2002 and who passed for 4,301 yards only two years ago, is now the 28th-rated passer in the NFL (72.7) and has committed eight turnovers in his last three games.
“When Marc came here and took over for Kurt Warner, Marc walked in with an offensive line that was together for five years, he had two really good tight ends, had great receivers and they had Marshall Faulk,” Haslett said. “So all he had to do is walk in and run the offense.
“It’s flipped on him now. Now he is the old man on the block.”
The Rams’ block was in complete disarray until St. Louis fired Scott Linehan as coach. St. Louis was outscored 147-43 in its 0-4 start. After the bye week, the Rams shocked the Redskins 19-17 in their first week under Haslett, then routed the Cowboys 34-14. They almost made it three in a row against winning teams before the Patriots scored the last 10 points to pull out a 23-16 win.
“The bye week helped us take a deep breath and then we switched coaches,” Bulger said. “I know our record hasn’t reflected it, but it’s more upbeat around here.”
At least it was for awhile. The Rams have been outscored 116-32 in their last three games.
“There are a lot of holes we still need to fill, but we’re getting that rectified,” Bulger said. “It will just take some time.”
Matt Trowbridge can be reached at (815) 987-1383 or email@example.com.