Cleveland Rams (1936–1945)
The Cleveland Rams were founded in 1936 by Ohio attorney Homer Marshman and player-coach Damon Wetzel, a former Ohio State star who also played briefly for the Chicago Bears and Pittsburgh Pirates. Wetzel, who served as general manager, selected the "Rams", because his favorite team was the Fordham Rams from Fordham University; Marshman, the principal owner, also liked the name choice. The team was part of the newly formed and finished the 1936 regular season in second place with a 5–2–2 record, trailing only the 8–3 record of league champion Boston Shamrocks.
The Rams joined the on February 12, 1937, and were assigned to the Western Division. The Rams would be the fourth in a string of short-lived teams based in Cleveland, following the Cleveland Tigers, Cleveland Bulldogs, and Cleveland Indians. From the beginning, they were a team marked by frequent moves, playing in three stadiums over several losing seasons. However, the team featured the Most Valuable Player of the 1939 season, rookie .
In June 1941, the Rams were bought by Dan Reeves and Fred Levy Jr. Reeves, an heir to his family's grocery-chain business that had been purchased by Safeway, used some of his inheritance to buy his share of the team. Levy's family owned the Levy Brothers department store chain in Kentucky and he also came to own the Riverside International Raceway. Levy owned part of the Rams, with Bob Hope another of the owners, until Reeves bought out his partners in 1962.
The franchise suspended operations and sat out the 1943 season because of a shortage of players during World War II and resumed playing in 1944. The team finally achieved success in 1945, which was their last season in Ohio. took over as head coach that season. Quarterback Bob Waterfield, a rookie from UCLA, passed, ran, and place-kicked his way to the league's Most Valuable Player award and helped the Rams achieve a 9–1 record and winning their first NFL Championship, a 15–14 home field victory over the Washington Redskins on December 16. The margin of victory was provided by a : Redskins great Sammy Baugh's pass bounced off the goal post, then backward, through his team's own end zone. The next season, NFL rules were changed to prevent this from ever again resulting in a score; instead, it would merely result in an incomplete pass.
First Los Angeles Rams era (1946–1994)
1946–1948: Starting over in Los Angeles
On January 12, 1946, Reeves was denied a request by the other NFL owners to move the Cleveland Rams to Los Angeles and the then-103,000-seat Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. He threatened to end his relationship with the NFL and get out of the professional football business altogether unless the transfer to Los Angeles was permitted. A settlement was reached and, as a result, Reeves was allowed to move his team to Los Angeles. Consequently, the NFL became the first professional coast-to-coast sports entertainment industry.
From 1933, when Joe Lillard left the Chicago Cardinals, through 1946, there were no . After the Rams had received approval to move to Los Angeles, they entered into negotiations to lease the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The Rams were advised that a precondition to them getting a lease was that they would have to integrate the team with at least one African-American; the Rams agreed. Subsequently, the Rams signed on March 21, 1946. The signing of Washington caused "all hell to break loose" among the owners of the NFL franchises. The Rams added a second black player, Woody Strode, on May 7, 1946, giving them two black players going into the 1946 season.
The Rams were the first team in the NFL to play in Los Angeles (the 1926 Los Angeles Buccaneers were strictly a traveling team), but they were not the only professional football team to play its home games in the Coliseum between 1946 and 1949. The upstart had the Los Angeles Dons compete there as well. Reeves was taking a gamble that Los Angeles was ready for its own professional football team – and suddenly there were two in the City of Angels. Reeves was proven to be correct when the Rams played their first pre-season game against the Washington Redskins in front of a crowd of 95,000 fans. The team finished their first season in L.A. with a 6–4–1 record, second place behind the Chicago Bears. At the end of the season Walsh was fired as head coach. The Coliseum was home for the Rams for more than 30 years, but the facility was already over 20 years old on the day of the first kickoff.
In 1948, halfback Fred Gehrke painted horns on the Rams' helmets, making the first helmet emblem in pro football. Late in 1949, the Dons were folded into the Rams when the ceased operations.
1949–1956: Three-end formation
spent nine seasons with the Los Angeles Rams from 1949 to 1957
The Rams' first heyday in Southern California was from 1949 to 1955, when they played in the pre-Super Bowl era NFL Championship Game four times, winning once in 1951. During this period, they had the best offense in the NFL, even though there was a quarterback change from Bob Waterfield to Norm Van Brocklin in 1951. The defining offensive players of this period were wide receiver Elroy Hirsch, Van Brocklin and Waterfield. Teamed with fellow Hall of Famer Tom Fears, Hirsch helped create the style of Rams football as one of the first big play receivers. During the 1951 championship season, Hirsch posted a stunning 1,495 receiving yards with 17 touchdowns. The popularity of this wide-open offense enabled the Los Angeles Rams to become the first pro football team to have all their games televised in 1950.
1957–1964: Newcomers to L.A. and record attendance
In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Rams went from being the only major professional sports franchise in Southern California and Los Angeles to being one of five. The Los Angeles Dodgers moved from Brooklyn in 1958, the Los Angeles Chargers of the upstart was established in 1960, the Los Angeles Lakers moved from Minneapolis in 1960, and the Los Angeles Angels were awarded to Gene Autry in 1961. In spite of this, the Rams continued to thrive in Southern California. In the first two years after the Dodgers moved to California, the Rams drew an average of 83,681 in 1958 and 74,069 in 1959. The Rams were so popular in Los Angeles that the upstart Chargers chose to relocate to San Diego rather than attempt to compete with the immensely popular Rams. The Los Angeles Times put the Chargers plight as such: "Hilton [the Chargers owner at the time] quickly realized that taking on the Rams in L.A. was like beating his head against the wall."
During this time, the Rams were not as successful on the field as they had been during their first decade. The team's combined record from 1957 to 1964 was 24–35–1 (.408), but the Rams continued to fill the cavernous Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on a regular basis. While the National Football League's average attendance ranged from the low 30,000s to the low 40,000s during this time, the Rams were drawing anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 fans more than the league average. In 1957, the Rams set the all-time NFL attendance record that stood until 2006 and broke the 100,000 mark twice during the 1958 campaign.
1965–1969: The Fearsome Foursome
The 1960s were defined by the great defensive line of Rosey Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones, and Lamar Lundy, dubbed the "." It was this group of players who restored the on-field luster of the franchise in 1967 when the Rams reached (but lost) the conference championship under head coach . That 1967 squad became the first NFL team to surpass one million spectators in a season, a feat the Rams repeated the following year. In each of those two years, the L.A. Rams drew roughly double the number of fans that could be accommodated by their current stadium for a full season.
George Allen led the Rams from 1966 to 1970 and introduced many innovations, including the hiring of a young Dick Vermeil as one of the first special teams coaches. Though Allen would enjoy five straight winning seasons and win two divisional titles in his time with the Rams he never won a playoff game with the team, losing in 1967 to Green Bay 28–7 and in 1969 23–20 to Minnesota. Allen would leave after the 1970 season to take the head coaching job for the Washington Redskins.
Quarterback Roman Gabriel played eleven seasons for the Rams from 1962 to 1972. From 1967 to 1971, Gabriel led the Rams to either a first- or second-place finish in their division every year. He was voted the MVP of the NFL in 1969, for a season in which he threw for 2,549 yards and 24 TDs while leading the Rams to the playoffs. During the 1970 season, Gabriel combined with his primary receiver for 51 receptions totaling 859 yards. This was the best of their eight seasons as teammates.
In 1972, Chicago industrialist Robert Irsay purchased the Rams for $19 million and then traded the franchise to Carroll Rosenbloom for his Baltimore Colts and cash. The Rams remained solid contenders in the 1970s, winning seven straight NFC West championships between 1973 and 1979. Though they clearly were the class of the in the 1970s along with the Dallas Cowboys and Minnesota Vikings, they lost the first four conference championship games they played in that decade, losing twice each to Minnesota (1974, 1976) and Dallas (1975, 1978) and failing to win a league championship.
1973–1978: NFC West champions
giving his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction speech in 2001
The Rams' head coach for this run was Chuck Knox, who led the team through 1977. His teams featured unremarkable offenses carried into the playoffs annually by elite defensive units. The defining player of the 1970s L.A. Rams was Jack Youngblood. Youngblood was called the 'Perfect Defensive End' by fellow Hall of Famer Merlin Olsen. His toughness was legendary, notably playing on a broken leg during the Rams' run to the 1980 Super Bowl. His blue-collar ethic stood in opposition to the perception that the Rams were a soft 'Hollywood' team. However, several Rams players from this period took advantage of their proximity to Hollywood and crossed over into acting after their playing careers ended. Most notable of these was Fred Dryer, who starred in the TV series Hunter from 1984 to 1991, as well as Olsen, who retired after 1976, starred in Little House on the Prairie. During the 1977 offseason, the Rams, looking for a veteran quarterback, acquired Joe Namath from the Jets. In spite of a 2-1 start to the regular season, Namath's bad knees rendered him nearly immobile and after a defeat in Chicago, he never played again. With Pat Haden at the helm, the Rams won the division and advanced to the playoffs, but lost at home to Minnesota. Chuck Knox left for the Bills in 1978, after which Ray Malavasi became head coach. Going 12-4, the team won the NFC West for the sixth year in a row and defeated the Vikings, thus avenging their earlier playoff defeat. However, success eluded them again as they were shut out in the NFC Championship by the Cowboys.
1979: First Super Bowl appearance
It was the Rams' weakest divisional winner (an aging 1979 team that only achieved a 9-7 record) that achieved the team's greatest success in that period. Led by third-year quarterback Vince Ferragamo, the Rams shocked the heavily favored and two-time defending NFC champion Dallas Cowboys 21-19 in the divisional playoffs, then shut out the upstart Tampa Bay Buccaneers 9-0 in the conference championship game to win the and reach their first Super Bowl. Along with Ferragamo, key players for the Rams were halfback Wendell Tyler, offensive lineman Jackie Slater, and Pro Bowl defenders Jack Youngblood and Jack "Hacksaw" Reynolds.
The Rams' opponent in their first Super Bowl was the defending champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The game was a virtual home game for the Rams as it was played in Pasadena at the Rose Bowl. Although some oddsmakers set the Rams as a 10½ point underdog, the Rams played Pittsburgh very tough, leading at halftime 13-10 and at the end of the third quarter 19-17. In the end, however, the Steelers asserted themselves, scoring two touchdowns in the fourth quarter and shutting down the Rams offense to win their fourth Super Bowl, 31-19.
1980–1982: The move to Anaheim
The Rams playing in their inaugural season at Anaheim Stadium in 1980.
Prior to the 1979 NFL season, owner Carroll Rosenbloom died in a drowning accident, and his widow, Georgia Frontiere, inherited 70 percent ownership of the team. Frontiere then fired stepson Steve Rosenbloom and assumed total control of Rams operations. As had been planned prior to Rosenbloom's death, the Rams moved from their longtime home at the Coliseum to Anaheim Stadium in nearby Orange County in 1980.
The reason for the move was twofold. First, the NFL's blackout rule forbade games from being shown on local television if they did not sell out within 72 hours of the opening kickoff. As the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum seated 92,604 at the time, it was rarely possible to sell that many tickets even in the Rams' best years, and so most Rams home games were blacked out. Second, this move was following the population pattern in Southern California. During the 1970s and 1980s, the decline of manufacturing industries in the northeastern United States combined with the desire of many people to live in a warmer climate caused a large-scale population shift to the southern and western states. As a result, many affluent new suburbs were built in the Los Angeles area. Anaheim Stadium was originally built in 1966 to be the home of the California Angels. To accommodate the Rams' move, the ballpark was reconfigured and enclosed to accommodate a capacity of 69,008 in the football configuration. With their new, smaller home, the Rams had no problem selling out games.
In 1980, the team posted an 11-5 record, but only managed a wild card spot and were sent packing after a loss to the Cowboys. Age and injuries finally caught up with the Rams in 1981, as they only won six games and missed the playoffs for the first time in nine years; adding to the woes was Ferragamo being wrested away by the 's Montreal Alouettes that year (although he returned the following season). After the 1982 season was shortened to nine games by a strike, the Rams went 2-7, the worst record in the NFC.
In 1982, the Oakland Raiders moved to Los Angeles and took up residence in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. The combined effect of these two moves was to divide the Rams' traditional fan base in two. This was coupled with the early 1980s being rebuilding years for the club, while the Raiders were winners of Super Bowl XVIII in the 1983 season. Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Lakers won championships in 1980 and 1982 en route to winning five titles in that decade, the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series in 1981 and 1988, and even the Los Angeles Kings made a deep run in the playoffs in 1982, and acquired fan interest following the arrival of Wayne Gretzky in 1988. As a result, the Rams declined sharply in popularity during the 1980s, despite being playoff contenders for most of the decade.
1983–1991: Robinson takes over the Rams and the Dickerson era
, one of the best running backs
in history, was most famous for his time with the Los Angeles Rams. In 1984, Dickerson rushed for 2,105 yards in the season, a record that still stands today.
The hiring of coach John Robinson in 1983 provided a needed boost for pro football in Orange County. The former coach began by cutting the aged veterans left over from the 1970s teams. His rebuilding program began to show results when the team rebounded to 9-7 in 1983 and defeated Dallas in the playoffs. However, the season ended after a rout at the hands of the defending champion Redskins. Another trip to the playoffs in 1984 saw them lose to the Giants. They made the NFC Championship Game in 1985 after winning the division, where they were shut out by the eventual champion Chicago Bears 24-0.
The most notable player for the Rams during that period was running back Eric Dickerson, who was drafted in 1983 out of and won the Rookie of the Year award. In 1984, Dickerson rushed for 2,105 yards, setting an NFL record. Dickerson ended his five hugely successful years for the Rams in 1987 by being traded to the Indianapolis Colts for a number of players and draft picks after a bitter contract dispute, shortly after the players' strike that year ended. Dickerson was the Rams' career rushing leader until 2010, with 7,245 yards. Despite this trade, the Rams remained contenders due to the arrival of the innovative offensive leadership of Ernie Zampese. Zampese brought the intricate timing routes he had used in making the San Diego Chargers a state-of-the-art offense. Under Zampese, the Rams rose steadily from 28th rated offense in 1986 to 3rd in 1990. The late 1980s Rams featured a gifted young quarterback in Jim Everett, a solid rushing attack and a fleet of talented wide receivers led by Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson.
After a 10-6 season in 1986, the Rams were booted from the playoffs by Washington. After one game of the 1987 season was lost to the players' strike, the NFL employed substitutes, most of which were given derogatory nicknames (in this case the Los Angeles Shams). After a 2-1 record, the Rams' regulars returned, but the team only went 6-9 and did not qualify for the postseason.
The Rams managed to return in 1988 with a 10-6 record, but then were defeated by Minnesota in the wild card round. Los Angeles won the first five games of 1989, including a sensational defeat of the defending champion 49ers. They beat the Eagles in the wild card game, then beat the Giants in overtime before suffering a 30-3 flogging at the hands of the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game.
Although it wasn't apparent at the time, the 1989 NFC Championship Game was the end of an era. The Rams did not have another winning season for the rest of their first tenure in Los Angeles before relocating to St. Louis. They crumbled to 5-11 in 1990, followed by a 3-13 season in 1991.
1992–1994: Exit from Southern California
The Rams hosting the Atlanta Falcons at Anaheim Stadium in 1991
Robinson was fired at the end of the 1991 season. However, the return of Chuck Knox as head coach, after his successful stints as head coach of the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks, did not boost the Rams' fortunes. His run-oriented offense marked the end of the Zampese tenure in 1993. Knox' game plans called for an offense that was steady, if unspectacular. Unfortunately for the Rams, Knox's offense was not only aesthetically unpleasing but dull as well, especially by 1990s standards. The Rams finished last in the NFC West during all three years of Knox' second stint, and were never serious contenders during this time.
As the losses piled up and the team was seen as playing uninspired football, the Rams' already dwindling fan base was reduced even further. By 1994, support for the Rams had withered to the point where they were barely part of the Los Angeles sports landscape. With sellouts becoming fewer and far between, the Rams saw more of their games blacked out in Southern California. One of the few bright spots during this time was Jerome Bettis, a bruising running back from Notre Dame. Bettis flourished in Knox' offense, running for 1,429 yards as a rookie, and 1,025 in his sophomore effort.
As had become increasingly common with sports franchises, the Rams began to blame much of their misfortune on their stadium situation. With Orange County mired in a deep recession resulting largely from defense sector layoffs, the Rams were unable to secure a new or improved stadium in the Los Angeles area, which ultimately cast their future in Southern California into doubt.
By 1995, the Rams franchise had withered to a shadow of its former self. Accusations and excuses were constantly thrown back and forth between the Rams fan base, ownership, and local politicians. Many in the fan base blamed the ownership of Georgia Frontiere for the franchise's woes, while ownership cited the outdated stadium and withering fan support.
Frontiere finally gave up and decided to move the Rams franchise to St. Louis. However, on March 15, 1995, the other league owners rejected her bid to move the franchise by a 21–3–6 vote. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue stated after rejecting the move, "This was one of the most complex issues we have had to approach in years. We had to balance the interest of fans in Los Angeles and in St. Louis that we appreciate very much. In my judgment, they did not meet the guidelines we have in place for such a move." The commissioner also added: "Once the bridges have been burned and people get turned off on a sports franchise, years of loyalty is not respected and it is difficult to get it back. By the same token, there are millions of fans in that area who have supported the Rams in an extraordinary way. The Rams have 50 years of history and the last 5 or so years of difficult times can be corrected."
However, Frontiere responded with a thinly veiled threat at a lawsuit. The owners eventually acquiesced to her demands, wary of going through a long, protracted legal battle. Tagliabue simply stated that "The desire to have peace and not be at war was a big factor" in allowing the Rams move to go forward. In a matter of a month, the vote had gone from 21–6 opposed to 23–6 in favor, with the Raiders, who left the Coliseum and return to Oakland later in 1995, abstaining. Jonathan Kraft, son of Patriots owner Robert Kraft, elaborated on the commissioner's remarks by saying that "about five or six owners didn't want to get the other owners into litigation, so they switched their votes." Only six franchises remained in opposition to the Rams move from Los Angeles: the Pittsburgh Steelers, New York Giants, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills, Arizona Cardinals (who played in St. Louis from 1960 to 1987), and Washington Redskins. After the vote was over, Dan Rooney publicly stated that he opposed the move of the Los Angeles Rams because "I believe we should support the fans who have supported us for years."
St. Louis Rams (1995–2015)
1995–1998: Starting over in St. Louis, Dick Vermeil era
The 1995 and 1996 seasons, the Rams' first two in St. Louis, were under the direction of former head coach Rich Brooks. Their most prolific player from their first two seasons was the fan favorite Isaac Bruce. Then in 1997, Dick Vermeil was hired as the head coach. That same year, the Rams traded up in the 1997 NFL draft to select future All-Pro offensive tackle, Orlando Pace.
1999–2004: The Greatest Show on Turf
The 1999 season started with quarterback Trent Green injuring his leg in preseason play, which left him sidelined for the entire season; the starting job fell to backup Kurt Warner, who came out of college as an undrafted free agent and whose career had included stints with the Iowa Barnstormers of the and the Amsterdam Admirals of NFL Europe. Vermeil told the public that the Rams would "Rally around Kurt Warner, and play good football." Warner synced up with Marshall Faulk and Isaac Bruce to lead the Rams to one of the most prolific offenses in history, posting 526 points for the season. This was the beginning of what later became known as "The Greatest Show on Turf". Warner shocked the league by throwing for 41 touchdowns. This led the Rams to Super Bowl XXXIV, where they beat the Tennessee Titans, 23–16. Warner was named the Most Valuable Player of the Super Bowl. Following the Rams' win, Vermeil retired, and Vermeil's offensive coordinator Mike Martz was hired as head coach. He managed to take the Rams to Super Bowl XXXVI, where the team lost to the New England Patriots 20–17. Martz helped the Rams establish a pass-first identity that posted an NFL record number of points over the course of three seasons (1999–2001). However, in the first round in the 2004 draft, the Rams chose running back Steven Jackson as the 24th pick of the draft.
2005–2011: Playoff drought
Although the Rams were one of the most productive teams in NFL history at the time, head coach Martz was criticized by many as careless with game management. He often feuded with several players as well as team president and general manager, Jay Zygmunt. However, most of his players respected him and went on record saying that they enjoyed him as a coach. In 2005, Martz was ill, and was hospitalized for several games, allowing assistant head coach Joe Vitt to coach the remainder of the season. Although Martz was cleared later in the season, team president John Shaw did not allow him to come back to coach the team. After the Rams fired Martz, former Minnesota offensive coordinator Scott Linehan took control of an 8–8 team in 2006. In 2007, Linehan led the Rams to a 3–13 record.
Following the 2007 season, Georgia Frontiere died on January 18, 2008 after a 28-year ownership that began in 1979. Ownership of the team passed to her son Dale "Chip" Rosenbloom and daughter Lucia Rodriguez. Chip Rosenbloom was named the new Rams majority owner. Linehan was already faced with scrutiny from several players in the locker room, including Torry Holt and Steven Jackson. Linehan was then fired on September 29, 2008, after the team started the season 0–4. Jim Haslett, defensive coordinator under Linehan, was interim head coach for the rest of the 2008 season.
John Shaw then resigned as president, and personnel chief Billy Devaney was promoted to general manager on December 24, 2008, after the resignation of former president of football operations and general manager Jay Zygmunt on December 22.
On January 17, 2009, Steve Spagnuolo was named the new head coach of the franchise. In his previous post as defensive coordinator with the New York Giants, Spagnuolo masterminded a defensive scheme that shut down the potent offense of the previously undefeated and untied New England Patriots, the odds on favorite to win the Super Bowl that year. In one of the greatest upsets in Super Bowl history, the New York Giants defeated the Patriots 17–14. In spite of his success as defensive coordinator with the Giants, Spagnuolo's first season as head coach of the Rams was disappointing as the team won only once in 16 attempts.
On May 31, 2009, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that the majority owners Rosenbloom and Rodriguez officially offered their majority share of Rams for sale. They retained the services of Goldman Sachs, a prominent investment banking firm, to help facilitate the sale of the Rams by evaluating bids and soliciting potential buyers. The sale price was unknown, but at the time Forbes magazine's most recent estimate listed the Rams' value at $929 million. On the final day to do so, then-minority owner Stan Kroenke invoked his right of first refusal to buy the 60% of the team that he did not already own. The original intended buyer, Shahid Khan, later acquire the Jacksonville Jaguars after the 2011 season. Pursuant to NFL rules, owners are prohibited from owning other sports teams in markets where there is already an NFL team. At the time of purchase, Kroenke (d/b/a Kroenke Sports Enterprises) owned the Denver Nuggets, the Colorado Avalanche, the Colorado Rapids, and the Pepsi Center (home to the Nuggets and the Avalanche). Kroenke, a real estate and sports mogul married to a Walmart heir, also owned Altitude Sports and Entertainment. These interests violated the NFL's cross-ownership rule. Nevertheless, on August 25, 2010, NFL owners unanimously approved him as the owner of the franchise contingent upon his eventual divestment of his Colorado sports interests. Kroenke complied with the rule when he transferred ownership of the Nuggets, Avalanche, the Pepsi Center, and the Altitude to his son Josh Kroenke.
The Rams received the first pick in the 2010 NFL Draft after finishing the 2009 season with a 1–15 record. The team used the pick to select quarterback Sam Bradford from the . The Rams finished the 2010 season second in the NFC West with a record of 7–9. Bradford started all 16 games for the Rams after earning the starting position during the preseason. On October 24, 2010, running back Steven Jackson passed Eric Dickerson as the franchise's career rushing leader.
On February 4, 2011, Bradford was named the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year. He received 44 out of 50 possible votes from the nationwide panel of media members. The team and fans held high expectations for the upcoming season, but due to injuries to starters and poor execution, the Rams fell to a 2–14 record for the 2011 season. On January 2, 2012, head coach Spagnuolo and general manager Devaney were fired. McDaniels also left the team and returned to New England to become their offensive coordinator for the 2012 season.
2012–2015: Final years in St. Louis
Under the terms of the lease that the Rams signed in St. Louis, the Edward Jones Dome was required to be ranked in the top tier of NFL stadiums through the 2015 season. The Rams were free to break the lease and either relocate without penalty or continue to lease the dome on a year-to-year basis. In May 2012, the dome was ranked by Time magazine as the 7th worst major sports stadium in the United States. In a 2008 Sports Illustrated poll, St. Louis fans ranked it the worst of any NFL stadium with particularly low marks for tailgating, affordability and atmosphere.
On January 20, 2012, it was announced that the Rams would play one home game a season at Wembley Stadium in London for each of the next three seasons. The first game was played against the New England Patriots on October 28, 2012. On August 13, 2012, it was announced that the Rams had withdrawn from the 2013 and 2014 games. At this time, the Rams began negotiations with St. Louis about what steps could be taken to remediate the "top tier" requirement of the lease.
On March 10, 2015, the Rams traded starting quarterback Sam Bradford and a 2015 fifth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles in exchange for Eagles' quarterback Nick Foles, a 2015 fourth-round pick, and a second-round pick in 2016. Foles had a 14-4 record as starter of the Eagles and an impressive touchdown to interception ratio of 46-17, while Bradford had an 18-30-1 record with the Rams. In the 2015 NFL draft the Rams drafted running back Todd Gurley. After Gurley was drafted, the Rams traded Zac Stacy to the New York Jets on May 2 for a 7th round pick. Stacy had led the team in rushing in 2013.
The stadium "top tier" negotiations failed to produce a solution to keep the Rams in St. Louis for the long term. On December 17, 2015, the Rams defeated the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 31-23 in their final home game in St. Louis; their last game as the St. Louis Rams came two weeks later on the road against the San Francisco 49ers before moving back to Los Angeles the 2016 season. Fans in St. Louis claimed Kroenke, a Missouri native, as well as Kevin Demoff, lied to the fans about their wishes to keep the Rams in St. Louis. In his final years, Kroenke was referred to "Silent Stan" as he refused to speak about the team and the potential move. In a last-ditch effort, St. Louis came up with a viable stadium plan to keep the team, but the NFL and the Rams' position was that the Rams followed the agreed upon remediation process laid out in the Edward Jones Dome lease, and that St. Louis' hastily put together plan shifted too much of the stadium cost to the Rams franchise. Ultimately, the other NFL teams' owners voted to allow the Rams to relocate to Los Angeles.
Second Los Angeles Rams era (2016–present)
2016: Return to Los Angeles
On January 5, 2015, the Los Angeles Times reported that Kroenke and the Stockbridge Capital Group were partnering to develop a new NFL stadium on an Inglewood property owned by Kroenke. On February 24, 2015, the Inglewood City Council approved the stadium and the initiative with construction on the stadium planned to begin in December 2015. The Rams plan to relocate to their new stadium in Inglewood in 2020, when the stadium will likely be ready.
The day following the conclusion of the 2015 regular season, the Rams, Oakland Raiders, and San Diego Chargers all filed to relocate to Los Angeles. The same day, the NFL announced that any franchise approved for relocation would need to pay a $550 million relocation fee. On January 12, 2016, the NFL team owners voted 30–2 to allow the Rams to return to Los Angeles. The Rams were the first major league sports team to relocate since 2011 when the National Hockey League's Atlanta Thrashers left Atlanta and became the new Winnipeg Jets. The team held a press conference at The Forum in Inglewood on January 15, 2016, to announce its return to Los Angeles to start play in the 2016 season and on that day the Rams began a campaign that lasted through February 8 and resulted in more than 56,000 season ticket deposits made. The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is the temporary home stadium of the Rams for four seasons (2016 to 2019) until the Los Angeles Stadium at Hollywood Park is opened for the 2020 season.
On February 4, 2016, the Los Angeles Rams selected Oxnard to be the site of their minicamp, offseason team activities, and offseason program that began on April 18. In March, it was announced that the Rams would be featured on HBO's Hard Knocks. On March 30, California Lutheran University and the Rams reached an agreement that allowed the team to have regular season training operations at CLU's campus for the next two years. The Rams paid for two practice fields, paved parking, and modular buildings constructed on the northwestern corner of the campus.
On April 14, 2016, the Rams traded with the Tennessee Titans for the first overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft, along with a fourth and sixth-round pick in the same draft. To acquire the picks, the Rams traded away their first-round pick, two second-round picks, and a third-round pick in 2016, and their first and third-round picks in the 2017 NFL draft. On April 28, 2016, the Rams made their first selection in the 2016 NFL draft by selecting quarterback Jared Goff .
In June 2016, it was reported that the Rams had sold 63,000 season tickets, which was short of their goal of 70,000. Later on July 12, 2016, it was reported that they had sold 70,000 tickets, reaching their goal. In July 2016, the Rams signed a three-year agreement with UC Irvine to use the university's facilities for training camp, with an option to extend it to two more years. On July 29, 2016, the Los Angeles Times reported that the Rams would host their first training-camp practice and "Rams Family Day" on Saturday, August 6 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, which was open to the public.
The Rams played their first game in the Los Angeles area since 1994, a 22-year absence, with a preseason opener against the Dallas Cowboys at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on August 13. The Rams won, 28–24, in front of a crowd of 89,140, a record attendance for a pre-season game.
On September 12, 2016, the Rams played their first regular season game since returning to Los Angeles, where they lost to the San Francisco 49ers 28–0 at Levi's Stadium. On September 18, in front of over 91,000 fans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the Rams beat the Seattle Seahawks 9–3 in their first home regular season game in Los Angeles since 1994, and their first game at the Coliseum since 1979.
On December 12, 2016, the team fired head coach Jeff Fisher after starting the season 4−9. The team announced later that day that John Fassel would be taking over as interim head coach.
2017: Resurgence and first NFC West title since 2003
On January 12, 2017, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay became the new head coach at the age of 30, which made him the youngest in modern NFL history, surpassing Lane Kiffin who was 31 when hired by the Oakland Raiders in 2007.
The Rams began the year 3–2, much like their previous season in Los Angeles. However, the Rams became a quick surprise in the NFL when they won their next four games in a row, including blowouts of the Arizona Cardinals and New York Giants. The games were highlighted by resurgences of Jared Goff and Todd Gurley, who had mediocre performances in 2016. New acquisitions , Robert Woods and draft selection Cooper Kupp at wide receiver made such big impacts that analysts were comparing the 2017 Rams to the "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams of the late 1990s and early 2000s. After scoring a league-worst 224 points in 2016, the Rams led the league in points scored with 478, the fourth-most in team history.
On November 26, 2017, the Rams defeated the New Orleans Saints 26–20. The win was their eighth of the season, which secured the franchise's first non-losing year since 2006, as well as their first in Los Angeles since 1989. A week later, the Rams defeated the Cardinals 32–16 to secure a winning season for the first time since the 2003 season. On December 24, 2017, the Rams defeated the Tennessee Titans 27–23 to clinch their first NFC West title since 2003, and their first in Los Angeles since 1985; they finished the regular season with an 11-5 record. However, the team met an early exit in the first round of the playoffs at the hands of the defending conference champion Atlanta Falcons 26–13.
2018: NFC Champions
In the 2018 off-season, the Rams acquired Marcus Peters from the Kansas City Chiefs. The team dealt to the Miami Dolphins and Alec Ogletree to the New York Giants, and lost Trumaine Johnson to the New York Jets in free agency before trading for five-time Pro Bowler Aqib Talib from the Denver Broncos. The team continued building a defensively strong squad by signing free agent Ndamukong Suh, further bolstering their pass rush. Many experts and analysts began to label the Rams as a serious Super Bowl contender, and the Rams continued to build for a deep postseason run by picking up wide receiver Brandin Cooks in a trade with the New England Patriots, which replaced the loss of to the Chiefs in free agency. The Rams then signed Cooks and running back Todd Gurley to five-year extensions, and offensive tackle Rob Havenstein to a four-year extension. The Rams ended their off-season by signing defensive tackle Aaron Donald to a six-year contract worth $135 million. Donald had been holding out for some time as he had been seeking a new deal, and thus missed training camp for the second season in a row, despite privately training on his own. Donald's contract made him the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history, though this record was broken a day later when the Chicago Bears signed newly acquired Khalil Mack to a $141 million extension.
The Rams opened their 2018 season on September 10 by defeating the Oakland Raiders 33–13 on , scoring 23 unanswered second half points in a game during which head coach McVay took on his former mentor, Jon Gruden, who was making his return to coaching. It was the first of two appearances for the Rams in the season. The Rams continued their strong start with three straight wins at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, shutting out the Arizona Cardinals 34–0 in their home opener in Week 2, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 35–23 in Week 3 and beating the Minnesota Vikings 38–31 on . Los Angeles then went three-for-three on the road with wins at Seattle (33–31), Denver (23–20), and San Francisco (39–10). Returning home in Week 8, Los Angeles rallied to defeat the Green Bay Packers 29–27 to improve to 8–0, their best start since 1969. The Rams were the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL in 2018 until losing on the road to the New Orleans Saints in Week 9 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The Rams bounced back with three straight wins, defeating the Seattle Seahawks 36–31, and then winning a wild 54–51 shootout against the Kansas City Chiefs on . Following a bye week, the Rams beat the host Detroit Lions 30–16 in Week 13 to clinch both a playoff berth and their second straight NFC West title. Los Angeles stumbled with back-to-back losses to the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, but finished strong with victories over the Arizona Cardinals and San Francisco 49ers to clinch a first round bye. The Rams' 13–3 record tied for the second-most wins in a single season in franchise history and were the most ever for any NFL team in Los Angeles.
The Rams began their playoff run by defeating the Dallas Cowboys 30–22 in the divisional round to head to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since January 2002. The following week, the Rams beat the Saints on the road 26–23 to advance to the Super Bowl for the first time since Super Bowl XXXVI in January 2002, and since Super Bowl XIV in January 1980 as a Los Angeles team. The game featured a controversial ending: on a third down play inside the final two minutes with the score tied at 20, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman made contact with Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis well before a pass from Saints quarterback Drew Brees had arrived. Additionally, Robey-Coleman delivered a helmet-to-helmet hit, however, no flag was thrown for pass interference or the illegal hit, leading to outrage from Saints players and fans as this denied New Orleans a first down, which would have likely put the game out of reach. After the game, there was speculation but no clear evidence that the pass was tipped.
The Rams lost in Super Bowl LIII held at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia to the New England Patriots by a score of 13–3 in the lowest-scoring Super Bowl in history. It was the first time in 35 years that a Los Angeles team was featured in a Super Bowl.