American Football

Eric Dickerson, Deacon Jones among greatest Rams never to win a Super Bowl


NFL: USA TODAY Sports-Archive
Peter Brouillet-USA TODAY Sports

Who else should join them on this list?

The week leading up to the Super Bowl is always a reflective time for fans everywhere. Reflections include why their favorite team didn’t make it to the Big Game or in the Rams’ case, why were they unable to repeat? LA fans already have an answer so that’s not a rabbit hole we want to fall into at the moment.

One of the more depressing reflections during this time is thinking about the all-time greats that were unable to win a title during their playing days. There have been plenty of elite players that never hoisted the Lombardi while playing for the Rams and here is my list of those players. I did my best to capture the ones who I felt earned it most so I know that I’ve likely missed a few. All the more reason to drop those names in the comments!

Eric Dickerson, Running Back (1983-87)

This inclusion is a no-brainer. Eric Dickerson wasn’t in LA for very long, but he made his impact felt early and often. In three of his first four seasons, Dickerson led the league in rushing and totaled 3,913 yards between his freshman and sophomore campaigns. His single-season NFL-record of 2,105 yards has stood for 38 years and counting. With such a pass-happy league, his record might stand for a while longer, even with a extra game tacked on.

It’s rather unfortunate that the rushing record is about the only thing keeping Dickerson relevant around today’s NFL. Winning Super Bowls seems to be the only thing fans and the media care about anymore. Anyways, there’s simply no debating that Eric Dickerson was one of the greatest running backs to ever play the game. For a guy who never won the big one, he had the ability to step up when the lights shined brightest.

Deacon Jones, Defensive End (1961-71)

Before Aaron Donald terrorized opposing offenses, there was Deacon Jones. Back in the days when sacks weren’t an official stat yet, Jones was king at getting to the quarterback. Although his final sack totals remain unofficial, the Rams listed the Secretary of Defense as having 159.5 sacks with the team during his career.

According to data collected by Pro Football Reference, Jones has the most 15+ sack seasons (6), most 20+ sack seasons (3) and most seasons leading the league in sacks (5). Considering how Deacon was an “old timer” and most current fans don’t have a clue as to how dominant he was, this should enlighten them:

“During Jones’ prime from 1964 to 1969, he tallied 115.5 sacks in six seasons — only 29 other players have more than 115.5 sacks in their career. Jones had six consecutive seasons of 15.0-plus sacks, which remains the most in NFL history.” per CBS Sports

Sadly, Jones never appeared in a Super Bowl or a conference championship. Not all hope was lost however as other elite defenders rightfully recognize his greatness all these years later.

Merlin Olsen, Defensive Tackle (1962-76)

Merlin Olsen played alongside Deacon Jones on the “Fearsome Foursome” of the Rams. While he wasn’t exactly the statistical menace Jones was, Olsen was still a player opposing offenses were beyond terrified of.

Throughout his 15-year career, Merlin made the Pro Bowl every season except his last. He never made the “Bowl” he wanted to play in most as he lost three-straight NFC Championships from 1974-76. Olsen remains one of the top defensive linemen ever on a team that historically hasn’t experienced a shortage of them.

Jack Youngblood, Defensive End (1971-84)

Just like Deacon Jones before him, Jack Youngblood was a menace for signal callers across the league. Not only did he star right away as a rookie but he played so well that LA felt comfortable enough to trade Jones before the next season. Jack was as tough as they come. Seriously, he makes current players look even more like cupcakes after playing through a significant injury during his lone Super Bowl run.

Goodness, and I bitch about the littlest hangnail. Sheesh Jack, way to make us mere mortals appear weak! Youngblood played in a Rams-record 201 consecutive games and only missed one game which came in his final season. His official sack statistics are a mystery much like the player he replaced so it’s fitting that he unofficially sits just behind him on the all-time leaderboard.

Jackie Slater, Offensive Tackle (1976-95)

Similar to Merlin Olsen, Jackie Slater was a model of stability for his team. Slater played his entire 20-year career with the Rams and followed them everywhere from LA to St. Louis.

According to his Pro Football Hall of Fame profile:

“Slater is tied for third all time for the most seasons played in the history of the league. His 259 regular-season games played were the most ever by an offensive lineman when he retired, and his 20 seasons with one team was an NFL record.” per Pro Football HOF

Postseason heartbreak haunted Slater throughout the duration of his career. He started five NFC Championships, losing four. Even when he was able to play in a Super Bowl, his Rams lost Super Bowl XIV to the Pittsburgh Steelers, an absolute buzzsaw in the 70s. Jackie Slater shouldn’t be at fault for his team coming up short, not with all the changes and instability that surrounded him.

Todd Gurley, Running Back (2015-19)

I decided to get modern with this pick. This time I selected another elite running back who enjoyed his best years playing under Sean McVay.

Back in October, former running back Todd Gurley announced he was unlikely to play in the NFL again. The announcement didn’t come as a shock. Gurley had been declining at a rapid pace. Regardless, the decline of a possible Hall of Fame career marked one of the saddest chapters in recent team history.

Todd’s career will always be marred with “what ifs”. What if Gurley never got hurt leading up to Super Bowl LIII? What if he never developed arthritis in his knee? What if the Rams never released him? Given none of us (that we know of) has a crystal ball to tell us these answers, we’ll never know for certain.

Instead, why not remember Todd Gurley for what he was: 2017 Offensive Player of the Year, MVP candidate and two-time First-Team All-Pro. For the first two seasons under McVay, Gurley was easily the best and most exciting back in the game.

In consecutive years (2017-18), Gurley led the NFL in total touchdowns. The Rams’ offense went through him each and every week. McVay inevitably ran him into the ground, but who could fault him for doing so? Maybe he had TG on his fantasy team.

Fans didn’t just love him for fantasy championships either. They loved him for incredible showings like the one he had against the Broncos during the 2018 campaign.

LA was lucky to have Todd Gurley when they did and even more fortunate that McVay came aboard to help maximize his usage. While injuries had stolen Gurley’s full potential on the field, there’s no debating that he was briefly one of the top players of his era. Injuries may steal a player’s prime, but they’ll never take away all the memories created along the way.

Who else would you consider including on this list?

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