Saturday, April 18, 2015

The Road Back—The 1966 Los Angeles Rams

by TJ Troup

When George Allen finally got his chance to be a head coach in 1966 with the Rams, he faced a daunting task. Poorly coached (though there was talent on the roster), and having been the player personnel director of the Bears (later was an assistant and then defensive coordinator of the 1963 champions) he upgraded the roster with a series of astute trades.

 Allen also assembled an excellent staff, especially offensive coordinator Ted Marchibroda. The Rams highlight film for 1966 was called "The Road Back", and is very appropriate for the third and final segment of this series of the best teams ever to not win a playoff game though compiling an outstanding won/lost record over 52 games.
Tom Moore. Colorization by John Turney
The Rams, in 1966, stood at 4-5 as their impressive 52-game won/lost record began with an offensive chain-moving record being established in the Coliseum against the lowly Giants. So, let's take a long, hard look at this 40-9-3 team. Marchibroda's offense was designed to be as mistake-proof as possible. Ray Prochaska's offensive line worked well as a unit, and as individuals received plenty of recognition. Rookie Tom Mack excelled at guard in leading a ground game that averaged 138 yards per game in victory (Los Angeles averaged 105 in loss or ties).
Tom Mack and Ken Iman. Colorization by John Turney
The backfield had their moments, yet no one back was the key man from 1966-70. Early in 1966, the offensive line struggled in pass protection, but beginning with the aforementioned win over New York they gave Roman Gabriel a pass pocket to launch his rockets from. The passing game was an efficient 77.9 passer rating in victory (69.2 in loss or ties).
Roman Gabriel. Colorization by John Turney
The one constant in the receiving corps was the redoubtable Jack Snow, who could turn a game with a circus catch or escape coverage and get open deep for Gabriel. Gabriel grew into the position of master field general during this time as the Rams went from a one-win team in Roman's rookie year of 1962 to winning eleven straight to begin the 1969 campaign. Allen learned from scheme-oriented coach Clark Shaughnessy in his time in Chicago what worked, and what does not when coaching defense.

The Los Angeles secondary was a cohesive, ball-hawking group led by all-time Ram interceptor Eddie Meador. From his post at free safety, he helped disguise coverages that stymied opposing passers to the tune of a 42.6 defensive passer rating in the 40 wins! In the 12 losses and ties, opposing passers were a much more efficient 77.8.

Though the secondary was sound, the linebacking corps was a key element in the success of the Rams. Whether dropping into coverage, or on the blitz Pardee (his birthday is April 19th) at left linebacker, and Maxie Baughn at right linebacker were savvy veterans who made many a key play.
Allen brought with him from Chicago a man who could teach all the Ram defenders the defense from the huddle and make the necessary adjustments. Bill George when healthy enough to play in his 15th and final campaign gave Los Angeles a blueprint for leadership (he was nicknamed "the general" in Tom Bennett's book) and set the standards for former Steeler pro bowl middle linebacker Myron Pottios to learn from.
Jack Pardee. Colorization by John Turney
The Shaughnessy defense calls the defensive line "rush men" and in their classic blue & white uniforms Los Angeles had a group known far and wide as the "Fearsome Foursome".  In the 40 victories, opponent ball carriers averaged just 76 yards a game rushing, and a microscopic 2.99 a carry (in the 12 losses and ties 111 yards a game). The one stat that far outweighs the rest though is the pass rush(sacks). Led by the immortal David "Deacon" Jones the Rams garnered 182 sacks in the 40 wins (the Ram o-line allowed just 18). Los Angeles on defense recorded 51 sacks in the 12 losses and ties (the o-line allowed 35). Thus, the sack differential was the key ingredient for the Allen led Rams.
Deacon Jones. Colorization by John Turney

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