Friday, May 15, 2020

LOS ANGELES RAMS HISTORY: At the Bottom; Will We Ever Win?

By TJ Troup
1963 Game Used Terry Baker Helmet
Today is my saga is on what was the lowest point in Rams history. The story you are about to read just might be compelling enough to get some responses from you folks out there. Ready?

Here goes—Los Angeles Ram captains Jon Arnett & Eddie Meador meet the Chicago Bears foursome at midfield for the coin toss on a breezy 67-degree day in the Coliseum.

The date— October 13th, 1963, and what is about to become the lowest point in Ram history.

Before giving the details of this game, let us take a look at the won/loss record of the Rams for the previous 52 games they have played.

Games involving the Eastern Conference, and the fledgling Vikings the record is a very poor 3-9-1, yet this is a damn sight better than their record against their five long time rivals: Green Bay, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, and San Francisco. The Rams record in the 39 games played against these teams since October 25th, 1959 is 6 wins, 32 losses, and 1 tie. Pathetic, simply pathetic.

Why? Lack of direction since there is no leadership, and though talent at certain positions—overall just not enough to beat the above five teams.

Harland Svare was not ready to be a head coach and based upon his record in his career he never would be. Svare has five assistant coaches in '63, and they ALL are in their first year of coaching. Some of them would turn out to be adequate coaches over time (none with Los Angeles though).

Mr. Clive Grafton was a true professional in his work on Ram play by plays, and thus here we go with the details of the Rams taking on the Bears.

Los Angeles 1st and 10 on their own twenty-five-yard line as Jon Arnett sweeps around left end for 8 yards before Richie Petitbon makes the tackle. Solid start— 2nd and two, Dick Bass attempts to sweep right end after taking a pitch-out from starting Ram quarterback Terry Baker. Joe Fortunato knifes into the backfield and takes down the "Scooter" for a two-yard loss.
Zeke Bratkowski
Enter Zeke Bratkowski at quarterback—oh no! Svare is not going to alternate QB's against one of the best, toughest, and smartest defenses in the league is he? Yes, but Zeke completes a short pass to sure-handed Red Phillips for 7 yards and a first down. Baker back in, and he completes a screen to Arnett for a loss of 3 yards as lightning-quick, hard-tackling Rosey Taylor takes down Jaguar Jon.
Terry Baker
Zeke back in, and incomplete to former Bear John Adams. Baker back in on 3rd and 13. George Allen has a vast array of "red dogs" in his defensive play-book (much of it learned from Clark Shaughnessy).

Veteran middle linebacker Bill George charges into the Ram backfield and sacks Baker for a 12-yard loss. Rams punt. Johnny Morris 31 yard punt return gives Chicago excellent field position, and on 4th and 6 at the Los Angeles 35 rookie Bob Jencks field goal is blocked by Marlin McKeever. Bobby Smith returns the blocked kick to his own 49.

Can Rams get it going?

Bass gets tackled for a 4-yard loss on a sweep left. Incomplete pass by Baker, and again enter Zeke who's errant toss is pilfered by Petitbon and he returned it 21 yards. Chicago goes three and out, and so again do the Rams. Chicago again on their third possession must punt.
Dick Bass
Zeke throws incomplete, Baker completes short toss to Arnett for 6 yards, and on 3rd down Zeke completes to Bass for 10 yards and a first down. Baker fumbles the center snap, and Fortunato recovers.

The Bears short 37-yard drive climaxes in the first Chicago touchdown of the game (there will be plenty more). Mike Ditka is wide damn open for Billy Wade's accurate pass for 13 yards and the touchdown. Th quarter ends with Zeke completing to Phillips for 9 yards.

Many teams start off slow, and as the game progresses "get in the groove". There is slow and then there is glacier slow as the Rams ran the ball four times for 4 yards. Bratkowski failed to keep the quarterback job in Chicago though given many chances, and today he is 3 of 7 for 26 yards with an interception in the first quarter.

Though very poor, he looks a damn sight better than Heisman Trophy winner Terry Baker. The former Beaver completes 3 of 4 for -2 yards. Yes, that is MINUS-2 yards, and was sacked, and lost a fumble. I am not going to go through the entire play by play, yet the final score of 52-14 tells us all we need to know.

Watching film over and over of this game leaves little to the imagination. Los Angeles is poorly coached, undisciplined, with shoddy tackling, and an offensive line that cannot protect the quarterback.

The score at half-time was 28-7 with the Rams having gained a net total of 32 yards, and penalized 46 yards. Petitbon and McRae returned their interceptions for 56 yards. Dismal? You betcha.

Los Angeles outgains Chicago in the second half 171 to 142, but every time the Bears needed to make a play on either offense or defense—THEY DID.

The only real highlight for Los Angeles is the performance of Carroll Dale who runs sharp routes, displays sure hands as he gains 111 yards on his 5 catches. The Bears on their way to a championship take the ball away 8 times and sack Baker & Bratkowski for 50 yards.

Why highlight this game? Simple reason—the Rams had a quarterback who can lead a team, and make every throw; the first-round draft pick from the year before Roman Gabriel.
Roman Gabriel
The '63 Rams will win five games during the year, with an offense that moves the ball and scores (127 points in the five wins). Though Gabriel is not polished and tries to do too much, he shows one and all he can be one of the best quarterbacks in the league.
Gabriel vs Bears later in 1963
Of course, he is the full-time starter in '64 right? Right? No, the Ram front office does it again, by drafting Bill Munson in the first round of the 1964 NFL draft and giving him multiple opportunities to keep the job. He fails, and when Los Angeles has a chance to hire a true leader and a man who can coach all players in George Allen—he decides that Gabriel is his man. (Munson is traded, Bratkowski sits on the bench in Green Bay, and Baker is out of football).
Rams talent defensive line. Credit: Spokeo
The '63 Rams have a talented defensive line that is both massive and dedicated, and Allen keeps them. Take a look at the '63 Ram roster, and then take a look at the '67 Ram roster, and you will see Los Angeles climb from the depths of the Western Conference to become a league power. When you watch the highlights or better said, lowlights of this game in '63, and then watch the highlight film of the '67-'69 Rams you can understand why Ram fans returned to the Coliseum to watch their team.


  1. Yep, the Rams had underachieved going back to the Gillman days. Gabriel should have had the job out of the gates but Reeves may not have believed in an ethic QB (Sorry PC Millennials)

    Imagine if Carroll Dale could have kept developing with Gabriel, instead he helps GB win three championships in a row, despite getting no HOF traction.

    I still wonder why Allen never tried to bring Gabriel to the Ramskins ?

    Did he feel that Gabriel betrayed him by signing with the AFL Raiders ?
    Did he feel Gabriel couldnt win in the clutch, or was too expensive to get ?

    Maybe Allen was sensitive to the Ramskins statements by the press and decided to develop his own winner with Kilmer but despite toughness, Kilmer fell short and Jurgenson was too injury prone.

  2. Brian, I don't recall precisely, but I think your Allen-Gabriel question can be answered pretty simply.....Gabriel from 67-70 or so was one of the top qb's in the NFL...LA would have needed a "boatload" of stuff to part with their MVP and franchise face (anachronism) qb....Sonny Jurgensen is a HoFer as Allen appears in Wash, gets hurt, and George picks up Blue Collar Billy who had years of gutsy leadership in N'awlins.....don't know about that ethnic thing, would have to research a bit deeper

  3. If I am not mistaken Jim, Gabriel and Flores were the only latino/ethnic QBs in pro football at that time ... The Rams have Gabriel battling number one draft picks in Baker and Munson. Why would Reeves take that many QBs, especially with Gabriels size and arm strength ? Did he want insurance just in case ?
    Baker and Munson couldnt do anything for the team however.

    Only when Allen took over did Gabriel finally establish himself but then signed with the AFL Raiders, which not only forced an NFL Capitulation/Merger but may have rankled Allen and Reeves as well, but Gabriel had a phenomenal 1967 season that may have soothed tensions.

    Gabriel might have been too expensive but Allen may have just believed more in Kilmer. With that Redskin offence though, I would have went after Gabriel.

    Kilmer was good however, and his win over Dallas in the NFC Championship will always be a significant win in Redskin lore ...

  4. I worded it wrong; the AFL signings of Gabriel, Brodie and the sums GB paid for RBs Anderson and Grabowski, helped FORCE an NFL capitulation/merger with the AFL ... I believe the AFL WON but Lamar Hunt was shrewed enough to "negotiate" the allowance of Pete Rozelle to remain commissioner of both leagues and have the AFL pay an "indemnity" to make the press feel like the NFL got the better end of the "war" ... If my feelings and interpretation of this merger is wrong Coach Troup, please correct me ...

  5. Remember, Al Davis the acting AFL Commissioner and Sonny Werblin the Jets owner and liason to NBC wanted both leagues separate and equal, but Hunt knew that the NFL was better established, especially under Rozelle and was willing to bring the AFL teams behind their shield, even though The AFL owners along with Werblin's NBC influence, had deeper pockets.

    I also believe that Hunt knew that with Rozelle and Art Modell negotitiating with the networks on every teams behalf, future deals would be more lucrative with a merger, than separate leagues but that is debatable.

  6. I would've thought the lowest point in Rams history was any game they started Pat Haden at QB.

    1. No, the worst QBing in Rams history goes to Pastorini in 1981. 5 starts and an AV in Pro-Football-Reference of -6, how is that even possible? 2 TDs and 14 INTs would be a start!

  7. Does TJ have an idea of how often those Rams teams used the "Settlement & Outpost" formation with Terry Baker?