For three years at the turn of the century, the St. Louis Rams were must-see television for NFL fans.
Dubbed “The Greatest Show on Turf,” the Rams’ offense, led by the quartet of quarterback Kurt Warner, running back Marshall Faulk, and wideouts Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, laid the groundwork for the offenses seen in today’s game.
During this three-year stretch from 1999 to 2001, “The Greatest Show on Turf” set several league scoring and yardage records, produced three consecutive NFL MVPs, and made two Super Bowl appearances, winning one championship.
As mentioned, that high-octane scheme is much more common these days. So where would those innovative Rams rank among today’s NFL offenses?
How the ‘Greatest Show on Turf’ quartet came to be
In 1998, the Rams’ offense, led by QB Tony Banks, ranked 24th overall in the NFL and 27th in yardage, amassing 4,472 yards on the way to a 4-12 season.
But everything changed in 1999. In the offseason, the franchise acquired quarterback Trent Green, who had his breakout season in ’98 in Washington, throwing for 3,441 yards and 23 touchdowns.
Signed to a four-year/$17.5 million deal, Green was slated to be the starter but suffered a nasty season-ending knee injury during the preseason. The injury opened the door for Kurt Warner to become QB1, and he never gave the job back as he went on to win two NFL MVP trophies in three seasons. Green was sent to Kansas City ahead of the 2001 season.
The Rams also acquired Marshall Faulk ahead of the ’99 campaign in a trade with the Colts, for whom the San Diego State product was a Pro Bowler in three of his five seasons in Indianapolis. Faulk made the Pro Bowl in his first four seasons with the Rams and took NFL MVP honors between Warner’s wins.
The 1999 offseason also saw the Rams draft Torry Holt with the sixth overall pick out of North Carolina State. Holt went on to make seven Pro Bowls in 10 years.
And then, of course, there’s Isaac Bruce, the only member of “The Greatest Show on Turf” crew who was a starter before the 1999 season. The 1994 second-rounder made his first Pro Bowl following the ’96 season and added three more selections during this famous stretch, amassing at least 1,100 receiving yards during the Rams’ run.
The Rams put up ridiculous numbers from 1999 to 2001
While it’s commonplace for today’s offenses to accumulate 6,000 yards in a season, it certainly wasn’t the norm back then. For instance, during the aforementioned ’98 season, just three teams passed the milestone. And in 1999, it was just one: the St. Louis Rams.
“The Greatest Show on Turf” was a whirlwind of highlights on the way to a 13-3 record, amassing 6,412 yards over 16 games (400.8 per game) while scoring 526 points (32.9 per game). St. Louis, of course, won the Super Bowl in a thriller over the Tennessee Titans.
The next-closest team that year in both categories was Washington, who averaged 372.8 yards per game and averaged 27.7 points.
In 2000, while the season ended in disappointing fashion with a wild-card loss to the Saints, the St. Louis offense was even more potent. The Rams set a new NFL record with 7,075 yards (442.2 per game) and scored 540 points (33.8 per game). At the time, the point total was the third-highest in league history.
In 2001, the Rams were once again the only offense to hit 6,000 yards, accumulating 6,690 (418.1 per game) while scoring 503 points (31.4 per game). They went 14-2 and famously lost to another Warner-type QB who got a shot to start due to an injury, Tom Brady, in the Super Bowl.
Where would ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ rank among today’s NFL offenses?
So where would “The Greatest Show on Turf” rank among today’s NFL offenses? Over those three seasons, the Rams averaged 420.4 yards while scoring 32.7 points per game.
Here’s how much the game has changed. In 2020, the last season before the league went to a 17-game schedule, 13 teams cracked 6,000 offensive yards.
But get this. In 2021, the Rams and their 420.4-yard average would still have ranked No. 1 among NFL offenses. Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys racked up 6,919 yards in 17 games last year, giving them an average of 407 per game.
As for those 32.7 points per game? Yep, that would have also been No. 1 in 2021. The Cowboys put up 31.2 per game a season ago.
Sure, the Rams’ yardage record has been eclipsed. It actually now ranks third behind Drew Brees’ 2011 Saints (7,474) and Peyton Manning’s 2013 Broncos (7,317). And that 540-point 2000 campaign is currently tied for ninth on the single-season scoring list.
But knowing “The Greatest Show on Turf” would still be the top-ranked offense in the NFL more than two decades later just goes to show how extraordinary that unit was.
Stats courtesy of Pro Football Reference