Before this begins, Rams fans take a drink…okay…one more. Alright, so the Rams have had a lot of great teams, and with the exception of the 1999 Rams, none have won a Super Bowl. In the case of the 2001 and 2018 Rams, they represent two teams that were GREAT but, and this is tough, lost twice to the greatest QB and Coach combo in Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Both losses were GUTTING (pours the rest of the bottle).
With the 2001 incarnation MVP, Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk were stymied by a Belichick defense with a bunch of relative unknowns and Lawyer Milloy. Tom Brady wasn’t Brady yet and a nation was stunned.
In 2018, the young Rams went in with an explosive offense and worked around the mysterious knee issues of Todd Gurley en route to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately, Belichick figured out pretty quickly that if Gurley didn’t have it, the offense was borderline screwed. The Rams defense put on an awesome performance but the offense didn’t have a plan B. So of the teams to lose to the Pats who wins the battle of best Rams loser? Well, it’s tough but close.
Quarterback: Advantage 2001
Kurt Warner is better than Jared Goff and in today’s game would have greatly benefitted from (ironically) the Brady Rule. He was already past his prime by the time the rule went into effect (the season after his Super Bowl trip with the Cardinals).
Running Back: Advantage 2001
Peak Gurley is one of the most dynamic players in the last twenty years there’s no denying that. However, Faulk is one of the most dynamic players of all time. The secret to the Pats shutting down the “Greatest Show on Turf” was their plan to just knock the crap out of Faulk. Taking away Faulk made life a lot tougher on the Rams receivers who had to battle a damn good Pats secondary anchored by Milloy and Ty Law.
Gurley’s absence was equally noticeable and the 2018 Rams were also without Cooper Kupp that game so their offense flexibility was even more hindered (more on that later). But Faulk’s durability and his superior pass-catching ability give him the edge.
Wide Receivers: Advantage 2001
This is another battle that isn’t as clear cut as it would seem. Yes, Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt are legends; a Hall of Famer, and a Hall of Famer in waiting. They are better than Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp and with the new contact rules, both players in their prime would be even better.
Josh Reynolds is taller and faster than Ricky Proehl so the 2018 Rams would have more flexibility beyond their two stars than the 2001 Rams would. In the end, the ’01 Rams have the slightest of edges over their ’18 counterparts but its a very close battle.
Tight Ends: Advantage 2018
This battle isn’t even close. The combination of Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett are vastly superior to Ernie Conwell and Brandon Manumaleuna. The Greatest Show on Turf, as amazing as it was, didn’t really utilize tight ends outside of having extra blockers and an occasional pass catcher.
Offensive Line: Advantage 2018
This might sound like heresy given that Orlando Pace is a Hall of Famer and along with Jonathan Ogden (shout out to UCLA) changed the left tackle position. Andrew Whitworth is a future Hall of Famer in his own right but he’s no Pace.
Defensive Line: Advantage 2018
Not only is Aaron Donald head and shoulders above every single member of the ’01 Rams defensive line (Grant Wistrom was the only star) but Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh were better than the rest of their ’01 counterparts as well.
Linebackers: Advantage 2018
London Fletcher was a STUD and a future Hall of Famer. While Tommy Polley was a fine linebacker in his own right but the ’18 Rams were better across the board. Cory Littleton, Dante Fowler, and Samson Ebukam formed a better tandem. Fletcher alone doesn’t win this battle.
Secondary: Advantage 2018
The ’18 Rams had a defensive backfield featuring Marcus Peters, John Johnson, Aqib Talib, and Lamarcus Joyner. That is a damn good secondary and the ’01 Rams can counter with Aeneas Williams, Adam Archuleta, Dexter McCleon, and Kim Herring, but it’s not enough. The 2018 Rams had a lot of speed and toughness that the ’01 Rams just didn’t.
Kickers: Advantage ’01
Coaching: Advantage 2018
Mike Martz was an innovative coordinator and nicknamed “The Mad Scientist” but he’s not much of an in-game tactician. Sean McVay is better than Martz as a tactician and a leader.
Martz was cantankerous to the bitter end and it was part of what eventually ended the Greatest Show. Also, Martz had several at-bats with the new rules and never had a quality offense in his various other stops. Lovie Smith was one of the architects of the Tampa 2 defense that sadly didn’t get him (or Tony Dungy) a ring as Monte Kiffin was the coordinator in Tampa when Jon Gruden won with Dungy’s roster.
However, Wade Phillips is vastly superior as a coordinator and if the 2018 Rams had won, his defensive gameplan would be spoken of as one of the best gameplans in awhile similar to his Super Bowl-winning gameplan with the Broncos.
The Winner: 2018 Rams
The ’01 Rams offense was pretty much superior in every way but DC Wade Phillips could probably scheme it so that its close and the ’01 Rams defense didn’t have the horses to contain what McVay would come up with. It’d be a fun game but the ’18 Rams would edge the ’01 Rams out.
That said, they both still lost to their Patriot counterparts so take another drink.