Los Angeles Rams: Top 3 Greatest Defensive Coordinators in Franchise History

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The Los Angeles Rams are a historic franchise that can be traced back to 1937. During that time, there have been plenty of attempts made by defensive coordinators to lead the league in defense. However, only a few names have done so or at least have an argument work making about their qualifications to be ranked at the top. As they embark on a new tenure under first-time NFL defensive coordinator Chris Shula let’s look back at the best who have done it. Here are the top three defensive coordinators since they were first tracked in the early 1970s.

Top 3 Los Angeles Rams Defensive Coordinators

#1 – Ray Malavasi (1973-1977)

Defensive coordinators that do well usually find head coaching gigs elsewhere. However, that didn’t happen for Ray Malavasi, who worked as the team in the first year they started tracking their defensive coordinator positions through the 1977 season. During that time, the team never ranked lower than third overall in points allowed per game. They also never ranked below fourth in yards allowed per game.

The Rams ranked first in points per game in 1974 and 1975, proving that the unit wasn’t just among the best in the league. Rather, the unit was the best in the league multiple times during Malavasi’s tenure.

#2 – Wade Phillips (2017-2019)

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The Rams’ defensive coordinator during the early years of the Sean McVay era gets a robust nod. His defensive unit helped hold Tom Brady to just 10 points in a Super Bowl, making the Patriots quarterback look as lost as Cam Newton looked when Phillips won it all as the defensive coordinator of the Denver Broncos in 2015.

His ability to win a Super Bowl in Denver with one of the best defenses of the era in combination with his ability to lock down Tom Brady in different Super Bowls underlines the abilities with which he was able to work behind the scenes with the Rams. Also, his ability to coach in the UFL championship this year goes to show just how instrumental he was in his work with the Rams.

The rankings were not quite there for Phillips’ unit, but his ability to shine in the biggest moments outweighs his regular season production. One could argue he set up rookie defensive coordinator Brandon Staley to outperform his experience in 2020 after departing the team in 2019.

#3 – Fritz Shurmur (1984-1990)

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Shurmur served as the team’s defensive coordinator for six years, putting on a tenure that runs longer than many at the position. However, his best years came in 1985 and 1986, when his unit ranked fourth in points per game in both years. They also ranked fifth in yards per game in both seasons.

In total, Shurmur’s defense ranked in the top 10 in three separate years of a seven-year tenure, which is not an easy feat in the NFL. It is especially difficult considering the defensive-first mindset of teams at the time (the 1985 Bears’ defense happened during Shurmer’s run with the Rams).

Shurmur spent 19 years in the league as a defensive coordinator, according to Pro Football Reference. While his best years as a coordinator came with the young Brett Favre-led Packers of the 1990s, his mid-defensive coordinator career ranks near the top of Rams history.

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