The Rangers Are For Real
Let’s talk about the Texas Rangers … but first, let’s talk about the 1999 St. Louis Rams. I’ve tried to capture this theme before, but I don’t think I’ve ever gotten it down quite the way I wanted. Nobody, and I mean nobody, expected anything of the 1999 St. Louis Rams. They were coming off a 4-12 season, which followed a 5-11 season, which followed a 6-10 season, which followed a 7-9 season. They were getting worse, bit by bit, every season.
Their coach, Dick Vermeil, was 63 years old, and some reporters called him Mr. Magoo … he’d been out of football for 15 years after burning out in Philadelphia, and there seemed no signs that he had caught up with the times.
The team made a couple of bold moves to improve in 1999, the big one being the acquisition of the incredible Marshall Faulk, but whatever hope might have lingered for hardcore fans pretty much disappeared when Trent Green, the starting quarterback brought in from Washington, had his knee blown out by Rodney Harrison in a preseason game.
“It hurts,” Vermeil said, and he was in tears, and he announced that they were giving the job to a 28-year-old Hy-Vee stocker who had spent the previous year throwing touchdown passes in the indoor Arena League, Kurt Warner.
“He was John Unitas of the Arena League,” wrote Bernie Miklasz in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Warner was the Joe Montana of NFL Europe. … Unfortunately, the Rams do not have the Grand Rapids Rampage or Barcelona Dragons on their 1999 schedule.”
Of course, we now know that Warner was one of the great finds in NFL history … he’s in the Hall of Fame now. He led the 1999 Rams to the Super Bowl and had one of the greatest statistical seasons any quarterback ever had up to that point.
But what I remember about those Rams is a little bit different … they got off to a crazy hot start, blowing out their first six opponents. Sometimes surprise teams will do that. But what was so striking about those Rams was that when you looked closely at the team, you realized they were ABSOLUTELY LOADED. How did that happen? Sure, yeah, we knew they had picked up Faulk … but how did they get the best receiving core in football with Issac Bruce, Torry Holt and Az-Zahir Hakim? I mean, Bruce is in the Hall of Fame and Holt might joint him and Hakim was utterly electrifying.
And that offensive line? They had Orlando Pace, he’s in the Hall of Fame, too; many called him the greatest offensive lineman in college football history. On defense, they had Kevin Carter, a force of nature who would lead the league in sacks that year. They had linebacker London Fletcher and cornerback Todd Lyght, I mean, everywhere you looked, you saw really good or great players.
And, again, the feeling was: How did that happen? How did this team that came out of nowhere build such a complete and dominant roster while no one was looking?
And I have to say: I kind of feel the same way about these Rangers.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial