By Joe Torosian
“Offensive linemen are like salt. Nobody ever remembers the brand they buy.”—Blaine Nye
I’m hard-pressed after the Washington Redskins offensive line being called “The Hogs” in 1982 (and carrying on for a decade) to recall another offensive line with a nickname.
The Redskins wide receivers were “The Smurfs”…Defensive nicknames have always been easy: Doomsday, The Purple People Eaters, The Steel Curtain, The Soul Patrol, The Killer Bees, The Gold Rush, The Silver Rush…Etc. Etc. Etc.
Of course, the signature nickname associated with the Los Angeles Rams has been “The Fearsome Foursome.”
(We’ll exclude “The Greatest Show on Turf” because it essentially ended when the NFL rigged Super Bowl 36 to make sure the New England Patriots won—Not that I’m still bitter or anything.)
“The Fearsome Foursome” was great. Dominant. Marvelous. It came into being when the Rams acquired Rosey Grier from the New York Giants in 1963. For the next four seasons—Lamar Lundy, Grier, Merlin Olsen, Deacon Jones—they missed a combined three games. They were on the field every week, and the team went: 5-9, 5-7-2, 4-10, and finally 8-6 in George Allen’s first season in 1966.
Grier retired without playing a single playoff game for the Rams. Roger Brown replaced him in 1967, and Lamar Lundy only played nine games combined in 1968 and 1969. Coy Bacon was a great edition in 1969, but “The Fearsome Foursome” was done after four seasons in 1966.
What is interesting is that no nickname was ever given to the Rams offensive line. An offensive line that dominated for the next 24 seasons, including 16 playoff appearances, and 11 division titles.
When Allen arrived in 1966, the Rams also drafted Tom Mack out of Michigan.
Mack was added to an offensive line that included center Ken Iman (140 consecutive starts from 1965-1974)…Tackle Charlie Cowan (1961-1975, 3 Pro Bowls)…Joe Scibelli (1961-1975, 1 Pro Bowl/1968, All Pro/1973, Rams “OL of Year” 5-times, team captain 10-years)…and Mack who ended up in the Hall of Fame after playing in 184 games and starting 162.
Note: Tackle Joe Carollo was the fifth member of this unit and went to the Pro Bowl in 1968. He was replaced by Hall of Famer Bob Brown in 1969 & 1970.
And it goes from there. Iman was replaced by Rich Saul. Saul went to 6 Pro Bowls between 1975-1981 and was replaced by Doug Smith (1978-1991) who also went to six Pro Bowls.
After the 1978 season, Mack was replaced by Kent Hill (1979-1986) who went to five Pro Bowls. Hill was replaced by Tom Newberry (1986-1994), and Newberry was All-Pro twice.
Scibelli was replaced by Dennis Harrah (1975-1987) who went to six Pro Bowls and was named All-Pro once.
Cowan was replaced by Doug France (1975-1981) who was All-Pro three times. And from 1972 through 1979, John Williams was the right tackle. Williams played in 111 games, starting 94, including 86 in a row.
Bill Bain, Irv Pankey, Duval Love all started with distinction throughout the 1980s…And then there was this guy named Jackie Slater who became a starter in 1979 and in 1995 concluded a Hall of Fame career.
Look at all of these 1,000-yard rushers, and you see only one Hall of Famer.
In 1966 running back Dick Bass had his best season (1,090 rushing yards). Willie Ellison rushed for a 1,000 yards in 1971. Lawrence McCutcheon rushed for a 1,000 yards four times in five seasons (1973-1974, 1976-1977). Wendell Tyler rushed over a 1,000 twice (1979-1981)…And then there was Eric Dickerson who is in the Hall of Fame and still holds the NFL’s single-season rushing record.
But did you know Charles White led the NFL in rushing in 1987? He was followed by Greg Bell’s 1,000-yard seasons in 1988 and 1989.
Sixteen playoff appearances from 1966 to 1989. So what about those eight seasons when they didn’t make the playoffs?
First, cancel out the Tommy Prothro years of 1971 and 1972, he was a disaster. Cancel out the two strike years 1982 and 1987. The three times the Rams missed the playoffs under Allen they went 8-6 (1966), 10-3-1 (1968), and 9-4-1 (1970).
In 1981 they were legitimately bad. Head Coach Ray Malavasi was burning out. The effect of Georgia Frontiere’s ownership was taking shape. Long-time GM Don Klosterman was being put out to pasture. Pat Haden, Dan Pastorini, Jeff Rutledge, and Jeff Kemp all played quarterback for that team.
That’s an amazing run. So if you’re a Rams fan, please, give “The Fearsome Foursome” its due. But there was nothing like the Rams offensive lines from 1966 through 1989. It’s a little late, but that unit deserves a tag. It deserves attention. It deserves to be honored.
The Dude abides…
Author of “Tangent Dreams: A High School Football Novel” … “Temple City & The Company of The Ages” … “The Dead Bug Tales” … “The Dark Norm” & “FaithViews for Storm Riders”…all five available through Amazon.com.
Follow Joe on Twitter @joet13b