Tag Archives: Los Angeles Rams

“Hunter” Dominates for the Horns

Fred Dryer doesn’t live in a house or an apartment. He usually sleeps wherever he happens to park his white Volkswagen bus the New York Times reported in 1973.

“It’s not fancy inside,” he says. “I got my clothes and my bed in it, that’s all. But it’s home. Except sometimes I hole up in somebody’s house for a couple of days, up in the mountains or down at the beach.”

But as a Ram,, he conforms. Particularly under the new head coach, Chuck Knox, and the new defensive coordinator, Ray Malavasi.

“Our coaches are teachers first,” the 6‐foot‐6‐inch, 240‐pound pass‐rusher says. “With the Giants, it was ‘Let’s try this, and if it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else.’ But here things this year are really well organized. Last year, when Tommy Prothro was the head coach, guys were doing and acting the way they wanted to. There was no lesson plan. And when Tommy did say something, sometimes it didn’t make much sense.”

At a pregame meal, for example, each Ram was permitted only one boiled potato.

“Coach,” asked Dryer one day, “I think it would behoove me to have another potato.”

After a long thoughtful pause, Prothro replied, “I believe one potato is enough.”

“I walked away like I was a little kid,” Dryer remembers. “It was ludicrous.”

Now he’s permitted more than one boiled potato. He’s also positioned at right defensive end, which he prefers. Last season he played mostly on the left side after being on the right side with the Giants for three seasons.

“I feel I’m a better pass‐rusher from the right side,” he says. “I feel like I’m sneaking in the back way.”

Against the Green Bay Packers last Sunday, he sneaked in twice to tackle a quarterback in the end zone, the first player in N.F.L. history to record two safeties in one game. He isn’t likely to record another today, not with Tarkenton’s ability to avoid a tackler or to throw the ball away.

“I don’t remember ever being caught for a safety,” Tarkenton says. “But it always can happen, especially if Freddy gets a shot at me. I don’t think the Giants realized how sincere Freddy is about football, how much it means to him.”


I’d like to give a shout-out and a wholehearted “thank you” to Michael over at the Rams 702 Club for sending me some awesome stickers in the mail. Please check out their site for some really great t-shirts, beanies, pins, and stickers. If you’re in the Las Vegas area they have weekly family-friendly gatherings for all the games during the season. It really is a great organization, and if I didn’t live a thousand miles away I would definitely be a weekly attendee…although I’m proud to support them from afar in Texas. Keep up the good work, gentlemen!

Jim Jodat…Buddy Holly Glasses, Iron Man

So I’m watching a Rams/49ers game from 1977 when announcer Vin Scully mentions to his cohort Sonny Jergensen that the Rams kick returner is wearing coke-bottle, Buddy Holly-style glasses, which immediately catches my attention. I had never seen such a thing and was instantly intrigued. Who was this guy? (note: this was also Joe Namath’s last game as a starter for the Rams, outdueling Jim Plunkett 34-14.)

I must admit that Jim Jodat certainly didn’t look like much of an athlete, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel wrote.

He had a squatty build and suspect eyesight, but he sure could run. The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Milwaukee native also had a fanatical work ethic and gritty determination that drove him to become Carthage College’s career leader in rushing, to play in the NFL for seven seasons, and to return the opening kickoff in Super Bowl XIV in 1980.

In 1976, Jodat was selected by the Los Angeles Rams in the 12th round of the NFL draft, the 344th overall pick. He went on to play with the Rams, the Seattle Seahawks, and the San Diego Chargers over seven seasons.

Jodat spent his rookie season on injured reserve with a sprained knee. In 1977 he made his mark on special teams since the Rams’ backfield was clogged with talented backs John Cappelletti, Lawrence McCutcheon, Cullen Bryant, and Wendell Tyler.

“He was behind a lot of great players with the Rams, but Jim was never a guy to try and talk a coach into more playing time,” Tom Brannon said. “He just didn’t have that kind of personality.”

In January 1980, Jodat appeared on the cover of The Sporting News as the special teams’ captain for the Rams. Jodat, as mentioned above, returned the opening kickoff for Los Angeles in Super Bowl XIV against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Unfortunately, the Steelers won, 31-19 after the Rams let a 19-17 lead dissolve in the fourth quarter.

Jodat died on October 21, 2015, of cancer in Lake Forest, Ca.

Wendell Tyler’s Car Accident

Wendell Tyler was 23 and coming into the prime of his life. He’d just signed a new contract with the Rams after rushing for 1,109 yards and leading the team to the Super Bowl, where they lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He’d gone to West Virginia with his wife in the offseason to spend time around her family. On the night of July 4, 1980, he went to a dance at a local church. It was the offseason and Wendell thought he was entitled to a good time, and by the end of the night, he was tired so he slept while his brother-in-law drove home.

When Tyler’s brother-in-law fell asleep at the wheel with his foot on the accelerator, the car careened into the ditch and came to a stop against a mountain. The brother-in-law had a broken arm. The brother-in-law’s neighbor, who had been in the back seat, had a broken leg. Tyler was lucky–he dislocated his hip.

The car got the worst of it. ”It looked like an accordion,” Tyler said. ”Only you couldn’t play it.” He laughed weakly at his joke, then said seriously, ”It was truly a traumatic experience.”

Tyler spent the next two weeks in a hospital, with not much more to do than think about how he had got there. Even now, with his fortunes turned around and his life in order, he shudders to think what might have happened had the car lurched in the other direction towards a cliffside.

In 1981 the Rams finished 6-10, but Tyler ran for 1,074 yards and scored 12 touchdowns. In 1982 the strike cut his yardage production nearly in half, but he still scored nine touchdowns.

”I was lucky,” he said of the auto accident. ”I had a non-football-related injury. The Rams didn’t have to pay me, or do anything. But they stuck by me. They took care of me, even after the doctor had told me I only had a 10 percent chance to play again.”

Eventually, when the Rams figured they had a chance to get Eric Dickerson, they traded Tyler to the 49ers with Cody Jones, an aging defensive lineman, and a third-round draft choice for one of the 49ers’ two second-round draft choices and a selection in the fourth round.


I’d like to send a wholehearted thank you to Michael Cruz of the 702 Rams Club for sending me this AWESOME swag recently. Please check out their site for some really great t-shirts, beanies, pins, and stickers. If you’re in the Las Vegas area they have weekly family-friendly gatherings for all the games during the season. It really is a great organization, and if I didn’t live a thousand miles away I would definitely be a weekly attendee, although I’m proud to support them from afar in Texas. (Oh yeah…f*ck the Cowboys)

“Watch My Smoke” Review

When Eric Dickerson was growing up in Sealy, Texas in the 1960s, his mom said to him, “It’s just different for us.” She wasn’t talking about the Dickerson family in particular, but about Black people in general. In Dickerson’s memoir, “Watch My Smoke,” her statement echoes throughout, a testament to the enduring influence of his mom on his life and the appositeness of those words through the stages of a Black life. “It’s just different for us.”

In high school, where Dickerson emerged as a star running back, his white coach would call QB sneaks near the goal line. Instead of calling the play for Dickerson, this enabled the quarterback, also white, to score the touchdown, leading to his name appearing in the paper the next day. “To this day,” Dickerson writes, “I’m convinced he was doing that just to fuck with me.” But Dickerson’s talent was undeniable. He earned a scholarship to play at Southern Methodist University, in Dallas, and from there a professional contract with the Los Angeles Rams as the second overall pick in the 1983 NFL draft.

Much has been made of his exceptional size and speed. But according to Dickerson, his greatest asset was his feet. “When you have good feet, you’re balanced when the defenders aren’t, and your body is always in a good position to do the next thing.” His running style appeared effortless—so much so that one of his coaches thought he must be jogging out there. “I was one of those athletes that made it look easy. I have no doubt this played into the public perception of me. To a lot of people, I was a Black guy going three-quarter speed making lots of money who had the audacity to complain he was underpaid.”

“Watch My Smoke” is a memoir of public perception versus depth. As a kid growing up in the eighties, I recall the dominant one-dimensional Eric Dickerson media narrative presented to the public. Perception: He was greedy, selfish, a troublemaker because he held out for more money at the beginning of the 1985 season. Depth: In only his second season, he had set the single-season rushing record, one of the most prestigious and grueling records in a violent sport (one which still stands today). Seeking fairness, he felt his performance warranted a raise. At the time he was being paid one-tenth what his peers were paid.

Consider this: Two years earlier, John Elway, a white quarterback out of Stanford and the lone player drafted ahead of Dickerson in the 1983 NFL Draft, outright refused to play for the Baltimore Colts, the team that drafted him. A two-sport athlete at Stanford, Elway announced he’d go play baseball if the Colts didn’t trade him—all before he’d ever taken a snap in the NFL. The Colts capitulated, and Elway had a long career with the Denver Broncos, becoming a sentimental favorite to win the Super Bowl after a string of unsuccessful attempts. Dickerson, meanwhile, was labeled “Eric the Ingrate” by the media and traded a few seasons later. “It’s just different for us.”

Dickerson also addresses his role in a corruption scandal at SMU that made national headlines. “The real scandal isn’t how much I got paid, it was how little.” He contends the NCAA exploits its athletes. There’s evidence the National Labor Relations Board is now open to investigating this idea. This past September, more than five years after the NLRB rejected a claim to unionize by Northwestern University football players, its general council reasoned in a memo that under the National Labor Relations Act, some NCAA athletes should be considered employees and thus able to unionize.

A strong sports memoir, “Watch My Smoke” balances biography and perspective with on-the-field action, making you feel what it’s like to compete at the highest level of sports. I’ve never felt closer to the field—and happier to be just a spectator—than through Dickerson’s in-game encounter with legendary New York Giants linebacker Lawrence Taylor. There’s self-aware humor (“the first Eric Dickerson recruiting war”) and Dickerson’s appreciation of the look of sports, which includes a terrific chapter about his singular sense of style when it comes to uniforms.

Despite the turbulence he experienced in his playing career, Dickerson sits securely in the top ten all-time for career rushing yards in the NFL, he’s in the top five for rushing yards per game and is in the NFL Hall of Fame. More than thirty years after he was traded from the Rams, he has reconciled with the organization and is now vice president for business development. He is valued by the team’s fans for his willingness to speak the truth.

by John Moss

The “Mud Bowl” 1977

I became a Rams fan in 1986, so this game was played way before my time. However, I have a voracious interest in the glorious past of this team, so I thought I’d sit down and watch this sludgy contest from another time and seemingly another planet. Quite a different atmosphere than today’s perfectly manicured, pass-happy NFL.

After losing starting QB Fran Tarkenton to a broken leg earlier in the season, the Vikings still found themselves atop the NFC Central and headed to the playoffs for the fifth straight season. They were headed to Los Angeles to take on the Rams in the NFC Divisional round. Keep in mind, the Vikings had played the Rams earlier in the season at home before Tarkenton went down, and they got throttled 35-3.

After this game, most fans were convinced the Rams were jinxed. The Rams of the 1970s were a perennial division-winning team who always seemed to falter on the road in the postseason. However, this playoff game was thought to be contested in the friendly weather confines of the Coliseum–the team had finally acquired a playoff game on their own turf. Unfortunately, it rained for three straight days and nights, proving that the old song by Sonny and Cher, It never rains in Southern California is a blatant lie. The Coliseum had transformed into a swamp.

The Rams fell behind early as the conditions worsened throughout the game, and the mud became a major factor with Coliseum grounds crew members scrambling to make the grass playable for wide receiver Harold Jackson and the Rams’ running game of Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappelletti. They failed horribly, which forced the team to rely more on an inexperienced passing game from (undersized?) quarterback Pat Haden. The speed advantage for the Rams was taken away and the 10 1/2 point favorite Rams were defeated 14-7. 

Some fans were upset that the terribly inferior Pat Haden (14-32 130 yds, 3 int.) played the whole game while Joe Namath, in his final NFL game, picked splinters out of his ass on the bench. (There were theories that Namath had bigger hands and would be able to grip and throw the ball more accurately) Head coach Chuck “Ground Chuck” Knox, feeling the criticism, stepped down after the game and eventually became head coach for the Buffalo Bills.

The Vikings would go on to play the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Championship Game where they’d eventually lose 23-6.

John Hadl RIP

John Hadl played just one full season for the Los Angeles Rams, but it was one of the franchise’s best.

With Hadl at quarterback in 1973, the Rams finished 12-2 in the regular season. Never before had the Rams achieved 12 regular-season wins, not even with renowned quarterbacks such as Bob Waterfield, Norm Van Brocklin, and Roman Gabriel.

Described by The Sporting News as a “quiet, majestic leader,” Hadl was 82 when he died on Nov. 30, 2022.

Hadl had 33,503 yards passing and threw for 244 touchdowns during his pro career, but his route to becoming a quarterback was hardly conventional. He was a halfback for his hometown school, the University of Kansas, before shifting to quarterback his senior year. Kansas used a Split-T formation, so Hadl mostly handed off the ball, or carried it himself, and didn’t develop a pro passing style.

The Detroit Lions selected him in the first round of the 1962 NFL draft, intending to play him at running back, but he signed with the San Diego Chargers, who took him in the third round of the AFL draft because they offered him a $17,000 salary, a new Thunderbird and a chance to play quarterback, the Kansas City Star reported.

When Hadl got to the Chargers, he had to learn to throw a spiral, according to the Star, but he was a quick study. Hadl’s long tosses to receiver Lance Alworth highlighted a wide-open offense and helped the Chargers get to the AFL championship game three times, winning once.

Hadl’s flashier counterpart, Joe Namath, called him “the best passer in the league,” the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported, and Chargers head coach Sid Gillman told the newspaper that Hadl was “the most complete quarterback. There’s nothing about the game he doesn’t know.”

The success didn’t raise Hadl’s stature much outside San Diego. As Los Angeles Times columnist Jim Murray noted, “Playing in San Diego is like spying for Russia. It’s steady work. but nobody knows what you do.”

In March 1971, Hadl was thrown from a horse, fracturing his skull and damaging his left eye, but recovered in time to keep playing. The Chargers, though, had gone to a ball-control offense and it wasn’t working. After three consecutive losing seasons (1970-72), Hadl wanted out. “I’m just sick of losing with what I consider an antiquated offense,” he told the Times.

Hadl and the Rams were the right fit. Looking for help after Roman Gabriel hurt his elbow in 1972, the Rams dealt defensive end Coy Bacon and running back Bob Thomas to the Chargers for Hadl in January 1973.

According to Jim Murray, Gabriel “got near hysterical” about Hadl’s arrival. “He reacted the way a husband would if his wife left a callback number and it was Joe Namath’s apartment,” Murray wrote.

Unamused, the Rams traded Gabriel to the Philadelphia Eagles in June 1973. Gabriel had been a glamour boy in a glamour town. Hadl was, as Jim Murray wrote, “as Kansas as corn.”

“His hair, what there is of it, is short,” Murray wrote. “He conveys the impression of being pudgy, but his thighs and calves are so big you wonder if he gets his shoes at a blacksmith. The wrists look as if they could flick a football across Colorado with two throws.”

Responding to Hadl’s poise, passing and leadership, the Rams began the season with six straight wins and ended the season with another six in a row, reaching the playoffs for the first time since 1969. Though they lost in the first round to the Dallas Cowboys, Hadl, 33, was hailed a success. He threw 22 touchdown passes for the 1973 Rams and was named NFC Player of the Year.

With his value at a premium, the Rams traded Hadl in October 1974 to the Green Bay Packers for five high-round draft picks, a move that helped achieve a run of eight straight playoff seasons (1973-80), including a Super Bowl appearance.

Though his stay with the Rams was brief, Hadl’s impact on the franchise was significant.

(This piece was contributed by Mark, proprietor of the impeccable Retro Simba.)

Flingin’ It Around the Yard

When The Pretenders performed “Talk of the Town,” I don’t think Chrissie Hynde was crooning about Baker Mayfield, but here we are. He was all over the airwaves and floating in the ether, passing through the lips of every talking head with a microphone that seemingly overloads the brains of bored sadists. This was the disposed-of young man from the Sooner State (aka Texas’ little brother) always seemingly pointing west in perpetuity, beating the team from the desert with a pirate logo (hardly intimidating, half-asleep and with a butt-chin) and a glorious past flooded with modern-day mediocrity, 17-16.

Popular consensus told us that Baker was washed-up and relegated to a career clipboard holder, whispering into the head coach’s ear when he didn’t have his thumb up his butt. He was a complex melange of overrated talent and immature assholism. I’ve been told that Americans love a comeback story, but the only problem is they also love to knock a success story off its pedestal in a uniquely self-centered American way of subconscious competitiveness and jealousy. One of the hardest things in life is trying to retain your own definition of success when so many people around you are feeding you their definition bit by bit. If you’re not careful, it’s going to chip away at your definition until it’s completely replaced by theirs.

This Team Stinks

It was November football at its worst, played in the shadow of a billionaire’s shiny new toy and a cadre of bored celebrities. I have so many projects left unfinished–paintings left unattended and books left unread. Yet, I still find time to watch this team without fail every week and every week it’s the same lifeless dumpster fire. I’ve also considered that I could be doing other things like going for a hike, chugging suds at the local brew pub, or kayaking on the river. More life-affirming, nuanced pursuits. 

What happened? Well, the Rams are a horrible excuse for a football team, losing 27-17 at home to the god-awful Arizona Cardinals (who played without their own starting QB) to fall to 3-6 in a game that really wasn’t as close as the final score indicated. This was an unwatchable display from every perspective and one could compare the experience to spending the weekend in a rainstorm with an ex-girlfriend that you particularly despise. This team has challenged the theory over and over that there are limits to incompetence. Still, as always, my loyalty remains…it’s just how I’m hardwired.  

Football is undoubtedly bread and circuses, but when it fails to appease why would you sit around and subconsciously suck up the endless array of overblown and heavy-handed truck and beer ads if you didn’t have to? Why would you watch an endless number of exasperating 3-and-outs while holding your head in your hands and wishing that lunatic Putin would just push the goddamn nuke button? Popular consensus and the good ol’ fashioned eyeball test tell me that this squad, frankly, sucks.

I have followed this team since 1986 when I (unfortunately?) fell head over heels in love, and have endured decades of dark and forbidding futility, including a prepubescent and unstable bedroom thrashing after a Wild Card loss to the now antiquatedly named Redskins. (that loss was a highlight compared to the 90’s dregs decade, and was also an early sign of my future psychotic behavior, or “fandom.”) Heed this stubborn and broken fan’s amusing and unjust example of testicular fortitude: “Wait ‘till next year!”

Horns Beat the Red Birds in the Desert

I usually don’t give the best advice, but smoking half a doobie and having a few man-sodas before your afternoon walk isn’t the worst thing in the world. My tiny neighborhood world seemed hushed and restful and Billy Joel’s Big Shot was blaring through my headphones. I have a precarious relationship with this “hangover” song–sometimes I find it to be charming and at others it makes me want to tear my eyeballs out with its repetitive chorus that open palm slaps the nouveau rich NY coke scene.

The Piano Man was an infamous alcoholic/car crash aficionado who is doing much better these days now that he is sober and finally accepting of his divorce from Christie Brinkley. (ever notice how banging supermodels makes you borderline suicidal in the end? depression as humble pie.) I was having none of that, however, as today I was going to watch some ol’ pigskin on the tube and cheer until my heart burst while pounding a Wade Boggs-on-an-airplane amount of beer. ‘Merica.

I was three-sheets-to-the-wind by halftime and had crushed about 8 of the self-styled “King of Beers.” Budweiser tastes like beer-flavored water because it’s not something you’re supposed to sit around and contemplate. The taste of “nothing” (or a fizzy water drink lightly flavored with grains and a touch of malt) is nostalgia. Its advertising campaigns – its entire ethos – seem designed to target a particular drinking style and drinking public, more than any particular flavor. It’s meant to be quaffed mindlessly until your running back fumbles the ball on the 1-yard line and you can sense your inner maniac slowly rising from the pit of your stomach in a crescendo of childish and loosey-goosey irrational behavior that ends with a copy of Steely Dan’s Can’t Buy a Thrill album being hurled against the wall. Good times.

In the end, the Rams held on for a very hard-fought 20-12 divisional road win against a pesky Arizona Cardinals team that hung around all game but faltered in part thanks to some very strong red zone Rams defense. I thought Matt Stafford played very well. He was 18-25 249 yards for a rating of 103.6, was sacked once, and threw no interceptions. Aaron Donald also added to his legacy by garnering his 100th sack. It’s always good to get that first divisional win, and the Rams are sitting at 2-1 having won two in a row. The squad still hasn’t hit their stride, however, and is definitely not in championship form, but the season is young and there is no reason to fret or wax poetic quite yet.


The Origin of the Horn

Fred Gehrke was a Rams halfback who was an art major in college and worked during the offseason as a technical illustrator for aircraft companies in Los Angeles. In early 1948, he had the idea to paint the team’s plain leather helmets blue with yellow ram horns. In those days, helmets sometimes had a stripe or two, but no one had ever thought to put a logo on one.

While this show of creativity seemed obvious to Fred, he had to take a helmet home and paint it for his coach to understand exactly what he was getting on about. ” I took one of those gosh-awful brown leather helmets and painted it blue, then made a free rendering of a ram’s horns in gold. It’s the same thing they have today, except the gold is now white, due to television. The blue-and-gold helmet was much prettier,” said Gehrke

When team owner Dan Reeves saw the helmet, he liked it so much that he offered Gehrke $1 per helmet to paint the rest of the team’s 75 lids over the summer. When the helmets made their debut on the field, the stunned L.A. Coliseum crowd reacted with a five-minute standing ovation. An icon was born.

Often, Gehrke would take helmets home at night to retouch the ram’s horns which suffered chipping damage from player collisions. Eventually, a logo frenzy followed. The Baltimore Colts followed with the second logo–the famous horseshoe. These were the first steps in creating team identities and brand loyalty that could be commercialized to generate income for teams and the league as a whole.

Gehrke died at the age of 83 in 2002.