Eric Dickerson was selected second overall in the 1983 NFL Draft by the St. Louis Rams. An immediate success, he established rookie records for most rushing attempts (390), most rushing yards gained (1,808) and most touchdowns rushing (18), including another two receiving touchdowns. His efforts earned him All-Pro, Pro Bowl, Player of the Year and Rookie of the Year honors.
In his second season, Dickerson continued his onslaught on the NFL record book becoming a member of the 2000 rushing yards club. Twelve times in 1984 he gained more than 100 yards rushing, breaking the record of 100-yard games in a season held by O. J. Simpson. His 2,105 total yards rushing beat Simpson’s 1973 NFL season record of 2,003 yards (Dickerson having reached 2,007 yards after 15 games), but since the NFL expanded the regular season from 14 to 16 games in 1978, Dickerson had the benefit of playing in two additional games. No one has since rushed for more yards in a single NFL season. Dickerson’s 5.6 yards per carry led the Rams to a playoff berth in 1984.
In the twilight of his career, Joe Namath was waived by the New York Jets to facilitate his move to the Los Angeles Rams when a trade could not be worked out. He was signed by the Rams on May 12, 1977. Namath hoped to revitalize his career, but by this point his effectiveness as a quarterback was greatly reduced by his knee injuries, a bad hamstring, and the general ravages of a long period of time playing professional football, as well as his “hard and fast” lifestyle. After playing well in a 2–1 start, Namath took a beating on a cold, windy, and rainy Monday night game in a one-point loss at the Chicago Bears, throwing two interceptions, with another being nullified by a penalty, and was through for the regular season.
He did not play again, but redemption and a Hollywood ending was there for the taking. After a disastrous three quarters of turnovers and only trailing by seven points in the opening round of the play-offs, head coach Chuck Knox seemed ready to pull Pat Haden and insert Namath. Rams assistant coach Kay Stephenson said Namath looked great warming-up in the third quarter and advised Knox to put him in. The television audience was on the edge of their seats as it appeared Namath would replace Pat Haden and save the Rams’ season. But Knox hesitated. Haden’s problems continued and the Rams lost to the Minnesota Vikings by a score of 14–7 in a sea of mud at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Namath retired from the Rams after a single season.
“You learn you can do your best when it’s hard, even when you’re tired and maybe hurting a little bit. It feels good to show some courage.” – Joe Namath
“The winning team has a dedication. It will have a core of veteran players who set the standards. They will not accept defeat.” – Merlin Olsen
“Positive thinking is the key to success in business, education, pro football, anything that you can mention. I go out there thinking that I’m going to complete every pass.” – Ron Jaworski
“If you don’t invest very much, then defeat doesn’t hurt very much and winning is not very exciting.” – Dick Vermeil