Sixty-six years ago, the Los Angeles Rams captured the hearts of sports fans around the city when they won the first professional sports title in L.A. history. Men dressed in blue and gold brought pride to their town as they took down the Cleveland Browns and earned the right to call themselves champions.
Now, over half a century later, a lot has changed. Fifteen teams have won championships in L.A. and neighboring Anaheim, including titles in hockey, basketball, baseball and soccer. The Rams moved out of California, then back to California and soon, into a stadium that will be shared with another pro football team.
The Rams have been out of St. Louis and back in California for only two years before questions about their stability have started to emerge. The team went 4-12 last year in their return season, and now, the Chargers are in town. After moving from San Diego, the Chargers plan to join the Rams in a new stadium scheduled to open in Inglewood in 2020 after construction delays.
At the Rams All-Access event on Thursday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell addressed the growing concerns of L.A. hosting two professional football teams and explained how the stadium will help draw fans into the football culture of Los Angeles.
“Both of these teams are committed to winning,” Goodell said, referencing the Rams and the Chargers. “I think they have some great elements that are important to building a team, and we’re excited about that. And you know, every other sport has had at least two teams, so we understand the size of this market, the entertainment aspect, but there is also a great deal of competition here.”
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The stadium delay has led to criticism directed at the commissioner, and Goodell even acknowledged that in order for football to grow in Los Angeles, a new arena needs to house the Rams and Chargers.
“I think it is going to transform the way people experience football, I think it will bring events into this community that they’ll be proud of, and it will be great for the community.”
Amid the Rams’ disappointing season in 2016, head coach Jeff Fisher was fired. He was replaced in the offseason with 31-year-old Sean McVay, the former offensive coordinator for Washington that he hoped would help refresh the program.
McVay said on Thursday that he looks forward to bringing his team together for a new beginning and watching the group further develop.
“This is the first time I’ve been down here, and you can feel the energy here and just getting a chance to see the locker room and just envision the kinds of things that are going to take place here, it’s an exciting time for us,” McVay said.
McVay will inherit a young team led by a 22-year-old quarterback, Jared Goff, who went 0-7 in his starts last year. The Rams ranked last in the league for offense, but McVay expressed little concern with the makeup of his team and its previous performance. He hired Matt LaFleur, a former Atlanta Falcons quarterbacks coach, to run his offense and Wade Phillips, a veteran of the league and the defensive coordinator of the 2015 Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos, to run his defense. Together, the men believe they can help bring a winning football program back to L.A.
Wade expressed confidence in his head coach, calling McVay, “not a great young coach, but a great coach,” and praising McVay’s communication and leadership skills.
Returning quarterback Goff continued the praise for McVay.
“He’s got that energy about him,” Goff said. “His ability to teach and coach is second to none, and I think he’s done a great job.”
The road to success for L.A. won’t be easy though, even with a new coach, positive spirits and a forgiving fan base. The Rams planned to rebrand in 2019 to align with the opening of their new stadium in Inglewood. The delay in the stadium, however, might put off that effort and left the team in the 93-year-old Coliseum through the 2019 season.
McVay had jokes about the building.
“You see the visitors locker room,” McVay said, pausing long enough to smile widely. “So we’re hopefully able to take advantage of this home field, and we’re looking forward to a lot of good things to come here.”
Whether or not the new stadium will change football in Southern California remains to be seen, but there is one thing the Rams are certain of, and that is having a more successful season that the previous year.
“We’re going to be a good football team.” Phillips said with a hint of rebellion and defiance. “We are going to win every game and the Super Bowl.”