The year was 2005 and the Rams started out with a 2-3 record. Mike Martz was stricken by a bizarre health issue and was effectively cut-off from the team by John Shaw. His departure left the job to a man whose mediocrity would make him the last coach this franchise has seen that wasn’t historically bad – his name was Joe Vitt.
In 11 games as head coach, Vitt racked up an impressive four wins against New Orleans, Jacksonville, Houston and the Dallas Cowboys setting his winning percentage at .364. And that was with Larry Marmie as his defensive coordinator.
When compared to what Rams fans have seen since then, it was a magical time.
While he may have looked more like an extra from Goodfellas than an NFL head coach, by winning less than forty percent of his games, Vitt apparently set the bar at “unmitigated debacle”, a level that the next three coaches would not be able to approach during their tenures.
Scott Linehan’s reign ended 11-25 (.306 WP) winning just three of his last 20 games. When Linehan was canned four games into the 2008 season, Jim Haslett exploded onto the scene by winning his first two, prompting certain columnists who will go unnamed (cough* Burwell *cough) to firmly declare that he needed to get the full time job. He lost his next ten and was relieved of duties after the season.
Then it was Steve Spagnuolo and his four pillar system roaring into town and racking up 10 wins in 45 games, looking more and more overwhelmed each week.
The conclusion is simple: none of them could match up with the fringe mediocrity that Joe Vitt brought to the table.
Oh sure, we had Martz, Vermeil, The Greatest Show on Turf and all that, but considering how much of a beating the pysche of Rams fans has taken over the last seven years, we can only remember the days when the franchise was a punching bag for even pedestrian NFL teams with last night being the most depressing exhibit. And of the last four coaches to grace the Rams sidelines during that time, one stands head and shoulders above the rest…even though 99% of the Rams fans in St. Louis have no idea what his name was.
It was Joe Vitt, people. And considering how horrendous this team has been dating back to his brief stretch as the CEO of the sidelines, we never knew how good it felt to win 36% of the games they played.
Thanks to what Linehan, Haslett and now Spagnuolo have brought to the table, we call those “the good old days”.