The Greatest Show on Turf: Remembering the best offense the NFL has ever seen

Kurt Warner
Kurt Warner and the St Louis Rams were the Greatest Show on Turf. Photo from Sports Illustrated.

The “Greatest Show on Turf” began with the St. Louis Rams in 1999 and was led by Rams offensive coordinator Mike Martz. It was a form on the Air Coryell offense, but Martz was able to mix the run and pass together to be more deadly.

Greatest Show on Turf

The offense was designed to get all five receivers out on pass plays and was based on timing. The quarterback was throwing to a particular spot, and it was up to the receiver to get there. It was a lot of pre-snap motion and shifting to confuse the defense or to see if the defense was in man or zone coverage.

Pass protection was very critical; the quarterback would need time to pass. Receivers would run an assortment of routes, along with running screens and draw plays.

Kurt Warner

St. Louis had Kurt Warner at quarterback in 1999 after Trent Green was injured in the preseason. During the 1999 season, Warner threw 41 touchdowns and threw for 4,353 passing, while having a quarterback rating of 109.2

Warner led the Rams to a Super Bowl title that year. During the three years, Warner won the NFL MVP two out of the three years; in 2001, Warner threw for 4,830 yards and 36 touchdowns. From 1999-2001, Warner passed for 12,612 yards and threw 98 touchdowns.

Marshall Faulk

Marshall Faulk was the Rams secret weapon; the running back won three straight Offensive Player of the Year awards from 1999-2001.

Also, he won the MVP in 2000. In 1999, Faulk had 2,429 yards from scrimmage and posted over 1,000 yards receiving and rushing. Three have been only three players in NFL history to do that, Roger Craig and Christian McCaffrey. In 2000, in Faulk’s MVP season, he had 26 total touchdowns and rushed 1,359 yards, and he missed two games, or it could have been more yards and touchdowns. From 1999-2001 Faulk 4,122 rushing yards, 2,643 receiving yards, and 59 touchdowns.


Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt

The starting receivers were Isaac Bruce and Torry Holt, both good route runners and knew how to get open.

Bruce caught 77 passes for 1,165 yards and 12 touchdowns; he averaged 15.2 yards per catch. Bruce went to see 151 passes the next two seasons.

Holt caught 52 passes as a rookie but his numbers took off the next two seasons for the Rams. In 2000, Holt grabbed 82 passes for 1,635 yards. He averaged 19.9 yards per catch that season. The following season he averaged 16.8 yards per catch on 1,363 yards.

The others

The Rams also had Az-Zahir Hakim, who caught eight touchdown passes with the team in 1999. Hakim was a speedy and shifty receiver that was dangerous with the ball in his hands.

Also, St. Louis had Rickey Proehl, who was a sure-handed possession receiver.

Achievements

The Rams scored 526 points in the 1999 season; a team record was broken in 2000 when they scored 540 points.

For their last consecutive 500+ season, the Rams scored 503 points in 2001. These three seasons of 1,569 points were the most points scored by any team over three years. In 2000, the Rams were first in the league in total offense (7,335 yards), completions (380), passing yards (5,492), yards per pass attempt (9.36), passing touchdowns (37), and rushing touchdowns (26).

In 2001, The Rams were again first in the league in total offense (6,930 yards), completions (379), passing yards (4,903), yards per pass attempt (8.90), passing touchdowns (37), rushing touchdowns (20), and yards per rush attempt (4.87)

For three years, the Rams offense was some of the best offensive football we have seen; they were fun to watch. Their offense produced four NFL Hall Famers, Orlando Pace, Warner, Faulk, and Bruce.

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