Yesterday I started on a journey looking back at the incredible longevity of Tom Brady’s NFL career. Brady and the Patriots return to face the Rams in a Super Bowl seventeen years removed from his first ever Super Bowl appearance. All the players that started Super Bowl XXXVI, bar kicker Adam Vinatieri, failed to find success once they left New England. Whilst they retired, Brady continues to come back year after year.
The success of Brady and the Patriots during the space in between has been well documented.
For the Rams, Sunday will be their first time in the Super Bowl since XXXVI and their fourth all time.
As I did yesterday for the Patriots, I will look at how the careers of the Rams team from Super Bowl XXXVI unfolded as Brady continues his magic in the state of Massachusetts.
A Hall of Fame Fairy Tale…
QB Kurt Warner: Warner’s NFL story is one of pure fairy tale. Undrafted in 1994, Warner found himself playing in the Arena League and NFL Europe before being picked up by the Rams. Warner rewarded the Rams with the Lombardi Trophy from Super Bowl XXXIV where he was named MVP. He lead the league in 2001 before losing out to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI. He spent time with the Giants and Cardinals after leaving the Rams and lost out in another, Super Bowl XLIII, for Arizona. After retiring in January 2010, Warner embarked on a media career, and currently works for NFL Network. His fairy tale was completed in 2017 when he was inducted to the Football Hall of Fame.
LT Orlando Pace: Joining Warner in the Football Hall of Fame was the guy who protected him at the Rams. He made seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances. As with the Rams, Pace never made it to another Super Bowl and retired from the sport after one season with the Chicago Bears in 2009 due to injury.
LG Tom Nutten: Nutten played 78 games in the league, predominantly for the Rams. His first spell yielded a Super Bowl ring. He retired briefly as a New York Jet in 2013 but came out of retirement to finish his career at the Rams in 2005.
C Andy McCollum: Another player who earned his only title success with the Rams, McCollum played for 15 seasons in the league. Now retired, he coaches high school football.
RG Adam Timmerman: A seventh round pick that had a Super Bowl win with the Packers and the Rams. He never returned to the big game and finished his career with the Rams. He is now a general manager for a John Deere dealership.
RT Rod Jones: This was the only season Jones played for the Rams after starting his career at the Bengals. He left the Rams for the Redskins and retired the following year having started 38 games in the league.
WR Torry Holt: Despite being on the receiving end of the Super Bowl defeat, Holt went on to have five more Pro Bowl calibre seasons for the Rams. He was voted first team All-Pro and lead the league in receiving yards. His final seasons in the league were marred by a lack of production and injury and in 2012 Holt signed a contract with the Rams so he could retire with the team.
WR Isaac Bruce: Like his team mate Holt, Bruce returned to the Rams on a ceremonial contract to end his career there. The Rams retired his number 80 jersey out of respect to one of the greatest receivers to play the game. He never played in another Super Bowl after XXXVI even after joining the 49ers to try and get them back to the big game. Even during his time as a player, Bruce was active as a philanthropist and was particularly highly involved with children and youth charity work.
TE Ernie Conwell: Conwell left the team after the 2002 season to join the New Orleans Saints. He retired after the 2006 season.
TE Jeff Robinson: Robinson left the team after Super Bowl XXXVI to join the Cowboys. He returned briefly to the Rams before signing for the Seahawks. His last action in the league was as a long snapper for Seattle in 2009.
RB Marshall Faulk: The Rams weren’t given the name ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’ for no reason. Warner, Pace, and Faulk all made there way in to the Hall of Fame. The Rams retired Faulk’s #28 jersey. His best work was done in the years up to Super Bowl XXXVI however, and he never returned to the Super Bowl. After his retirement from the game, Faulk worked as an analyst for the NFL Network. He was suspended, however, in late 2017 after allegations of sexual harassment against him and two co-workers.
DE Chidi Ahanotu: Ahanotu played just the one season for the Rams. He was most famous in Tampa Bay and ended his career there in 2004. Following retirement he set up a talent management service and clients include the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt.
DT Brian Young: Young played eight years in the league before retiring with the New Orleans Saints. He remained in New Orleans as a coach and is currently their assistant linebackers coach.
DT Jeff Zgonina: Zgonina is about as close to matching Tom Brady’s longevity as any player that started Super Bowl XXXVI. He played for seven different teams over a seventeen year career but never returned to the Super Bowl. In his final season with the Houston Texans in 2009 he was the second oldest non-kicker in the league.
DE Grant Wistrom: Super Bowl XXXVI wouldn’t be the last time that Wistrom made the Super Bowl in stark contrast to the rest of his team. He left the Rams in 2004 and joined the Seattle Seahawks. With Seattle he reached Super Bowl XL but couldn’t add another Super Bowl ring to add to his XXXIV victory. Wistrom founded the Grant Wistrom Foundation in 2002, giving opportunities to pediatric cancer patients.
LB Don Davis: If you can’t beat them, join them! Davis lost out to the Patriots in Super Bowl XXXVI but jump shipped from the Rams and won himself two rings in New England between 2003 and 2006. After retirement he spent a season as a the strength coach of the Patriots and is their current chaplain.
LB London Fletcher: Famous for never missing a game in his career. After defeat to the Patriots, Fletcher must have fancied some revenge as he signed for Divisional rivals, the Buffalo Bills. Playing Brady and the Patriots twice a year doesn’t lend itself to returning to the Super Bowl and Fletcher would end his career with only two Super Bowl appearances. He finished his career at the Washington Redskins at the end of the 2013 season.
LB Tommy Polley: Polley only had a six year career in the NFL after suffering a shoulder injury. After the Rams he played for the Ravens and finished his career in New Orleans.
CB Dexter McCleon: McCleon had a ten year career in the NFL which included stops in Kansas and Houston, where he retired. He had 31 career interceptions and a Super Bowl ring from his time with the Rams.
CB Aeneas Williams: A third round draft pick in 1991, Williams forged a Hall of Fame career without ever winning a Super Bowl. Whilst some of his team mates from Super Bowl XXXVI have a ring from the Rams victory two years previous, Williams was on the Cardinals at that point. He ended his career with the Rams as a four time, first team All-Pro and a place in the NFL 1990’s all decade team. Since retirement he has dedicate his life to the Spirit Church in St. Louis.
SS Adam Archuleta: Archuleta was a first round rookie when the Rams fell to the Patriots. That would be the closest he would get to a Super Bowl ring. He spent a year with the Redskins and Bears before retiring as a member of the Oakland Raiders in 2008. He is more famous for being married to Playboy playmate Jennifer Walcott and featuring in an episode of Football Wives.
FS Kim Herring: Herring came to the Rams in 2001 as a Super Bowl champion with the Ravens. Injury marred the rest of his career and he retired after being released by the Bengals after the 2005 season.
K Jeff Wilkins: When Wilkins retired from the NFL at the end the 2007 season, Wilkins left behind a legacy. He was the last kicker to kick barefoot in the league and had become the first Ram to score over 1000 points. Not bad for a team which produced four Hall of Fame players.
P John Baker: No fairy tale story for Baker. He played two seasons in the league and never played again after his only chance to own a Super Bowl ring.
Careers have come and gone over the last seventeen years. Players have entered the Hall of Fame. Players have disappeared in to obscurity. Teams have changed cities. Coaches have been fired.
Tom Brady remains.
Photo credit: USA Today