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St. Louis Rams: Franchise player

8/18/2008

Posted by ESPN.com's Mike Sando

Readers' choice: Marshall Faulk, RB

Faulk was the most dynamic offensive player on the best offense in team history. He really could have played wide receiver, and sometimes he did. Faulk was the perfect player in the perfect system with the perfect personnel in the perfect pass-happy era, and he made the most of it. Charley Taylor and Paul Warfield should have been so blessed.

Editors asked me to take a look at the ballot before they solicited votes. Right away I noticed what seemed to be a significant omission. Jack Youngblood wasn't on the ballot. Editors limited the list to 10 players per team. That was the explanation.

Youngblood might not have been the best player in Rams history, but he was among them and I wanted to recognize him here. He missed one game in 14 seasons. His teams played in five NFC Championship games, reaching the Super Bowl once. Youngblood is best known for playing every snap of the NFC title game and Super Bowl XIV after suffering a broken left fibula. From his Hall of Fame bio:

One of his most outstanding single-game performances came against the St. Louis Cardinals in a 1975 playoff game. Youngblood recorded one sack, one forced fumble, one blocked extra-point attempt and returned an interception 47 yards for a touchdown.

Another Hall of Famer, defensive tackle Merlin Olsen, won my vote as the Rams' all-time best player. He was 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds, a giant for his era, and he went to 14 consecutive Pro Bowls during a 15-year career in the 1960s and 1970s. Think about that for a minute. Imagine if Chris Long went to the Pro Bowl for the 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020 and 2021 seasons, then retired after the 2022 season. Listing the years separately drives home the enormity of the accomplishment.

It's tough to overlook Norm Van Brocklin, Elroy Hirsch, Tom Mack, Jackie Slater, Eric Dickerson, Isaac Bruce or Bob Waterfield. Each deserves consideration.