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1963: The arrival of the ‘Fearsome Foursome’

The Los Angeles Rams endured another horrendous season in 1963, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t important. The pieces were slowly falling into place. It simply wasn’t happening fast enough to save the season.

The offseason had its share of drama. Rams’ owner Daniel Reeves sold 49 percent interest of the franchise to Gene Autry, Bob Reynolds, Leonard Firestone, Paul A. O’Bryan, Robert Lehman, J.D. Stetson Coleman and Joseph A. Thomas. The transaction was necessary after buying Edwin W. Pauley’s shares at a hefty price the previous season.

Future Hall of Fame linebacker Les Richter retired before the season began after having an illustrious career with the Rams. However, as one great defensive player exited another one arrived when the Rams acquired DT Roosevelt “Rosey” Grier from the New York Giants in exchange for fellow DT John LoVetere and a fourth round pick in the 1964 NFL Draft. Grier became the final piece of legendary “Fearsome Foursome.” Grier, Deacon Jones, Merlin Olsen and Lamar Lundy wreaked havoc in the NFL from 1963-1969.

Harland Svare remained the Rams’ head coach after joining the team late last season. He was a bit hesitant to use his younger quarterbacks on the roster and stuck with Zeke Bratkowski when the season got underway. This proved to be ineffective as the Rams lost their first five games while scoring 14 points or less in each game. Bratkowski had a mere 471 yards, three touchdowns and six interceptions in the four games he started in.

Svare finally pulled Bratkowski and started rookie QB Terry Baker in Week 5 against the Chicago Bears. Baker completed 5 of 7 passes for 68 yards but was benched after a costly interception was returned 35 yards for a touchdown. Svare put Bratkowski in the game, but he was worse. Bratkowski finished with 119 yards, one touchdown and four interceptions. Bears’ TE Mike Ditka dominated the Rams’ secondary for nine receptions for 110 yards and four touchdowns in a crushing 52-14 loss.

Next week’s game was the turning point for the Rams. Svare started second year QB Roman Gabriel against the Minnesota Vikings. It was a close game, but Gabriel and the Rams prevailed, 27-24. Gabriel finished with 202 passing yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The team would go 5-4 with Gabriel at quarterback.

Overall, the Rams were sixth in the NFL West Division with a 5-9 record. The team didn’t have many Pro Bowlers, but the future was looking bright in terms of talent. HB Dick Bass, DT Merlin Olsen and LB Jack Pardee made the Pro Bowl roster; Pardee was the only one to earn All-Pro honors.

Season Notes

– The Rams were 13th in the league in points scored with 210 points.

– The Rams selected quarterback Terry Baker from Oregon State as the No. 1 overall in the 1963 NFL Draft.

– Training camp was held at Chapman College located in Orange, California for the second straight year.

– DT Merlin Olsen was the only member of the “Fearsome Foursome” to make the Pro Bowl.

– QB Roman Gabriel finished the season with 1,947 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

1963 Los Angeles Rams
Week Date Opponent Score Record
1 Saturday, Sept. 14 Detroit Lions L, 2-23 0-1
2 Saturday, Sept. 21 Washington Redskins L, 14-37 0-2
3 Sunday, Sept. 29 @Cleveland Browns L, 6-20 0-3
4 Sunday, Oct. 6 @Green Bay Packers L, 10-42 0-4
5 Sunday, Oct. 13 Chicago Bears L, 14-52 0-5
6 Sunday, Oct. 20 Minnesota Vikings W, 27-24 1-5
7 Sunday, Oct. 27 San Francisco 49ers W, 28-21 2-5
8 Sunday, Nov. 3 @Minnesota Vikings L, 13-21 2-6
9 Sunday, Nov. 10 @Chicago Bears L, 0-6 2-7
10 Sunday, Nov. 17 @Detroit Lions W, 28-21 3-7
11 Sunday, Nov. 24 Baltimore Colts W, 17-16 4-7
12 Sunday, Dec. 1 @San Francisco 49ers W, 21-17 5-7
13 Saturday, Dec. 7 Green Bay Packers L, 14-31 5-8
14 Sunday, Dec. 15 @Baltimore Colts L, 16-19 5-9

You can follow Johnny Gomez on Twitter @Johnny5not6. Be sure to follow Rams Talk on Twitter @TalkRams.

Sources: Profootballreference.comStlouisrams.com

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