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1959: The Gillman era falls flat

The 1959 Los Angeles Rams put together one of their worst seasons in 22 years when they finished last in the NFL West Division with a record of 2-10. The team lost eight straight games after earning their only two wins of the season. Both wins were away games, and they lost every home game.

Many of the team’s struggles were due to ill-advised trades like the one that sent QB Norm Van Brocklin to the Philadelphia Eagles the previous season. The Rams also hurt the team’s future by trading for workhorse FB Ollie Matson from the Chicago Cardinals in hopes of bolstering the running game. The problem is the Rams sent nine players and two draft picks to the Cardinals in the deal, including OT Ken Panfil, DT Frank Fuller, DE Glenn Holtzman, DT Art Hauser, RB Don Brown, RB Larry Hickman, TE John Tracey, a second round pick and a fourth round pick. Much of the team’s depth went to the Cardinals, although it’s fair to say that the deal didn’t help Chicago much either.

Matson did have a productive year despite not making the Pro Bowl. He finished third in the league with 863 rushing yards while adding six touchdowns. The only reason he wasn’t selected to the Pro Bowl was because players like Cleveland Browns’ FB Jim Brown and San Francisco 49ers FB J.D. Smith had an amazing season. Both players eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark; Brown finished with 1,329 yards and 14 touchdowns while Smith had 1,036 yards and 10 touchdowns.

The Rams didn’t face Jim Brown and the Browns; however, they did go head-to-head with Smith and the 49ers twice. The Rams were shut out in San Francisco 34-0 earlier in the season when Smith gained a total of 103 yards and two touchdowns. Their second meeting was a much closer game, but the 49ers still pulled out the 24-16 victory. However, Matson had the better game finishing with 105 yards and one touchdown.

The only two wins of the seasons were against the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers. The Rams rallied back to win the game despite the Bears exploding for 21 points in the second quarter. The Los Angeles defense created four turnovers (three of which were fumble recoveries) against the Bears, which kept the Chicago offense at bay. The Rams tied the game in the third quarter on a 45-yard touchdown pass from QB Billy Wade to WR Del Shofner. FB Joe Marconi rushed for the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter to give the Rams the win, 28-21. Much of the credit in advancing the ball went to Matson, who ran for 199 yards. The Rams lost the rematch in Los Angeles, 26-21.

The Rams’ most convincing performance came in Green Bay. It all began when DE/LB Sam Williams blocked a punt which resulted in a safety. Shofner and Wade then connected on two touchdown passes and Matson rushed for 121 yards and one touchdown in Rams 45-6 victory. The Packers would return the favor and beat the Rams in Los Angeles, 38-20.

One of the few positives of the year was the emergence of future “Fearsome Foursome” member DE Lamar Lundy. He was selected to the Pro Bowl alongside HB/KR Jon Arnett, WR Del Shofner and LB Les Richter.

Season Notes
– The Rams had no All-Pros on the roster.

– The team ranked ninth in the league in points scored with 242.

– Los Angeles finished 10th in points allowed with 315.

– The Rams drafted FB Dick Bass from Pacific University in the first round (second overall) of the 1959 NFL Draft.

– One of the steals of the draft came in the seventh round (80th overall) when the Rams drafted DB Eddie Meador from Arkansas Tech.

-Sid Gillman and his staff resigned at the end of the season.

1959 Los Angeles Rams
Week Date Opponent Score Record
1 Saturday, Sept. 26 New York Giants L, 21-23 0-1
2 Sunday, Oct. 4 @San Francisco 49ers L, 0-34 0-2
3 Sunday, Oct. 11 @Chicago Bears W, 28-21 1-2
4 Sunday, Oct. 18 @Green Bay Packers W, 45-6 2-2
5 Sunday, Oct. 25 Detroit Lions L, 7-17 2-3
6 Sunday, Nov. 1 Chicago Bears L, 21-26 2-4
7 Sunday, Nov. 8 San Francisco 49ers L, 16-24 2-5
8 Sunday, Nov. 15 @Detroit Lions L, 17-23 2-6
9 Sunday, Nov. 22 @Philadelphia Eagles L, 20-23 2-7
10 Sunday, Nov. 29 @Baltimore Colts L, 21-35 2-8
11 Sunday, Dec. 6 Green Bay Packers L, 20-38 2-9
12 Saturday, Dec. 12 Baltimore Colts L, 26-45 2-10

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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