Inside the Rams’ rise up ESPN’s Ultimate Rankings (Part 1)

According to ESPN’s Ultimate Franchise Rankings, Sam Bradford and the reborn Rams are now ranked #83 among the 122 professional sports teams across football, baseball, basketball and hockey. And we’re celebrating.

As unimpressive as that rank might seem, this represents the highest they’ve ranked since 2007. More importantly, the trend line is pointing upward just as steeply as their downward slide did in the post-Martz years. 

I know you remember those heady days of 2007… the new incarnation of the Rams was in limbo, as offensive guru Scott Linehan’s first season ended with a 3-0 rush to climb back to 8-8 and something approaching respectability. However, while fans were trying to rekindle their optimism, Linehan was developing a man-crush on Nebraska’s Adam Carriker and Jay Zygmunt was penciling in his new roster centered around possession receiver Drew Bennett, and getting ready to kick Isaac Bruce to the curb. 

Three years later, the Rams found themselves among the very worst teams in the NFL, with a new coach, new GM, and new ownership trying to dig themselves out of this hole. According to these new rankings, that job is already well underway.

Last year, when the Rams rated a pathetic 114th among pro sports franchises, we took an extensive look at that ranking, and asked fans how they would go about fixing it. Now let’s see what they’ve done.

Fan Satisfaction

Bang for the Buck: #37 (10th in NFL) .. was #121 overall (#32 in NFL)
Stadium Experience: #107 (26th in NFL) … was #114 overall (#29 in NFL)
Fan Relations: #68 (12th in NFL) … was #110 overall (#28 in NFL)

Yes, we know, the Dome still kinda sucks. And I wouldn’t expect the Rams to put much money into improving it between now and 2015. But “bang for the buck” saw a huge rise, thanks in large part to five home wins that nearly matched the sum total of the previous four seasons of play.

The offense showed signs of life, scoring 50 more points at home than last season, but the defense did the yeoman’s work of closing out games when asked to. A lot of fans went home happy, which was kind of a new feeling for the folks downtown.

As this jumbo-sized sparkline shows, the Rams (+84) were the biggest improver in 2011 in this all-important stat, but they weren’t the biggest mover: that (dis)honor belongs to the Carolina Panthers (-93), who bottomed out big time, and now have Jimmy Clausen playing waterboy to Cam Newton. 

Change in Bang for the Buck rankings, 2010-2011 Rams' Improvement in Bang for the Buck, 2010-2011

Adding context to this picture, though, the Blues (78th overall) and Cardinals (103rd overall) are falling badly in this “bang for the buck” category, dragging down their overall rankings with it. Both raised ticket prices — and expectations — and failed to deliver, the Blues especially so. Meanwhile, the Rams continued their fan-friendly open camp practices and scrimmage, and capped the midpoint of their season with a stirring retirement ceremony for Isaac Bruce. 

While St Louis will always be a Baseball Town, particularly while a certain guy wearing #5 chases hall of fame stats, the battle for the hearts and minds of the fans here is wide open. And for the first time in a long time, the Rams are stepping into the fray.