Going back to Cali: Rams-49ers intrastate rivalry renewed
The Los Angeles Rams have found their way back to Southern California, and what better way to reintroduce themselves to the West Coast than by opening with the division rival — and once again in-state rival — San Francisco 49ers?
Sure, there are circumstances that people don’t like about the way the Rams found their way back to Los Angeles after 21 years in St. Louis, but owner Stan Kroenke got exactly what he has wanted for quite some time now — the Rams are back and so is the Golden State rivalry between the Rams and the 49ers.
The Rams held the edge over San Francisco when they were in Los Angeles, going 48–40–2 against the Niners, but the tides turned after the move to St. Louis. The 49ers were 25-16-1 over the St. Louis Rams, holding the slightest advantage in this divisional rivalry overall, 65-64-3.
These two franchises have had some good teams on both sides of the rivalry, from Steve Young going 13-0 against the Rams as a starting quarterback and Colin Kaepernick coming into a game after Alex Smith was injured to lead the 49ers back to the Super Bowl for the first time since Young won the Lombardi Trophy back in 1995 to the Rams strutted out the Best Show on Turf, embarrassing the 49ers for a stretch, going 10-2 from 1999-2004.
These two teams also have had some of the most exciting, incredible players play against each other through the course of this rivalry. Players like Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens, Ronnie Lott, Patrick Willis, Jackie Slater, Eric Dickerson, Jerome Bettis, Marshall Faulk, Isaac Bruce and Orlando Pace have all played in this rivalry and contributed to the animosity these teams have for each other.
Now, clearly this rivalry doesn’t feel as solid and hateful as the 49ers-Seahawks from 2012-2014 did, but that has more to do with the fact that neither of these teams has been good at the same time in recent memory. Both are looking to put losing seasons behind them this year and find some stable footing in a division that has been paced by Seattle and Arizona the past few years.
With incredible talent and phenomenal coaches up and down the division, getting back to winning ways is no easy feat. Seattle has been the class of the NFC since Pete Carroll’s return, though a tight season-opening win vs. the Miami Dolphins got the 2016 campaign off to a shaky start.
The Cardinals are thought to be a Super Bowl contender this year, but they were unable to win a home game against a Patriots team missing Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski and a host of other players on both sides of the ball. Bruce Arians has some work to do to get the Cardinals back on track.
All that said, Rams head coach Jeff Fisher has a lot to prove in general. He’s as close to mediocre as it gets when it comes to his head coaching career. Fisher has been a head coach for 22 years and is 13 games over .500 in the regular season and one game under .500 in the playoffs. He must be some sort of a magician on the side because he has been able to parlay his Super Bowl loss to the Rams in 1999 to a career filled with just six seasons of double-digit wins and several seven- and eight-win seasons peppered in there for fun into a more than two-decade run on the sidelines.
49ers head coach Chip Kelly doesn’t escape unscathed when it comes to coaching records. Kelly led the Philadelphia Eagles to consecutive 10-win seasons in his first two years at the helm but was fired before last season ended after winning just six games. He has one playoff game to his name, a loss to the New Orleans Saints, 26-24, and questions remain about the way he handles players in the pros.
He is working to establish himself as a quality coach in the NFL after three years in Philadelphia and several controversial roster moves, and he has his work cut out for him with a 49ers roster that looks to have holes and question marks at just about every possible position.
Regardless of the states of these two teams, this rivalry will certainly make game day a little more fun for fans and players alike. With the teams separated by almost 2,100 miles for the past 21 years, it’s not like the fan bases clashed and had an opportunity to run their mouths too much, but with the teams being in the same state again, the trash talk and rivalry both look to take a step forward.
This is just another addition to the NorCal/SoCal rivalry. NorCal has “hella” while SoCal has “cool beans.” NorCal has the Giants and A’s while SoCal touts the Dodgers and Angels. NorCal has the Kings and Warriors while SoCal has the Lakers and Clippers. NorCal has the Sharks while SoCal has the Kings and Ducks.
And now, after 21 years, NorCal has the 49ers while SoCal once again has the Rams — and California has another rivalry that will further divide the two segments of the state.