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An Open Letter to Jerome Bettis


Mr. Bettis –

I used to be a big fan of yours. I rooted for you to win a Super Bowl in your hometown. (Did you know you grew up in Detroit?) I always thought you were a good guy and a solid running back. Additionally, I watch Football Night in America on NBC every week. I like the extended highlights and (very) limited analysis. You bring more to the table than Tiki Barber (which is not saying much) as an analyst.

So, imagine my chagrin when Bob Costas threw the broadcast over the player’s table for some “hard-hitting” analysis. The topic turned to the Philadelphia Eagles victory over the St. Louis Rams in Week 1 and when asked to speak about the Rams, you said, (and I’m quoting from memory and may not be exactly right) “The Rams have no idea what they are doing out there. I mean, come on, this is the team that forced me out of town! They have no clue.” Mr. Bettis, with all due respect, you are completely wrong. No one forced you out of town, you pouted and didn’t try on the field to get the trade to the team you wanted to go to, the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Let’s take a trip in the way-back machine. It was the spring/summer of 1995 and the Rams had just announced they are moved to St. Louis from Los Angeles. The Rams had one star player and that player was Jerome Bettis. You were the Offensive Rookie of the year in 1993 and had gone to two Pro Bowls in two years. Bettis number 36 jerseys were flying off the shelves and every Rams fan had one before the Rams had even played a game.

Because the Rams didn’t look like they were going to give you the contract extension you felt you deserved, you did not feel treated right in St. Louis and acted like it on and off the field. First, you held out of the Rams training camp for two weeks and were fined for it. Not a big deal in my book, but it shows how you were trying to force the Rams to give you a new contract. You didn’t get the contract and let it affect your performance on the field.

You only had more than 15 carries in a game 5 times, which obviously could be subject to the play-calling, but I’m trying to get some larger sample sizes. And in those 5 games, you only averaged over 4 yards a carry twice. I don’t remember you being hurt any time during the 16 games and the numbers back you up as you got at least 1 carry in each of the Rams 16 games. You didn’t get more than 9 rushes in the last 6 games. By this point, Bettis didn’t want any part of Rich Brooks’ pass-friendly schemes or your current contract and in the catastrophic 1996 draft the Rams drafted Lawrence Phillips and traded Bettis to the Steelers. Because you didn’t want any part of the future with the Rams and showed it on the field, they had to move on without you.

You effectively forced a trade to a better team that could afford to pay you the contract you felt you deserved. Mr. Bettis, you then made the Pro Bowl in the next two years with the Steelers. Something seems missing in this list of your Pro Bowl appearances: 1993, 1994, 1996, and 1997. It is almost like there is one year there where you didn’t try as hard and then didn’t make the Pro Bowl.

This maneuver puts you on the same level as Randy Moss in Oakland, Terrell Owens in San Francisco and Philadelphia. Which is Ok, don’t worry. It’s the player’s prerogative to pout and not play well on purpose to force a trade to a better team. Just don’t act like St. Louis forced you out.


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23 Responses to “An Open Letter to Jerome Bettis”

  1. Bill says:

    Good letter but you lost me a few times with who you were talking too. Towards the end you are “talking” to the reader when the letter is supposed to be to Bettis.

    Example: By this point, Bettis didn’t want any part of Rich Brooks’ pass-friendly schemes..

    Sounds like you are taking ourward to an audience and not directly to Bettis.

    Above all, you are dead on with your points. Thanks for bringing up a period of Rams history that I would like to forget!!!!! 🙂

  2. Ed says:

    I wanted to remind Jeff that besides changing cities and coaches the Rams also changed philosophies that season. He refers to it in his letter as “Brooks pass-friendly schemes”. Bettis’ attempts went from over 300 to under 200 in 1995 while the Ram QB’s threw almost one hundred more passes that year. Of course, when he went to the Steelers his attempts went back up to about 300 and he was successful again. While there may well have been some selfish pouting going on it seems the barometer of success for Bettis has always been attempts. BTW, it is interesting to note that the Rams improved their record from 4-12 to 7-9 in 1995. It also seems that the Rams made a conscious decision to go from the power running game to a passing game and that had more influence on the Bettis trade and subsequent drafting. It seems a pretty lame excuse to blame one player for what was an overall down period in Rams history. It sounds like sour grapes from someone who hated that Bettis got a ring with the Steelers.

  3. Jeff Roman says:

    Ed – while I agree with you about the change in offensive style had some effect on Bettis, his quest for a contract extension has just as much or more of an impact on Bettis’ attitude and subsequently his numbers.

    We could go back and forth all day about Bettis’ carries and numbers and what they were based on. (The Rams were also behind in a lot of contests and had to throw the ball all around the park late in the season).

    And I don’t hate that Bettis got a ring with the Steelers, as I said above I actually rooted for him to win with the Steelers. And lastly, not to be a jerk, but I wanted to point out that the Rams got their ring 5 years before Bettis did with the Steelers. But, needless to say, they couldn’t have done it with Bettis as Marshall Faulk was the most important player in the ’99 Rams offense.

  4. Ed says:

    Jeff – I appreciate your comments. It sounds like you are a knowledgeable Rams and football fan and I may have falsely sensed some bitterness in your letter. The gist of what I was trying to convey was that although Bettis may have had a contract issue I disagreed that this was translated on the field by a lack of effort. You say yourself that it was a pass-friendly offense that was behind often and the statistics back that up. I am suggesting that Bettis had almost half the carries that he normally got as a starter. With 300 attempts his history shows 1200 to 1500 yards. You might still be able to make a case that he had a bad attitude but in watching his entire career I can’t recall him giving less than the maximum effort.

  5. jeff -Not Roman says:

    So I guess since Faulk is also now critical of the Rams, he too is a complaining slacker?

    http://www.stltoday.com/blogzone/bernies-extra-points/bernies-extra-points/2008/09/marshall-faulk-sounds-off/

    “Faulk suggested that the Rams should be better than they are:

    ““Decisions have to be made. Do you blow it up, where do you go, what do you do? I mean, players that have had big time success, we’re talking Pro Bowl caliber players: Marc Bulger, Torry Holt, Orlando Pace, Steven Jackson. They look like they don’t belong in the league. And it’s not because they can’t play. You’re not going to tell me that. I’m not believing that they all of a sudden can’t play in this league.””

  6. jeff -Not Roman says:

    Based on what Marshall said, the Rams have a history of misusing Pro Bowl players…he listed 4 in his rant. Yet Bettis mentioning something that happened 13 years ago makes his game efforts suspect? Give me a break, your effort to smear the Bus’s legacy are what is suspect and pathetic.

  7. Jeff Roman says:

    Other Jeff – Marshall Faulk genuinely cares about the organization and is making constructive arguments while trying to figure out how to make the Rams better. That makes him different than Bettis.
    Secondly, I never wanted to smear anyone, I just wanted to point out that Bettis didn’t try very hard in his one year in St. Louis. Pro athletes do it all the time, its their choice. I just don’t want anyone to think that the Rams ran Bettis out of town.

  8. ed says:

    Jeff Roman – So, even though you acknowledge that the team changed coaches and philosophy to primarily a passing offense which afforded Bettis about half the carries he had gotten previously you still wonder why a young All Pro runner might think he was “run out of town”. He was the Rams until then. Later in his career the Steelers tried to change philosophies and even brought in replacements for Bettis.. Had the replacements been better or the pass offense more successful Bettis might be feeling the same way and I wouldn’t have a problem with that. My only argument with you is the “not trying” knock. I never saw that in his career before or after that year and even with the Steelers when they tried to change he “tried” and succeeded.

  9. Jeff-not Roman says:

    Sorry…not buying it. Bettis has never, ever had the reputation of not trying or being a slacker. The “Bus” got the nickname because of his efforts! There is no way in hell someone is gonna buy that the Rookie of the Year (1429 yrds /294 carries/4.9yd avg) just quit on his team the next year cuz of a temper tantrum. He may have been disgruntled by the change in offenive strategy but he still rushed for 1025 yards(319 carries /3.2yd avg)) the following year! Doesn’t seem like slacking to me. Then in 1995 he rushed for 637 yards/183 carries/3.5 yd avg. Notice how much his carries dropped, yet he still pounded the ball consistently the last two years.

    Know what his average yards per carry was over his career with the Rams? 3.9 yards. Guess what it was in Pittsburgh…you guessed it 3.9 yards! I’d say that is one damn consistent hall of fame career. So go peddle your sour grapes elsewhere…cuz the facts DO NOT back up your rant.

    http://www.pro-football-reference.com/players/B/BettJe00.htm?redir

  10. Jeff Roman says:

    Other Jeff and Ed – Its obvious we don’t agree and that’s fine. We are all entitled to our opinion – as is Jerome Bettis.

    I think, as do many other Rams fans, that he didn’t try as hard in 1995 as past and future years.

    Regarding Bettis’s yards per carry. His Rams YPC was considerably higher because of his gaudy 4.9 YPC in his first year.

    Additionally 1995 was the only year that Bettis’s yards from Scrimmage (both rushing and receiving) was below 1000 yards.

  11. Jeff-not Roman says:

    Yes.. 1995 was below 1000 yards, but he had only 183 touches that year and his yards per carry (YPC) went up to 3.5ypc from the 3.2ypc the previous year. Deal is, so what if his rookie year was 4.9ypc, as with lot of new weapons the rookies often put up gaudy numbers until the defensive coordinators scheme for them the next year.

    You don’t hear Steelers fans whining that Bettis was a bust or a slacker cuz he only averaged 3.9 ypc in his career there….thing is he never again reached the 4.9ypc he hit his first year and he only got over 4.0 three other times the next 10 years. Still hall of fame in my book and could never be called a slacker or someone who “takes time off” during a game like say Randy Moss (pre Patriots).

    I know…don’t confuse you with facts cuz your mind is made up.

  12. Jeff-not Roman says:

    Reqarding the less than 1,000 yards total (rushing & receiving). Again he did this 3 other times with Pittsburgh (02,03,04)…so what. Schemes vary with coach changes, so the “numbers” put up by players change as well.

    So I guess, using your logic, that since he only scored 3TD’s in 1998 verus 7TD’s in 1993 and only had a 3.8ypc vs 4.9ypc in 03, that he was just slacking that year in Pittsburgh? He started all games in both years…why the difference, had to have been him not pulling his weight, right?

  13. Ron Bridges says:

    Rams just didn’t know what they had or how to use him… or both.

    I can’t stand the Patriots or Brady but I respect Brady for being a very good QB… my point? You simply can’t look back on Bettis’ career with the Steelers and say he was lazy, tempermental, childish, unprofessional, OR whatever you’re trying to say. He was one of the classiest and most dependable players in the league while in Pittsburgh. And while, admittedly I don’t know everything about his time in St Louis, I find it hard to believe that he held out to get a better contract SINCE he never once did that in Pittsburgh. Whatsmore, he even allowed them to RESTRUCTURE his contract in his later years just so he could stay on the team. So his character and demonstrated professionalism, and performance while a Steeler lends him more credit than you sir. You’re probably nothing more than a disgruntled fan!

  14. JDip says:

    Ok I think everything about his career has been said, but this whole letter is ridiclous to begin with . Bettis was “joking”. It’s called sarcasm.

  15. John says:

    wow, that was gay. get a life, Rams suck and it hasppened 12 years ago lol

  16. chris says:

    I think it’s sad to call JB the Bus out like that. He is and always will be a professional both on and off the field.

    You are trying to muddy waters and there is nothing to muddy.

    Chris

  17. Jon says:

    The Rams technically did run him out of town by Rich Brooks switching to a more pass based offense. Not to mention the fact is that the Rams were going to draft another RB (Phillip Lawrence. I’m pretty sure that would make me feel really unwanted and also feel like my team didn’t have faith in me, like me, or feel they have no use for me. As Ron said Bettis has proven his character throughout his time with the Steelers, he doesn’t care about money, and he’s extremely professional, not to mention he definitely isn’t a slacker.

  18. Ben Ross says:

    You sir, are an idiot!

  19. Ben Ross says:

    Oh, and by the way, I’ll take anyone thats straight runs over brian urlacher any day of the week. Bettis Rules!!! Go Steelers!!!

  20. Steeler Rick says:

    Easy for you to say Bettis is a slacker. Your team gave him away.
    1994 he has 319 carries and 1025 yards. 1995 your team decides they want to throw and Bettis has 183 carries and 637 yards. 136 less carries and 388 less yards. Use his average for that year, 3.5 times 136= 476+637=1113. I would say the rams, your team. Blew it. Thank you so much for the Hall of fame running back. Look back to his last few years as a Steeler. He takes a paycut, watches Amos Zeroway trip all over himself 2003 then starts game 10, TEN MIND YOU and has 811 yards. Now he had been in three games before that but AZ was the starter
    Thanks again for the Bus. His picture is still on all PAT Busses in Steeltown

  21. Steeler Rick says:

    Jeff Roman Says:
    on point 10. It’s because the Rams did not use him. Your coaches fault, not Bettis’

  22. tony says:

    yeah ben ross u tell em! steelers are the best WOOT 36!!!!!!!

  23. Mike says:

    Who wouldn’t rather play in Pittsburgh?

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