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.