The city of St. Louis has had a pair of franchises play in the city since 1960, but haven’t had a professional team since 2016. The Cardinals moved from Chicago in 1960 and stayed until 1988, but they had little success and reached the playoffs only three times. The Rams arrived from Los Angeles in 1995 and stayed until 2016. During that time the Rams won a Super Bowl in 1999 but failed to reach the playoffs after 2004.
As a long-time Viking fan, I can’t imagine my beloved team ever leaving Minnesota. Would I still root for them if they moved elsewhere? Probably not, and I wonder if St. Louis fans feel the same with the Cardinals now in Arizona and the Rams back in Los Angeles.
In this article, we’ll look at the history of professional football in St. Louis and some of the reasons that both franchises have moved elsewhere. While the city can claim a Super Bowl title, football in St. Louis has been mostly subpar outside of a few popup seasons.
- St. Louis has had two separate football franchises since 1960
- Their first franchise was the Cardinals who moved from Chicago and played in St. Louis from 1960-1988
- The Rams moved from Los Angeles to St. Louis in 1995, winning a title in 1999 before moving back to L.A. in 2016.
St. Louis football began in 1960. Previously in Chicago, the “Cardinals” moved to St. Louis to escape the shadow of the more popular Bears franchise. Confusion reigned early with St. Louis already home to a baseball team also known as the Cardinals. Lacking creativity, the new football squad was commonly referred to as the “football Cardinals,” or “Big Red.” 
Despite a handful of winning seasons including 9-5 and 9-3-2 marks in 1963 and 1964, the Cardinals didn’t get a shot at the postseason until they went 10-4 in 1974 and 11-3 in 1975. But they failed to make any noise in the postseason and were soundly defeated by the Vikings in ‘74 and the Rams in ‘75. St. Louis would pop up again in a strike-shortened 1982 season but were once again bounced in their first playoff game. 
With just three playoff appearances since the move from Chicago, fan interest in the franchise dwindled while the “Baseball Cardinals” was a frequent title contender throughout the 80s. Tired of the poor turnout and upset with the aging stadium, the Cardinals’ owner, Bill Bidwell moved the team to Arizona at the conclusion of the 1988 season.
The Imaginary Stallions
St. Louis didn’t wait long before petitioning the league for another NFL franchise. The movement began in 1991 with the city including proposals that would include a new state-of-the-art domed stadium for their prospective team which would be called the Stallions. Confident that they would be rewarded with a team, the city began construction on their new stadium in 1992.
But the NFL pulled the rug out at the last moment. Instead of giving St. Louis an expansion franchise, teams were instead rewarding Charlotte and Jacksonville with new teams. While the newly anointed Panther and Jaguar fans celebrated, St. Louis began the dreary process of throwing out their freshly minted Stallion apparel and wondering what to do with their fancy (and empty) stadium.
The Greatest Show on Turf
If St. Louis football fans were disappointed, they wouldn’t have to wait long to find a tenant for their new stadium. Struggling both on and off the field, the Los Angeles Rams were looking for a new home and chose to move to St. Louis before the 1995 season. 
The first four seasons of football in St. Louis were nothing special with the Rams posting four straight losing seasons. That all changed in 1999 when an unheralded former Arena League quarterback Kurt Warner took the reins. What followed was the most prolific offense in NFL history. “The Greatest Show on Turf” won 13 games and scored a record 526 points. 
They’d win the Super Bowl over the Tennessee Titans.
Over the next five seasons, the Rams returned to the playoffs four teams, including a Super Bowl defeat to a young quarterback by the name of Tom Brady.
But after 2004, the Rams fell back into obscurity. Like the St. Louis Cardinals before them, the Rams posted losing season after losing season including a 1-15 record in 2009. 
Owner Georgia Frontiere passed away in 2008 and Stan Kroenke was given control of the franchise in 2010. Rumors quickly began to swirl that Kroenke was maneuvering for either a new stadium or that he would relocate the team.
Kroenke continued to leverage his new position over St. Louis, threatening to build an 80,000-seat stadium in Inglewood, California. Desperate to save their team, St. Louis proposed a 60,000-seat stadium along the St. Louis waterfront that would cost over a billion dollars, a steep price tag for the relatively small city.
But the NFL supported Kroenke’s desire to move the team, stating that it would not violate the team’s lease. Anxious to move a professional team back to the Los Angeles area, St. Louis saw its last home game in December 2015, a 31-23 victory over Tampa Bay. 
Outside of that memorable run at the turn of the century, the history of St. Louis football has been mediocre at best, and miserable at worst. But at least they won a title while the Rams were in town, which is more than my woeful Vikings can say.
However, what Kroenke did to the community of St. Louis is one of the most despicable relocation moves that I can remember. Even with the recent success, including a Super Bowl title, since returning to Los Angeles, interest in the team has not been there. I’m sure that karmic reward isn’t enough to soothe the wounds of the St. Louis sports fan but it is nice to see that massive new stadium in Inglewood filled with visiting fans most Sundays.