Isaac Bruce picks Los Angeles Rams to play in home Super Bowl
In our exclusive interview, the Hall of Fame receiver praises his old team's new offense, and says 'The Greatest Show on Turf' would double its numbers in today's NFL.
When it comes to picking a Super Bowl contender for the upcoming season, Isaac Bruce is looking close to home.
The legendary wide receiver, who was elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020 and gave his induction speech last month, believes the Los Angeles Rams – the team with whom he won a Super Bowl in 2000 – are strong contenders for the Lombardi Trophy this time around.
Bruce spent 14 of his 16 NFL seasons with the Rams in St. Louis and racked up 1,024 receptions, 15,208 yards and 91 receiving touchdowns in a career that earned him a bust in Canton.
He was the leading receiver for the ‘The Greatest Show on Turf’, the iconic Rams offense that featured fellow stars Kurt Warner, Marshall Faulk and Torry Holt, and broke NFL records for offensive yards and passing yards between 1999 and 2001.
The Super Bowl will be played at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles this season and the Rams are among the favorites in the NFL odds after adding quarterback Matthew Stafford to an already star-studded roster.
Bruce believes his old team has the potential to go all the way for the first time since they won Super Bowl XXXIV over two decades ago.
“I'm not just being a homer, but I feel like the Rams have a really big opportunity to play a Super Bowl in their own stadium,” Bruce says.
“I think a lot of people will agree with me when I make that pick. My former team, we have quite a few new additions, especially at the quarterback position – we just can't get around that – with Matthew Stafford.
“I'm looking forward to seeing him in that team, with the defense that we played last year, I think we have two of the more premier defensive players in the National Football League in Aaron Donald and Jalen Ramsey. So just with those new weapons, I'm looking forward to it.”
The Rams’ defense ranked first in the NFL in points allowed per game last season, but it’s on the offensive side of the ball where the most improvement is expected this season.
Along with Stafford, the Rams have several dynamic options on offense. That includes Cooper Kupp and Robert Woods, a receiver duo that reminds Bruce of himself and Torry Holt during their primes.
“The key word is complement,” he says.
“I think the way Torry and myself complemented each other as far as, when he was getting the ball, I did my job to make sure that I cleared it out for him, and he did the same for me.
“That's what I see in Cooper and Robert, they complement each other very well. They play hard for each other.
“And with the addition of DeSean Jackson, being able to take the top off the defense and open up our running game and give Matthew Stafford even more toys to play with and to push the ball down the field.
“Jackson brings the ability to make sure the safeties are being safeties and not an extra player in the box. That opens up your running game, and that opens up the full playbook that Sean McVay has, to call any play that he wants to call at any time of the game.”
With Stafford under center, the weapons at his disposal and innovative head coach McVay calling the plays, the Rams’ offense could be as good as it has been at any point since the days of The Greatest Show on Turf.
They will be helped by the offensive explosion that has occurred in the NFL since Bruce retired. Scoring has increased every year since 2011, with the 2020 season being the highest-scoring of all time.
Bruce believes the Greatest Show on Turf – led by offensive coordinator Mike Martz – deserves plenty of credit for changing the way offense was played in the NFL and leading to the record-setting offenses of the present day.
“I think anytime you watched professional football over the past, maybe, 12 to 15 years, there is a fingerprint or a thumbprint of what we did as a group, as The Greatest Show on Turf,” Bruce says.
“So many people, so many teams and coaches, they want that similar style of offense. You can't blame them, because when you look at the personnel that we had, and the coaching from coach Mike Martz, his ability to call plays, his fearlessness to call plays and put us in position to be successful and to execute what he was calling, a lot of people saw that happening and wanted to emulate that.
“We had that perfect storm of personnel and innovation, and the ability to celebrate each other's success. I think those three things together made The Greatest Show on Turf what it was.
“We turned it from a run-first league to a pass-to-run league. Although that running game is still important, we put the emphasis on that passing.”
Rule changes have also contributed to the current scoring boom. The NFL’s increased focus on player safety has led to more penalties, fines and suspensions for hits on defenseless receivers, and stricter roughing the passer rules.
The game is undoubtedly less physical than it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and Bruce is bullish when asked how The Greatest Show on Turf’s numbers would be different had they played in the current era.
“I'd have to say we would double all of our production, I think we would probably double that,” he says.
“Unfortunately, for defensive players and for NFL records, it's as if they've been handcuffed. I get it, we're attempting to protect players. But at the same time, some defensive players now think before they react, and it's kind of tough to play that way.
“In the actual meat of a game, and the actual meat of a play, it's tough to have to think: ‘Okay, can I hit this guy here? Can I tackle him this way?’ And at the same time, you got that offensive player, he's just playing his game.
“I think as far as the players’ health, it's better. But I am old school. And I would love to see some of that style of football that I played.”