"As you can see, when he took over, the difference in the quality of our team," Gabe says. "George knew how to comunicate with people, with the team. Also the individuals within the team. You just knew the work ethic that he had. And there was never a problem myself as far as work ethic because that's the only way I existed. But there were at that time, and still are today, some players that need to be pushed harder and harder. And George knew how to get the best out of all of us. George was always at his best. Some people can be at their best four days a week, the other three they don't know where they are. But with George, seven days a week he was at his best."
The next year saw the Rams take an even greater step forward into the playoffs, with what was probably the best team in all of pro football in 1967. After a 3-1-2 start the Rams raced to the best record, and most points scored in the NFL with a mark of 11-1-2 and 398 points. The highlight of the year was a 34-10 dismantling of the powerful Baltimore Colts which allowed Los Angeles to capture the Coastal Division title.
Anticipating the playoff game with the Rams, the Packers All-Pro guard Jerry Kramer wrote in his famous diary, "We've never, as long as I can remember, gone into a game with so much respect for an opponent. We respect their front four, we respect Roman Gabriel."
Although the Rams lost the playoff game in Milwaukee County Stadium, the season wasn't wasted on their quarterback. The team's ball control offense allowed Roman to throw more passes underneath to his backs and tight end, spreading the ball around. This helped him mature into a great accurate passer who led the league in least interceptions thrown with 16.
"There was no one out there that could read defenses any better than me. I know Unitas gets a lot of credit for that, there are a lot of guys that do. The two things that I brought to the table were consistency and I could read defenses well. As a result, the way we played was conducive to George Allen's scheme of offense, because as you well know he was a defensive coach. We didn't make mistakes. And on top of that, we had to spread the ball around because we didn't have the game-breakers, didn't have the speed."
After a string of injuries, the team fell to second place in the divisim in 1968 with a record of 10-3-1. At seasm's end, team owner Dan Reeves fired head coach George Allen. The great majority of the Ram's players raised an immediate outcry in favor of the deposed coach. "I don't know how many people will admit it" he says, "but we had everything to do with it. Hell, you had 65 to 75 percent of the best players on the team there, saying we might not play if George is not back." At a press conference to name the new head coach, Dan Reeves announced the return of George Allen.
The Los Angeles Rams started the 1969 season with an 11-0 mark, the best record in the National Football League. But, in an unprecedented move on the part of George Allen, the coach eased up once the division title was in hand. He gave his starters a break and allowed his reserves a chance at some playing time. The Rams lost their final three games and a conference playoff against Minnesota.
But despite the team's disappointment, Gabriel himself bad his finest season as a pro. He led the NFL in least interceptions thrown with seven, a least interception percentage of 1.68, and passing touchdowns at 24. He was named All-Pro and the league's 1969 MVP. In the four seasons since the arrival of head coach George Allen, Roman had thrown 814 completions for 10,232 yards and 78 touchdowns. His accuracy was outstanding, and his interception rate was so low that he was running ahead of the lifetime record for NFL passers.
Stats Passer Rtg. 1962-72 3,313 1,705 22,223 .515 154 112 74.3 Records & Honors
Note: All records are from dates 1962 - 72, except where indicated.
@ Minnesota (22 of 32) on Dec. 27, 1969
5 TD vs. Cleveland
on Dec. 12, 1965
Best game vs. Detroit on Dec. 14, 1970, 334 yards (27 of 42)
Longest Pass (to Tucker) 93 yards TD vs. San Francisco Nov. 16,1968
Records & Honors