One hears that people in San Francisco have given up on the 49ers (3-4), an attitude that seems a bit premature considering that people in Southern California haven't yet given up on ridiculing the Rams (7-0).
Anyone can jump off a sinking ship. It takes guts to abandon one that's cruising.
The teams still have two games to play against each other--the first at Anaheim Stadium on Sunday--but Northerners are inclined to deliver the loss by Federal Express and save the travel costs.
What's wrong with the 49ers? Not much, actually, aside from too many turnovers and penalties and not enough time to get over winning Super Bowl XIX.
Future Super Bowl winners should seriously consider taking the following season off.
But all of the key players who went 18-1 and dismantled the Miami Dolphins are still there, so Bill Walsh, the coach, no doubt will solve the problem. He might start by taking away the players' free lunch. You saw how well that worked for Kansas City before it played the Rams last week.
Walsh long ago became weary of trying to explain his team's record. Ram Coach John Robinson knows how he feels. Clearly, here is an unbeaten team with serious problems. Robinson addressed these in a team meeting this week.
"Fellas," Robinson said, "we're too bad a team to be 7-0. Some of you just aren't playing your proper roles."
Coaches like to talk about players playing "roles."
Robinson continued: "I'm particularly disappointed in you people who play defense. Now, the idea is to stop the other guys from scoring and I have no complaints about that.
"What I don't like is the way you're helping our offense score points with all those interceptions and fumble recoveries. It's almost as if you think our offense can't score any by itself. I think you're deliberately trying to embarrass our offense, and I won't stand for any more of that.
"Therefore, the next time I see anybody intercept a pass or recover a fumble, that man gets no free lunch for a week."
Robinson also scheduled separate practices this week so the defense wouldn't laugh at the offense's plays. A man can stand only so much of being 7-0.
What the Rams need is a good loss to straighten them out. The 49ers are just the outfit to do it.
Even when the 49ers rolled over to 3-6 the season after their first Super Bowl win in '82, they were able to come to Anaheim and handle the Rams, 30-24.
Of course, the Rams (2-7) were no bargain themselves that season, which is why Robinson is the coach and Ray Malavasi is selling fire extinguishers.
But Robinson has missed the point. Getting to the Super Bowl isn't the whole deal; you have to look good getting there. Do you want to pull up to the Superdome in a Rolls Royce or a pickup truck?
Most of the blame has fallen on Eric Dickerson for holding out or Dieter Brock for being short and slow. It's also their fault that the offensive line fell apart with broken arms (Russ Bolinger), torn quadriceps (Dennis Harrah), a double virus (Doug Smith) and a synopsis of the orthopedic dictionary (Bill Bain), not to mention several overlooked blocking assignments by healthier members of the group.
It's true that Brock is somewhat less nimble than Mary Lou Retton, and his impersonation of the Statue of Liberty wears thin after five or six seconds, but give him a sound offensive line and some receivers whose hands can pass a metal detector test before bringing in the final verdict.
Hey, he might even get his passing rating (72.9) up to where Jeff Kemp finished last season (78.7).
Ram Notes The Rams, with six interceptions and a fumble recovery at Kansas City, lead the NFL in total takeaways with 29 and turnover ratio at plus 14, followed by the Chicago Bears at plus 9. The 49ers, incidentally, are minus 4. . . . The Rams are the fourth-least penalized team, the 49ers the third-worst. . . . Chief Coach John Mackovic reinstituted the free lunch for players this week. The team captains convinced him their lunch hours would be better spent studying football than running out to fast food joints. . . . At 3-0, the Rams can sweep the AFC West by winning the final game against the Raiders at Anaheim on Monday night, Dec. 23. . . . Those NFL team ratings published every week were started this season at the suggestion of Kansas City owner Lamar Hunt, whose team enjoyed a few weeks among the elite until losing its last three games.