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SCOTT OSTLER

A Spy's Report on the Raiders and Rams

July 28, 1986|SCOTT OSTLER

Scene: Head coach's office. Head coach is poring over scouting reports of opposing teams. He punches a button on his desk top intercom and speaks.

Coach: Ms. Hashmark? Please send Agent Zero into my office.

Agent Zero (entering office): Coach, can't we just call me by my name?

Coach: Don't be silly. You're a spy. We can't blow your cover.

Zero: My job is to compile information on our rival NFL teams. I prefer to think of myself as a scout and technical analyst.

Coach: OK, OK. So you're not a spy.

Zero: Good, then can I take off my Lone Ranger mask and remove these tree branches from my hair?

Coach: Certainly. Now let's get to your spy--er, scouting--report on the two L.A. team training camps. What about the Raiders? Who's their quarterback?

Zero: The kid.

Coach: Rusty Hilger? They've decided to give Hilger the starting job? That's terrible news for us.

Zero: No, no. The kid is Marc Wilson. Hilger is the baby . He's the third-stringer right now.

Coach: But Wilson turns 30 years old this week. You call that a kid?

Zero: Compared to Jim Plunkett, yes.

Coach: Plunkett is still there? As what? A museum exhibit? I can't believe it. For the second straight season the Raiders are going to open up with the Wilson-Plunkett ticket? I thought I read where some Raider executive said, "The comedy is over."

Zero: That was the team's attorney, Joseph Alioto, who said that, and he was referring to Oakland's attempts to get the team back, not to the quarterback situation. At quarterback, the comedy continues. I almost feel sorry for Plunkett and Wilson. They're sensitive guys, and they've had to put up with a lot of abuse, a lot of booing and criticism and second-guessing.

Coach: Yeah, well those L.A. fans and sportswriters are rough.

Zero: Not the fans and writers, chief--the other Raider players. They want Hilger to get the quarterback job. There's a lot of grumbling around camp.

Coach: That's bad. The Raiders thrive on grumbling. By the time the regular season opens, Plunkett and Wilson will be sidelined with hurt bodies or hurt feelings, Hilger will be the quarterback, the players will turn their grumbling to the media, for stirring up the quarterback controversy, and the Raiders will be unbeatable. What about the Rams?

Zero: Just like the Raiders, the Rams also have a kid quarterback they're hoping will mature into a reliable NFL quarterback sometime in the next few seasons.

Coach: A pheenom?

Zero: Exactly. Dieter Brock. With Steve Bartkowski as the backup and Steve Dils in reserve.

Coach: Sounds like the Rams are in a hell of a pickle, if you'll excuse the pun. Did you say Steve Bartkowski, or Zeke Bratkowski? No matter. Tell me about Brock. He looks good?

Zero: Well, he has a chronic bad back, and he still throws sidearm, and he's as old as Georgia Frontiere, but they say he spent a lot of time in the off-season working on his footwork.

Coach: And?

Zero: He does appear to be quicker this year. Quicker than Georgia, anyway. I watched Dieter one day, and hardly anyone on the team passed him in the cafeteria line. I still think his only hope of scrambling is if the team equipment man installs little wheels on the bottom of Brock's shoes, like the ones they put on big suitcases.

Coach: How do the other Ram players feel about the situation?

Zero: What other players? The Rams don't have enough guys in camp to play fullcourt basketball, let alone football. They have seven holdouts.

Coach: That's good news. What about the Rams' offense? Is it still Eric left, Eric right, and Dieter's third-down pass blowin' in the wind?

Zero: John Robinson swears his team is going to pass more often. The only question is, "to who?"

Coach: "To whom."

Zero: Who's whom?

Coach: Never mind. What's wrong with Henry Ellard? He's a fine receiver.

Zero: He's also an absent receiver. He's holding out, listening to big-money offers from some USFL team. I won't say the Rams are trying to squeeze Ellard on salary, but he'd probably get a sweeter deal if he was playing for Texas A&M.

Coach: But the USFL ? With all the problems that league is having, the USFL might fold any day.

Zero: Apparently you haven't been following the Rams too closely, coach. Vegas has the franchise even odds to survive August.

Coach: I know they have problems at the top of the organization, Zero, but they still have a fine coach, and they still have Eric Dickerson, don't they?

Zero: Yes, and Coach Robinson says he's going to install a two-back offense, just as soon as a second back reports to camp. And Robinson swears has all the confidence in the world in Dieter Brock.

Coach: Fine job, Agent Zero. It's funny, though, how this year's scouting report on the L.A. teams sounds a lot like last year's report.

Zero (shuffling papers): Oops.

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