If Jim Everett is the long-term answer to the Rams' passing problems, as Coach John Robinson said Monday, the question becomes: How soon is long term?
It could be as early as next Sunday at Anaheim when the Rams (5-2) meet the Atlanta Falcons (5-1-1) for first place in the NFC West.
"That's the first I've heard of that possibility," said Steve Bartkowski, the struggling incumbent quarterback.
That might be rushing it, but it becomes more apparent that Everett will be the starting quarterback before the season is over.
"He's on a time table," Robinson said. "We want him to play this year. In fact, Sunday (against Detroit) I'd designed a series of eight plays to get him in there and get him some experience. We thought in the third quarter, if our score expanded, we might have an opportunity."
Bartkowski said he was aware of that plan.
But the Rams turned a 14-0 first-quarter lead into a 14-10 cliffhanger finish, so the rookie from Purdue was left waiting.
Bartkowski threw only 12 passes, completing 6 for 48 yards, as the Rams dropped to last in net passing yardage in the National Football League with an average of 120 a game.
To put that in perspective, consider that Eric Dickerson is running for 122.8 yards per game. He has carried the ball 169 times, while the Rams have thrown only 174 passes, second lowest in the NFL to New Orleans (169).
Bartkowski's battered right knee was sore again Monday. He said he would be able to play, but Robinson wouldn't commit himself on whether Everett or backup Steve Dils would play if Bartkowski couldn't.
"For a definite answer on that you should wait," Robinson said. "It would be wrong to put Jim in before he's ready. I think he's ready to try a few plays, but only if it's nurtured."
Everett says he's somewhat ready despite being with the team for less than a month.
Robinson's concern is to keep the Rams in contention without rushing Everett into action and damaging his confidence.
"I really wish I'd had a chance to go through camp," Everett said. "I'm trying to make up as quickly as I can."
Coach John Robinson said there were "more discussions" going on with wide receiver Henry Ellard, but there was nothing to report. Ellard has been dealing directly with Ram negotiator John Shaw, and Monday described the discussions as "positive." . . . Robinson thought moving Shawn Miller to nose tackle and starting Doug Reed at left defensive end again "gave us more strength inside against the run." That's important with Atlanta coming up Sunday at Anaheim. Reed had nine tackles and one sack, Miller a sack and four tackles. . . . Eric Dickerson has 53 touchdowns in his 53-game career. He needs two to equal Elroy Hirsch's club record and 179 yards to match Lawrence McCutcheon's mark of 6,186. . . . Ron Brown's 23-yard pass reception Sunday was his longest of the season. . . . Sunday's game probably won't sell out in time to lift the local television blackout. About 16,000 tickets remained unsold Monday, three days before the deadline. . . . The Rams' road gets tougher. Their first seven opponents were 16-31-2. Their next nine are 37-23-2. A RUN/PASS COMPARISON
Opponent Dickerson Rams Rushing Passing St. Louis 193 70 San Francisco 78 89 Indianapolis 121 162 Philadelphia 58 207 Tampa Bay 207 106 Atlanta 73 184 Detroit 130 22 Totals 860 840