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Scott Ostler

Rams Should Go Marching In With a New Quarterback

November 05, 1986|Scott Ostler

Deliver to: John Robinson, Ram Coach, Bourbon Street. Dear John:

Hope you guys made it out of Chicago all right, without William Perry eating your luggage or Mike Ditka biting the airplane tires as you taxied down the O'Hare runway. Those Bears fellows hate to lose, don't they? I hear they're demanding a recount.

Since you and the boys are spending the week there in New Orleans, cut off from civilization, I thought you might welcome a little advice and commentary from back home, and I've got some time to kill while I wait for my pedicure to dry.

First, a friendly suggestion: You have to start Jim Everett at quarterback Sunday against the Saints.

Wait, John, it's bad luck not to finish reading a letter.

We both know you're going to need this kid if you expect to get anywhere in the playoffs, and he still hasn't played a single NFL down. You got to get him into some live action soon, and you can't wait for a blowout, because the way you guys play football, Monday night was as close to a blowout as you're going to get.

Besides, who learns anything from garbage time, except the rookie surgeons who patch up the survivors? So you simply have to start Everett.

This is the safest time for him to play, right up front. You know your defense can hold the Saints for five minutes, so the worst you get is an early standoff. Let Everett play for two series. If he does well, let him stay in as long as he seems in control of his faculties and is moving the ball.

If Everett plays like George Plimpton, you yank him. Either way, you get a fair idea of what you've got in this quarterback of the future. And either way, you've got Steve (Thrills 'n' Spills) Dils warming up in the bullpen.

If you don't take my advice, you wind up some game soon with Dils turning an ankle and you having the choice of bringing in Flea Knees Bartkowski or an ice-cold Everett.

Next item, big fella: When he gets in, let Thrills 'n' Spills call his own plays.

You let him call his own shots in the last two minutes at Chicago. Maybe he's not the quarterback you've been looking for, but he might be the quarterback coach you've been looking for. The guy is smart, and cool.

He invented two plays in the huddle, which says a lot about your playbook, and is as bold as taking a shortcut in the Kentucky Derby. What did Dils tell Mike Guman on that game-saving made-up screen pass--"Run down to the Gatorade can and turn left"?

I love that kind of stuff, real football. A normal quarterback, having the night Dils was having, by the third quarter would have called himself a taxi. Or a taxidermist. Take this arm and stuff it. Long about that time, John, in your mind Jeff Kemp must have been looking like Otto Graham. Before that last drive, I don't know if Thrills 'n' Spills felt like crying, but I know a lot of Ram fans did.

Dils, by the way, made the most amazing postgame comment, John. Talking about his impromptu screen passes, he said, and I re-quote: "We hadn't worked on screens all week."

Was Dils just kidding, or what? You guys are playing the Chicago Bears , vicious hit-men who you know will be keying on Dickerson like ants key on candy. You have no long- or medium-range passing attack to speak of. The logical plan would be to keep the Bears honest with screens to Dickerson. But what do I know?

I do know that people are calling your team lucky and ugly, John. Hey, they laughed at the Wright brothers, too, and the Wright brothers had an even more modern and sophisticated air game than the Rams.

Still, the criticism is unfair. There is a certain elemental beauty in your patented "He-e-e-e-re's Eric!" offense. And your passing attack will be more beautiful and effective as soon as Henry Ellard recovers from the knife wound in his back. That John Shaw, what a cut-up.

As for lucky, what's lucky about forcing key turnovers every week, or knocking the other team's star ballcarrier out of the game, or executing difficult but basic plays like 50-yard field goals?

Gotta go. Give my regards to Bourbon Street, that subtly named boulevard of broken dreams, eardrums and heads. I admire your courage, letting your players bivouac in adult Disneyland while they prepare for Sunday's games against the Saints.

I know that's part of your philosophy, treating your players like big boys, trusting them not to overindulge in spicy food or wear themselves out shopping for souvenir T-shirts.

By the way, if you start Everett on Sunday, no need to give me credit. I get all the glory I can handle in my job. Tell the news hounds it came to you in a dream. Have fun. Don't take any wooden nickels or French quarters.

Sincerely,

Scott

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