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Gene Wojciechowski

Dear Diary: Robinson's Going Through Some Trying Times

October 25, 1987|Gene Wojciechowski

Sneaked a peek at Ram Coach John Robinson's appointment calendar the other day. I couldn't help it; it was right there on his desk, closed, upside down, under a stack of 8-by-10 glossies of Eric Dickerson and a paperweight the size of a block of ice. I mean, he was practically begging me to read it.

So, I did, figuring there would be the occasional appearance at a regional Sansabelt convention, maybe a USC fund-raiser, perhaps a motivational lecture or two at a nearby corporate headquarters.

Boy, was I wrong.

Busy fella, this Robinson. According to my notes (so I copied a few things down, big deal), Robinson is pretty much booked until Dec. 27, the last game of the Rams' regular season. Then there are a lot of blank pages.

But before that--whew. This guy hardly has time to adjust his Ram cap.

For instance, a sampling of October:

Oct. 14 --Stinking player strike continues. Become aggressive. Concoct bogus list. Tell reporters, who then will tell players, that a "source" has indicated that 13 striking Rams want to cross picket line. Cross fingers.

Oct. 15-- 'Fess up to bogus list scheme. Disregard Dickerson's comment about back stabbing. Welcome regulars back, but tell them only wide receiver Ron Brown and quarterback Jim Everett are actually eligible to play and get paid in full for the upcoming game against the Atlanta Falcons. Hope Everett hasn't alienated veterans.

Oct. 17 --Get out of town.

Oct. 18-- Play Falcons, one of the worst non-union teams assembled.

Oct. 19-- Explain how Falcons, one of the worst non-union teams assembled, overcame a 17-point Ram lead to win game. Bid farewell to Ram non-union team. Preach optimism.

Oct. 20 --Cancel annual contribution to Dickerson's Rangers. Arrange meeting with E.D. to discuss recent remarks about salary and trade demands.

Oct. 22-- Demote Eric to second team. Tell cornerback LeRoy Irvin not to get any ideas.

Oct. 23 --Preach optimism. Disregard 1-4 record. Hope National Football League owners add one additional wild-card playoff spot in each conference.

Oct. 25 --Get out of town, even if it means going to Cleveland.

Oct. 26-- Hope we beat Browns.

And that's just 10 days in the life of Mr. Positive. You should have seen last month's: "Explain loss to lowly Houston Oilers. . . . Explain loss to Minnesota Vikings. . . . Explain reasons for taking time to assemble non-union team. . . ."

It was enough to send the usually effervescent Robinson into a mini-depression.

Someone once said, "If you have a job without aggravations, you don't have a job." Robinson has a job, all right. Full-time, too. And aggravations? Robinson almost has hit triple digits.

Part of the blame is Robinson's. He, and the rest of Ram management, failed to plan for the possibility of an extended player strike. Three games later, the Rams were 1-2 in Strikeball.

And Robinson didn't exactly help his image as a player's coach when he devised that infamous List of 13. That was the same list that included linebacker Mel Owens, of all people, the consummate union man. Bright, it wasn't.

As for the rest of it--running back Charles White's brush with the law, Irvin's lingering contract dispute, assorted injuries, Dickerson's troubles, strike fallout--Robinson is stuck. This is where he learns if his methods can succeed under duress.

Anyone can doodle X's and O's. But try manning the blackboard while your team struggles to forget a strike, a star running back's salary complaints (with many of those complaints shared by teammates), and a 1-7 regular season and playoff record dating back to Dec. 14.

No need for a Ram body bag just yet. They trail San Francisco by three games with 10 games remaining--two against the 49ers. And even if a division title seems a bit beyond reach, an 8-7 record doesn't. Eight victories this season could be plenty to earn a wild-card appearance.

In the Rams' favor is the New York Giants' 0-5 record, Minnesota's 2-3 record and the predicted failure of the New Orleans Saints, Dallas Cowboys and Tampa Bay Buccaneers during the final two-thirds of the season.

Of course, none of this means anything if Dickerson doesn't receive a pay raise and an attitude adjustment. As for a trade, not even the Rams are that foolish.

A suggestion: Maybe it's time for owner Georgia Frontiere to dip into her limo fund or all that money she saved in salaries during the strike and pay Dickerson the going rate. To save face, simply say it was done in the name of strife reduction.

And it might not hurt if the Rams get that acclaimed passing attack in order and seal various leaks in the defense.

Otherwise, all is well here on the Good Ship Ram, Capt. Robinson at the helm. That is, until another iceberg pops up.

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