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Everett Is Now the Man Who Knew Too Much : Mastering a New Offense Hasn't Been Instinctive

October 30, 1987|CHRIS DUFRESNE | Times Staff Writer

It was Nov. 16, 1986, and Jim Everett had been with the Rams for what seemed like, oh, hours.

The team's playbook? It could have been a cookbook for all he knew.

When Everett first ducked his head into a Ram huddle, he had committed to memory two or three schoolyard pass routes and some Biblical verses.

The rest was up to him. The Rams trailed New England, 13-0, in the second quarter. After introducing himself, he completed his first pass in the National Football League for a touchdown, then threw two more scoring passes before the day was done, nearly leading the Rams to a comeback win.

With Everett starting, the Rams won their next three games. In an overtime loss to Miami Dec. 14, he all but stood toe to toe with Dan Marino, throwing for 251 yards and 2 touchdowns.

And then, almost as mysteriously, Jim Everett disappeared.

His life since then has been a maze of inconsistency. It seems the more he knows, the poorer he throws. The Rams tried to give Everett all the comforts of home. They hired an offensive genius, Ernie Zampese, away from the San Diego Chargers. They gave Everett the key to the house for the next 10 years.

But Everett's quarterback rating continues to drop, with his latest numbers, 33.3, approaching a winter's day in Buffalo.

Everett has lost his last six starts. He has also thrown six interceptions and no touchdowns this season. He tripped over his own feet while fading to pass at the Astrodome in Houston, remember?

So is he really a savior or was last year just beginner's luck?

"Really, you're seeing the same quarterback," Everett said this week. "You're seeing the same guy that was firing shots with Dan Marino. I'm still the same person."

There are some logical explanations for his fadeout, he says, though some don't sound logical at all.

How could Everett have been a better quarterback when he didn't know the offense? Was it that he just didn't know any better?

Strangely, the answer is yes.

For Zampese's offense, the one that made the San Diego Chargers famous, is not something that is digested overnight.

And all that Everett really needs is to overcome some serious growing pains. The talent is there.

"When I look at myself on film, I don't see a person that can't do things all the time the way they should be done," Everett said.

Right now, though, it can't get much worse.

"Last year on my pass routes, I'd drop seven steps back and it was boom, boom, boom," he said. "I don't know if you've ever watched Dan Fouts, but he never really sets up. He's always in transition. It's very effective once you learn it.

"I can't say I have it mastered as of yet, but I guarantee you I will. Right now, we're still trying to learn it. But there's no excuses. We've been running it since March. But patience is the key thing, the only way to go through it."

Everett, in a way, has almost accepted that it's going to get worse before it gets better.

He has readied himself for the criticism and the sarcasm. But though he's only 24, and presumably sensitive, you'd never know Everett was struggling.

Everett won't allow it.

"I could probably be hanging my head," he said. "That's not me. I'm going to fight. We're 1-5, and I expect us to be 10-5 at the end of the season."

And the criticism?

"I got a lot of credit for wins last year," he said. "I'll take the abuse for the losses. That's my job.

"I'm happy I have that job. When things don't go right, I'll take that blame. Right now, we're in hard times, but when the smoke lifts, the people coming out of that crowd will be tough people that have the will to win. I hope that cloud will lift soon."

And it isn't as though there haven't been distractions along the way.

The biggest, of course, has been Eric Dickerson, who obviously doesn't want to be a part of this new, exciting experience.

On top of that was a 24-day players' strike, which set the offense back even more.

"You've got to realize that our horse is running on three legs without the main guy," Everett said of Dickerson. "When you saw Jim Everett last year, you saw a total offense. I don't know since the start of the year when you've seen our offense on four legs, just because of the things that happened."

Dickerson's discontent plagues the team on all fronts.

"It's more than a distraction, it's been a devastating blow to this team," Everett said of Dickerson's problems. "I'm very mad at the whole situation. I don't blame any one person for it. I blame the situation on the people involved--management and Eric Dickerson, just for how things have been handled. The people involved have to do what they have to do, but it has been a devastating blow to the team. And that's on top of the strike."

Unfortunately, the Rams and Everett are running out of time. With Dickerson having been put on the inactive list for Sunday's game against San Francisco, and his future very much in doubt, Everett is going to have to snap out of his slump in a hurry.

And certainly no one is giving up on Everett.

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