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Rhome Will Run Offense for Chargers

February 13, 1988|MARC APPLEMAN | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Hours after the Washington Redskin offense scored 42 points in Super Bowl XXII, including 35 in a memorable second quarter, the Chargers contacted the Redskins about talking to Jerry Rhome, the team's quarterback coach.

Rhome met with Charger Coach Al Saunders in San Diego the next day and five times after that. On Friday, the Chargers announced that Rhome will replace Dave Levy as offensive coordinator and Roger Theder as quarterback coach.

"Al Saunders was the key," Rhome said. "I was extremely impressed with him, with what they want to do. . . . It's a very difficult decision anytime you leave an organization like the Redskins. (Coach) Joe Gibbs, (General Manager) Bobby Beathard, it's hard leaving that.

"(But) I'm not running the offense with the Washington Redskins. Coach Gibbs is, and he has a lot of assistants."

The announcement of Rhome's hiring coincided Friday with the resignation of Theder, who was highly criticized last season, his first with the club, for the offense's lack of scoring.

"He wanted to seek an opportunity elsewhere," Saunders said. "He's a quarterbacks coach, and he wanted an opportunity to do that."

Levy, a member of the Charger coaching staff since 1980 and offensive coordinator last season after Ernie Zampese joined the Rams, will become tight end coach.

The Chargers also announced the addition of Jerry Wampfler as offensive line coach, a position he had held with the Green Bay Packers since 1984. Wampfler's line helped the Packers to the second-best rushing average in the NFL in 1985.

Wampfler will replace Ed White, a former Charger star who announced his retirement as an assistant after last season to devote more time to his family and outside interests.

"We are excited to be able to add two of the most exceptional coaches in the NFL to our staff," Saunders said.

Rhome has been the quarterback coach for the Redskins for the past five seasons, most recently working with Jay Schroeder and Doug Williams. Williams was the most valuable player in the Redskins' 42-10 Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos Jan. 31.

Rhome spent 1976-82 with the Seattle Seahawks, including the last five as offensive coordinator.

"Rhome brings a great deal of expertise and imagination to our offense," Saunders said. "His success as a coach has been well-documented. . . . I've always had a great deal of respect in his abilities.

"What he has done with the Washington quarterbacks has been exemplary. Washington's passing offense is a lot like the Chargers' was in the past, and combined with their running game, it makes for the type of offense the Chargers would like to have."

Saunders said it's "too premature to discuss" specifics of what that might mean. Rhome said he wasn't yet in a position to talk about it. But he certainly is familiar with the passing game.

During his eight-year playing career in the NFL, Rhome was a quarterback with the Dallas Cowboys (1965-68), Cleveland Browns (1969), Houston Oilers (1970) and Rams (1971-72). In college at Tulsa, he broke 17 NCAA passing records and was the runner-up to John Huarte of Notre Dame for the 1964 Heisman Trophy.

Contacted Friday at a hotel in Tulsa, where he is attending his daughter's wedding, Rhome expressed surprise at all the phone messages awaiting him.

"I didn't know this would happen today," he said.

He is the second Redskin coach to join the Chargers in two seasons. Wayne Sevier, the Chargers' special teams coordinator last season, worked with Rhome in Washington. Rhome talked about rejoining Sevier and how pleased he was that the Chargers had hired Wampfler.

Said Saunders: "Wampfler has a reputation throughout the NFL as being one of the outstanding teachers of offensive-line play. His aggressive nature and background provides us with a great opportunity to improve in that area. . . . He's worked with some great people--Sid Gillman, Dick Vermeil, Bo Schembechler and Ara Parseghian."

Before Green Bay, Wampfler was the Philadelphia Eagles' running game coordinator and offensive line coach under Vermeil from 1979-83, which included an appearance in Super Bowl XV. He was a coach with the Giants in 1978 and with Buffalo in 1976-77. At the college level, he coached with Schembechler at Miami of Ohio and with Parseghian at Notre Dame before becoming head coach at Colorado State in 1970.

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