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Gene Wojciechowski

Rams '88 PREVIEW SECTION : It's Official: Everett Era Has Started

September 09, 1988|Gene Wojciechowski

Calendars ready? Date books poised? Now write, under Sept. 4, 1988: Jim Everett Era officially began against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field at 10 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time.

There, it's done. And I hope you wrote in ink because no matter what anyone tells you, including Everett, that was the day to remember for Ram followers. That's right, not Nov. 16, 1986--Everett's Ram rookie debut. Not Sept. 13, 1987--when Everett started the season as the Ram quarterback. Not Nov. 15, 1987--when the Rams beat the St. Louis Cardinals, beginning a five-game winning streak.

9-4-88. The Beginning. And that's that.

Think about it. Everett's rookie season shouldn't count. He didn't even become a Ram until after the season had begun. His first game Hut! didn't come until mid-November. And that wasn't the actual Everett out there anyway. It was an uncertain newcomer, eager to play, to please, but operating on instinct and talent not yet refined. For every three-touchdown game like the one Everett had against the New England Patriots that day, there was an equally telling 7-for-20, 56-yard, 2-interception game the following week.

As for last season, the less said the better. Sure, Everett began the season as the Ram starter. But it still wasn't his team. It was Eric Dickerson's and his weekly pay-me-or-trade-me proclamations. It was LeRoy Irvin's and his Dickersonian renegotiation tactics. It was the season of the players' strike. Of the resurgence of Charles White. Of six victories and nine losses.

And Everett? His 68.4 quarterback rating was 24th of 27 NFL qualifiers. He threw three more interceptions than touchdowns. At times, it looked as if someone had slipped Everett the wrong playbook. Even when the Rams went on their victory binge late in the year, it was more because of Coach John Robinson's edict to run first (what they know best) and pass second. That new Ernie Zampese offense would have to wait until . . .

Sept. 4. E-Day.

Dickerson is long gone, busy counting his money in Indianapolis, where it will go further. Irvin is content. The players' strike is but a sad, expensive memory, as is the Rams' 6-9 record. Peace reigns.

And so does Everett. Reluctantly.

"I've heard people say stuff like that," Everett said. "I never want to be in a position where I put myself above the team. I've never liked that. I've seen it happen and I don't like it. I feel I have a role for this team. I feel it's to be consistent and efficient on offense and add some sort of leadership. If you want to call that my team, fine. I call it my job as being a quarterback. I get a little touchy, question things a little bit when people say that. I mean, Ernie overlooks (the offense), I just call it."

Is that so? Who takes the snap? Who has to read the defense? Who has to alter his drop from 7 to 5 steps? Who has to adapt to looking short first, long later? Who's going to get the bejabbers knocked out of him? Who's going to take the blame if the Rams wind up with another six victories?

You think if this state-of-the-art Ram offense blows another microchip people are going to turn around in their seats, point toward the coaches' box and scream that Zampese be replaced by, say, receivers coach Norv Turner?

Nope, like it or not, this is Everett's team, all right. It may take everyone to work the gun, but Everett's finger is closest to the trigger. For the first time since he became a Ram, the safety has been clicked off. Everett is on his own.

Scary stuff, this solo act. Only Dan Marino of the Miami Dolphins has managed to somehow circumvent the normal growing pains. Marino splashed onto the pro scene five seasons ago and has disrupted the bell curve ever since. And don't think Everett hasn't noticed.

"You go back and look at the stats of other people like Dan Fouts and his first five years, Elway in his early years, Terry Bradshaw in his early years," Everett said. "If you go back and look at these guys, no one's like a Dan Marino. There's no one like him. So he screwed it up for all of us.

"Nah, I'm just kidding."

Sort of.

Everett knows history, especially his own. He knows the Rams gave up a lot to acquire his draft rights back in 1986. He knows they're not paying him the big bucks to spend a career handing off to White. He also knows his time has come, that the Ram offense has gone from Tinkertoy to chemistry set.

"The first year, the passing game was very simple, to the point that it wasn't that difficult," Everett said. "It was the same type of things, some simpler, than what we did in college. It was just a matter of throwing the ball quicker than the defensive back could react. It was just one of those type of things that we could run it, but if everybody was covered, which sometimes they were, then you're in trouble.

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