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MIKE PENNER

It's Time to Replace Everett

September 22, 1993|MIKE PENNER

Jim Everett played his 100th regular-season game for the Rams last Sunday. One hundred days, traditionally is a time of assessment for fledgling presidential administrations--Clinton was thrown for a loss, as I recall--and now, floundering athletic adminstrations as well.

On the day after Everett's 100th NFL game, a particularly tepid performance against the New York Giants, the latest in too long a line, the question was raised at the Rams' practice facility in Anaheim:

Should Everett be benched?

"Bleeping ridiculous," was Everett's hot dismissal. "Any other questions?"

I have one.

Why not?

You can go back to the phantom sack of '89 if you want, or the 5-11 pratfall of '90, or the 3-13 encore of '91. Whatever the reference point, the point is this: It has been obvious, for a long time now, that Everett is not the quarterback that is going to lead the Rams to the Super Bowl. You can go 8-8 with Everett. You can win a wild card with Everett, provided he has plenty of time to throw, plenty of fleet receivers to throw to, and a 1,000-yard runner or two in the backfield next to him.

But putting a team in the league championship game is beyond Everett's range, too rich for his blood, too steep for his highest jump.

And if the Super Bowl isn't the No. 1 goal in Anaheim, what, then, are we wasting our autumn Sundays for?

Right now, Everett is the lowest-rated quarterback in the NFL, punching in at 45.4--or more than 80 points behind Bobby Hebert, who began this season as the backup in Atlanta.

Everett has thrown more interceptions in the 1990s--61 in 51 games--than any other professional quarterback.

And in his last 52 starts, including and beginning with the collapse in the 1989 NFC final, Everett is 15-37--a won-lost record that wouldn't cut it in Buck Rodgers' rotation, but somehow keeps him No. 1 in Chuck Knox's.

Everett says, "I still think that I'm one of the best quarterbacks in the league." I wouldn't put him in the top 20. Did you look around the league on Sunday?

In Philadelphia, Redskin Cary Conklin makes his first NFL start and rings up three touchdown passes against the Eagles' hammer-and-tongs defense.

In New Orleans, Wade Wilson--formerly Wait Wilson, Clipboard Holder To The World--leads the Saints to a 3-0 record.

In New England, where the league's worst teams of '92 converge, rookies Drew Bledsoe and Rick Mirer slice through the rusted padlocks and open the door to bright, exciting possibility for the long-straggling Patriots and Seahawks.

In Anaheim, the situation behind center has grown tired and stale. Once, the Rams and their fans believed in Everett. Now they wait for the mistake--the underthrown bomb that waffles in the wind, the duck-and-cover as the pocket evaporates, the intercepted pass that is returned for great distances with Everett giving vain chase (see Mark Collins, Giants) or clearing out altogether to seek a safe berth (see LeRoy Butler, Packers).

It is Everett's misfortune that he plays the most scrutinized position in all of sports, and it is a fact that he is far from alone when blame is to be assigned for this Ramshackle predicament.

Todd Lyght has been less than resplendent as a former No. 1 draft choice and current starting left cornerback, yet you hear no end zone cries of "We Want Israel!" I see no "Bracken Eats Quiche" T-shirts. How much radio talk-show time has been devoted to the Richard Buchanan-Deral Boykin controversy at punt returner?

But the minimum requirement for a first-string quarterback is to inspire confidence in his teammates, or at least ought to be. This can be tough to do, however, when the ears are ringing with Fred Astaire jokes and Chris Everett wisecracks.

The Rams need a change. Everett needs a change. But the Rams are saddled with a quarterbacking hierarchy not conducive to the quick fix or cable-jump, created intentionally by the Ram coaching staff and front office, who have clung to the belief that a serious challenger to Everett would sabotage his fragile psyche, inflame his insecurities and ruin him as a functioning professional.

Mind you, this is only a theory, still untested in the field. Buddy Ryan, when he was shamelessly lobbying for the Ram coaching job in late '91, said the first thing he'd do if hired was to bring in Jim McMahon and light a fire under Everett. Interesting idea, that. Would have been worth a look-see.

Unfortunately for Ryan, that was the best idea he had. Georgia Frontiere gave the job to Chuck Knox instead and Knox has gone the opposite route--taking great pains to make sure Everett is comfy and cozy and uncontested as the Rams' starter.

Mike Pagel is No. 2 on the depth chart. Pagel is 32, a nice holder for Tony Zendejas' 50-yard field goals and a benchwarmer since 1985. He is the Indianapolis Colts' quarterback of the past.

He is also the buffer Knox has placed between Everett and T.J. Rubley, the most intriguing option on the board.

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