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ANALYSIS : Everett Is Only Choice for Rams

September 23, 1993|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Their offensive woes have been well documented and, as they prepared to play against Buddy Ryan's hard-charging Houston defense Sunday, the Rams announced a change Wednesday.

They signed a new punter.

But Jim Everett remains the Rams' starting quarterback, and considering recent results, punter Paul McJulien can expect an eventful Ram debut.

"We weren't ready to make a change at this time," Coach Chuck Knox said. " . . . Obviously, if we felt at this point that somebody else could go in there and do a better job and was ready to do it, that would be a different story."

What were the Rams to do? Start Mike Pagel, who has failed to impress previously in a position of command? Promote T.J. Rubley, a ninth-round pick with shaky exhibition-game credentials, and then ask owner Georgia Frontiere to wave the white hankie for the team's remaining 13 games?

Despite tremendous criticism from fans and media, the Rams have put themselves in a position where they have no choice but to continue playing Everett.

"It can certainly be disconcerting when everybody's writing and saying all these things about you," Knox said. "'But that's part of the job. He just has to go out there with a fine focus on what he has to do, and hopefully get some help from his offensive teammates and also defensively because that's what it's going to take for us to win."

Knox's decision to hang in there with Everett, the lowest-rated passer in the NFL, was made months ago. The Rams never seriously considered pursuing unrestricted free agents such as Wade Wilson or Bobby Hebert. They did not talk about trading for another quarterback, nor did they push Rubley to compete with him.

In early April, when the Rams were plotting to position themselves higher in the draft so they would have an opportunity to select running back Garrison Hearst, a club official asked a question in passing that now becomes pertinent:

"If we're going to give up something to make a move to get the first pick in the draft, OK. But then why don't we select quarterback Drew Bledsoe?"

Knox, who was in charge of the Rams' draft, never considered making a move for Bledsoe. The Rams hung all their hopes on Everett, and now they have a quarterback controversy, one of their own making.

They made no move to improve their situation, even though the prevailing opinion within the organization was that Everett lacked the intangibles to make the team a winner.

It is a topic of conversation at Rams Park that will not go away. Coaches and front-office executives will discuss it freely, so long as they are not quoted for the record. They have no faith in Everett as a leader, but they recognize his considerable athletic talent and hold out hope that a better supporting cast and an improving defense will save the day.

So far, though, they have been unable to assemble a winning supporting cast. Can the Rams' dreadful start be traced to Everett's poor play or to the team's inability to provide him a chance for success?

"We're not performing up to our capabilities," said Ernie Zampese, the offensive coordinator. "When you've been as unsuccessful as we have been, that includes all areas, including coaching."

The spotlight, however, falls on Everett, who has been doing his Mister Rogers imitation.

"I have to tell all my fans that watch the Rams that I'll give the best effort I possibly can," Everett said Wednesday. "I'm going to go out and try to see if we can get a win against this Houston Oiler team."

He talks like that--all the time. And he works. He works hard in the off-season, in training camp, every day in practice. He never misses a game. He does all the right things. And yet, everything has gone wrong.

He has thrown 58 touchdown passes since the start of the 1990 season--and 61 interceptions. The Rams have compiled a 15-36 record during the prime of Everett's career and, not surprisingly, Ram fans are running short on patience.

Critics are standing in line to take their shots at Everett. A column in the Philadelphia Daily News this week detailed his woes, and on Tuesday, Ryan had his say: "Jim looks like he always does--a big arm and nervous feet."

Everett's reply: "I don't read the papers, so I don't know what's said. What they say and what actually happens--there always seems to be two different things."

The papers have suggested the Rams make a change, and in this case momentum threatens to have its way.

"The NFL Today," complete with Terry Bradshaw's commentary, added more pressure after showing footage of a skittish Everett before last week's game against the New York Giants.

Everett declined Bradshaw's invitation to be interviewed for the segment.

"What can he say?" a Ram spokesman said. "What can the guy do?"

It's a no-win situation, all right, in more ways than one. But Everett still appears to be the best man--if not the only man--for the job as Ram quarterback.

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