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Miller Gets Nod; Chandler Says He's Surprised : Analysis: It's no secret that Knox has high regard for backup. The gap between the two Ram quarterbacks has all but disappeared.

October 13, 1994|T.J. SIMERS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

ANAHEIM — Chris Miller was named the Rams' starting quarterback Wednesday, and Chuck Knox said there was never any doubt.

On Tuesday, however, Knox said he would wait until Wednesday, review medical updates and then make his decision.

What decision? Miller was healthy, and coming off a solid performance against the Green Bay Packers.

After listing Chris Chandler as questionable on Wednesday because of a sore ankle, Knox summoned Miller to his office and informed him he would be the starting quarterback for Sunday's game against the Giants.

Did Knox call Jerome Bettis to his office? Robert Young? Flipper Anderson? If Miller is the team's acknowledged No. 1 quarterback, why did Knox meet separately with Miller and Chandler Wednesday? Why is there a feeling at Rams Park that Miller is on a short leash, and one slip-up and Chandler's in command? Why did Chandler report to work Wednesday believing he was going to be named the starter?

"How could there be any question?" Knox said. "Chris Miller is the starting quarterback, he was the starting quarterback, he got hurt. He's back to being the starting quarterback. OK?

"I'm not going to get into short leashes, long leashes, next week, the end of the year and all that type of stuff that you people want so you can put somebody in a trick bag. That's not what I'm talking about. He is the starting quarterback. I can't make it any more emphatic than that."

It's no secret, however, that Knox has high regard for Chandler and that he has become irritated with Miller's penchant for making excuses when things do not go well. It has been mentioned by several of his assistants and it has been discussed in the team's front office.

"I have never said that I favored one quarterback over the other," Knox said. "That is not known, because I have never said it. You can hear that from this person or that person, but you never heard it from me. So you're asking me now, and I'm telling: Yes, I have said we can win with Chris Chandler because I feel we can. I said that when Chris Miller was out and was not going to be playing. Just like we can win with Chris Miller, and Chris Miller played well, and he is the starter.

"I'm not dealing in perceptions. I'm talking with reality, and I've just answered the questions."

The Rams gave Miller $9 million over three years to replace Jim Everett, and then gave Chandler a one-year contract for $600,000 to be his backup. There should be no debate, but after six games the gap between starter and backup has all but disappeared.

"When I came in today I anticipated I was going to be the starter this week," said Chandler, who led the Rams to a 16-0 victory over Kansas City. "But I understand Chuck's thought that he would like to see it in practice first, that I can go on the ankle. I just know the ankle feels like it's going to be ready to go."

If 100% healthy, would Knox have anointed Chandler, who has completed 58.7% of his passes with two touchdowns and no interceptions, his starter?

Knox doesn't answer hypothetical questions, but it appears Miller's stock has plummeted for a variety of reasons: Miller has completed 50% of his passes with four touchdowns and five interceptions; he has shown an inability to stay healthy; and when asked questions, he has elected to answer honestly rather than respond with cliches.

"He's pretty good when he's healthy," said Mike Martz, Ram quarterbacks coach. "I don't think he's ever been himself since the first week of camp. I know he hasn't. Some unfortunate things have happened to him; he's just kind of an unlucky guy."

Miller injured an abdominal muscle early in training camp and his play deteriorated. He injured his ribs in the regular-season opener against Arizona, and after receiving pain-killing injections to continue playing, he injured his shoulder against San Francisco.

He returned to start against Green Bay after missing the second game with Atlanta, and compared to Packer quarterback Brett Favre, Miller appeared much sharper, even with a strong wind in his face at times.

"There's a big difference now in the way he's throwing the ball," Martz said. "He's getting it back.

"We're very fortunate to have both of them (Miller and Chandler). The other guy is a legitimate starter in this league."

After the loss in Atlanta, Miller said he had difficulty gripping the ball because it was wet, the result of center Bern Brostek's pants being wet from sweat. Asked about his rib injuries, Miller reluctantly admitted to playing with pain. When the story was published there were some Ram coaches who became upset, believing Miller had made it known he was hurt to gain sympathy and explain why he was playing poorly.

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