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After Fall of Rome, Everett in Coliseum : Raiders: Quarterback has been a bright spot for Saints, and he should be throwing today.

November 20, 1994|STEVE SPRINGER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

He went from Ram to sacrificial lamb.

It wasn't pleasant, the parting of the Rams and Jim Everett, their quarterback for eight years.

He slammed the door on his way out, and he slammed talk-show host Jim Rome to the floor of Rome's studio, turning a table over onto him last April.

Rome had taunted Everett by repeatedly calling him "Chris," an apparent reference to former women's tennis star Chris Evert.

The inference was clear. Jim Everett was not a real man. Rome was hardly the first to make such an inference. The wimp factor was a big reason Everett became so unpopular here. Somewhere along the line, he went from the strong, excellent quarterback of the late '80s who passed for 31 touchdowns in one season and for more than 4,000 yards in another, to a man who was said to have nervous feet, who spent more time looking in fear at onrushing linemen than looking downfield for his receivers.

Fair or not, Everett was buried under that image. He became the scapegoat for the Rams' collective failures.

Was it really only seven months ago that Everett bolted out of that studio, the frustration of his disastrous final years with the Rams vented?

As the quarterback of the New Orleans Saints, he comes back today to Southern California. Not to Anaheim Stadium, but to the Coliseum. Not to face the Rams, whom he has already beaten this season in New Orleans, but the Raiders.

No matter. He gets a chance to return and show people firsthand that there's still plenty of life in that arm and fire in that belly.

Everett has an 85.5 quarterback rating, sixth best in the NFC and eighth best in the NFL. Along with 11 interceptions, he has passed for 14 touchdowns, six more than he passed for all last season, has completed 64.9% of his passes, a mark higher than he ever achieved as a Ram, and has passed for 2,507 yards.

No wonder Everett says, "I'm not bitter," when asked about being traded to the Saints.

New Orleans Coach Jim Mora said, "I see a more confident Jim Everett than I ever saw before. I just think he feels good about things right now."

Whereas many perceived Everett as the problem with the Rams, he is seen as the solution with the Saints.

New Orleans (4-6) is sixth in the league in yards passing but only 26th in the 28-team league in yards rushing.

New Orleans is hoping to change that by putting the ball in the hands of rookie Mario Bates. Bates, a second-round draft choice from Arizona State, started for the first time last week against the Atlanta Falcons and rushed for 141 yards and two touchdowns.

It might have happened a lot sooner had it not been for an incident after the second game of the season that sort of defined the season for the Saints. Bates and fullback Lorenzo Neal got into an argument in a bar, Neal threw a punch and Bates wound up with a broken jaw.

"It was kind of frustrating for me because I couldn't contribute in any way until four or five weeks later," Bates said.

He couldn't do much of anything with his jaw wired shut, except lose a dozen pounds.

But even with Bates' emergence, look for Everett to go to the air a lot today.

He'll face a secondary held together with tape and bandages. James Trapp will start at right cornerback, for the first time this season, in place of Lionel Washington, who is hobbled by a bruised calf muscle, an injury suffered last week against the Rams. And Washington had started that game in place of Albert Lewis, sidelined because of a sprained knee. Safety Derrick Hoskins will be trying to come back from an ankle sprain that knocked him out of last week's game.

There's much better news for the Raiders (5-5) on the other side of the ball, where quarterback Jeff Hostetler seems recovered from the injury that knocked him out of the Ram game in the fourth quarter. Hostetler suffered three jammed toes when tackle Gerald Robinson fell on his left foot.

Also coming back is offensive left tackle Gerald Perry, who sat out four games because of a broken right ankle.

The last time the Saints played in the Coliseum, the Raiders beat them, 23-13. That was in 1985.

Everett was a senior that year at Purdue, dreaming of a career in the NFL.

He comes back today, his dreams perhaps a bit tarnished. But he seems as enthusiastic as ever.

The Raiders might chase him and sack him and pound him. But they have been warned: Don't question his courage or his manhood.

Because on this trip to Los Angeles, he might respond by turning the tables on them .

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