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Rams to Take a Run at Their Old Coach : Knox’s Seahawks Have Ground to a Halt on Defense

Times Staff Writer

The Rams have been hiring coaches since 1937, the year the franchise was born in Cleveland. So you’d figure their winningest coaches might be old-timers named Dutch or Buff, or perhaps even finger-licking George himself.

Sorry, the Messrs. Clark, Donelli and Allen don’t rate. Would you believe Chuck and John?

And would you believe they will be coaching against one another today when the Seattle Seahawks play the Rams at Anaheim Stadium?

Chuck Knox spent only 5 years with the Rams, from 1973-77, before being shuffled off--fired--to Buffalo after compiling a remarkable 57-20-1 record, still the best mark in club history. He produced 5 consecutive divisional titles but no Super Bowl appearances, so off Chuck went.

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Tackle Jackie Slater, who played his first 2 years with the Rams under Knox, remembers well the climate after Knox’s dismissal. “A lot of the older guys were a bit disappointed about that,” he said. “Because they had won with him so long. I do remember there being some eerie feelings in the air after it happened because so many people respected him so much.”

Slater, then an impressionable young tackle who played little under Knox, remembers his first coach through the eyes of his rookie season.

“He had an intimidating sort of presence most of the time,” Slater said. “This might just be my interpretation because I was just breaking in. But he certainly left a strong impression on me in that regard. He seemed to be fairly loose with some of the older guys and gave them a lot of respect. But he always came across to me as a real tough guy. I wouldn’t say I was afraid. But I was going to make it a point not to cross him.”

John Robinson is in his sixth season with the Rams and, with any luck, he will pass Knox and become the team’s all-time winner this season. Robinson’s record is 53-39, and, yes, he already holds the franchise’s record for most losses.

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Knox and Robinson coached in the same town for 5 years when Robinson was at USC, but the two were never fast friends.

“If you’re looking for some relationship, there was none,” Robinson said. “He’s always had good teams.”

For Knox, the memories are also fleeting. He said there was a time after he left when coaching against the Rams raised his blood pressure some.

The first meeting didn’t come about until 1980, when Knox’s Buffalo Bills defeated the Rams in Buffalo, in overtime, 10-7.

Today’s game, though, is nothing more than the biggest the Seahawks will play all season, or so goes the coach’s refrain.

“It’s been so long,” Knox said of his Ram ties. “When we were in Buffalo, we’d only been gone 3 years and all the players we’d left were still there playing. And Ray Malavasi was the coach, whom I had brought to L.A. Now, there are only a couple of players left, Jackie Slater and (Carl) Ekern, and that’s about it. There’s no special feeling.”

Frustration, perhaps. The Rams are the only National Football League team the Seahawks have not defeated since Seattle joined the league as an expansion franchise in 1976. The Seahawks are 0-3 in regular-season games and 0-5 in exhibitions.

Somehow, Seattle always seems to play into the Rams’ hand. Which brings us to today.

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The Rams gained just 42 yards rushing against the San Francisco 49ers last week, their lowest output since 1971. Sure would be nice to find a team they could run wild against, huh? How about Seattle?

The Seahawks--Greg Bell, are you reading this?--are allowing opponents an average of 4.7 yards a carry. As a team, they rank 24th in the league against the run.

Knox said his team has tried everything to plug the leaks.

“After last year, we went to a new scheme and still haven’t been able to stop it,” Knox said.

Also, might Kelly Stouffer be just the quarterback the Ram defense has been waiting for? The Rams’ Eagle, which has produced a league-leading 38 sacks this season, has preyed on weak offensive lines and young quarterbacks. It racked up 9, for instance, against Raider youngster Steve Beuerlein on Sept. 18.

However, the defense was shredded in both losses by quick-thinking veteran quarterbacks, Neil Lomax and Joe Montana. Lomax and the Phoenix Cardinals piled up 519 yards against the Rams, Montana and the 49ers 429.

Both Lomax and Montana had the experience to beat the Ram rush with audibles at the line of scrimmage.

Stouffer is not only a rookie, but one who sat out the entire 1987 season in a contract dispute. The Rams are hoping what he doesn’t know will hurt him.

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Ram Notes

Ram tailback Gaston Green is out of today’s game with a slight rib injury. He and guard Mike Schad have been placed on today’s inactive list. Injury updates: Linebacker Mel Owens (ankle) and cornerback Mickey Sutton (two sprained ankles) are probable. Seattle linebacker Brian Bosworth has been bothered by a bad shoulder but is expected to play. He leads the Seahawks with 58 tackles. . . . Seattle quarterback Kelly Stouffer set a rookie record with 370 yards passing in last week’s loss to New Orleans. And no, the old record was not held by Dan Marino. It was set last year by Tampa Bay’s Vinny Testaverde, who threw for 369 yards in a game. . . . Seattle starting quarterback Dave Krieg, who suffered a separated shoulder against San Diego on Sept. 18, is not ready yet.


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