The Rams used to ask little of their quarterback. An occasional spiral was nice, but not expected. Handing off was expected.
Now, the position has soared to one of great expectation and sophistication, in which success is measured not just on the scoreboard but also under the microscope. So what’s different about the Rams?
Touchdowns aren’t just touchdowns anymore. There are good ones and bad ones.
Jim Everett was discussing last week’s 37-yard scoring pass to Robert Delpino.
“My footwork wasn’t right,” Everett explained. “The pass I threw to Delpino was a touchdown, yet my footwork wasn’t right. It could have been an interception as easily as a touchdown. There are things I need to improve on that are not very obvious to the common football fan.”
Welcome to “Masterpiece Theatre.”
For the first time, this is the kind of quarterback the Rams will throw at the New Orleans Saints today in the Superdome, where the Rams haven’t won since 1984.
Everett, remember, was with the Rams as a rookie in 1986 but didn’t start against the Saints here, Coach John Robinson preferring to unveil Everett a week later at home. What a surprise, the Saints beat the Rams, 6-0.
Last year, of course, the Rams shipped down a strike team comprising many truck drivers and bartenders. It ended up making a folk hero of Saint quarterback John Fourcade.
This year, though, New Orleans gets the real thing--Jim Everett--the quarterback with a league-leading 19 touchdown passes and a rating higher than Joe Montana and Dan Marino--quarterbacks who have set the standards in the 1980s.
The Saints can’t look at the Rams the same way again. In 1986, they won the game their way, by shutting down Eric Dickerson and letting their biggest offensive weapon--kicker Morten Andersen--win the game with 2 field goals.
The Saints still resemble a bit the Rams of 1985, who clawed their way to the NFC title game with tough defense and a conservative, ground-control offense. In fact, the Saints’ margin of victory in their 7 wins has been less than 7 points.
“We’ve played about as good as we are,” New Orleans Coach Jim Mora said. “Which really hasn’t been that good, to be honest with you. . . . We’ve played good enough to win those games, and that’s the bottom line.
“That’s what we preach to the team--just win. It doesn’t matter how you win, I guess, and we’ve been able to do that. But we know it’s going to be a lot tougher this week.”
Primarily because of the Everett factor. The Ram quarterback’s success has everyone worried, including Ram Coach John Robinson. If you can believe it, his theme this week has been the danger in scoring too easily.
Robinson has long been a believer that great passing teams are never great teams by season’s end because scoring too easily takes away control of the game with the run and keeps the defense on the field too long.
Strangely, Robinson would like his team to play a little more like the Saints today--physical and efficient with run and pass.
Of course, it’s all a matter of degrees. Robinson is really quite thrilled with the pass offense, but doesn’t want the run--or his team’s run defense--to disappear altogether, which they have come close to doing in recent weeks.
The Rams haven’t had a 100-yard rusher in 3 weeks. Two weeks ago against San Francisco, the Rams were held to 42 yards on the ground, the lowest Ram total in a game since 1971.
And the defense, while leading the league with 39 sacks, is allowing opponents nearly 5 yards a gallop, an appalling statistic to ground-trooper Robinson.
“I’m clearly worried about that,” Robinson said. “The only way to win is if you play all phases of the game well. Whoever is going to win has to run and stop the run. I’m worried that we’re not doing it.”
Robinson has visions of Saint fullback Craig (Ironhead) Heyward running through his secondary.
Yes, Robinson caught Ironhead’s 73-yard run against the Raiders on the 11 o’clock news last Sunday.
And yes, he was reminded often this week that he passed on Heyward not once but twice in the first round of last April’s National Football League draft, even though Robinson had been doing most of the talking about Ironhead.
And yes, he knows he’ll see Heyward twice a year for the next decade or so. Regrets? Robinson says no.
“I could see that with the Wendell Tyler thing,” Robinson said of the trade that sent the former tailback to the archrival 49ers. “Here’s a guy that’s yours, you trade him, and he goes up to that club and is running up and down the field. There, you say, why didn’t we send him to Afghanistan?”
Linebacker Mel Owens is doubtful for today’s game with an ankle sprain. . . . The Saints’ offensive line is banged up. Guard Brad Edelman sprained an ankle in the win over the Raiders last week and is doubtful. Guard Steve Trapilo, who broke a foot in the opener, is eligible to return today and Mora said it’s possible he could play.
The Rams decided Saturday not to activate wide receiver and kick returner Ron Brown for today’s game, partly out of respect for Saints’ kicker Morten Andersen, who seemingly can send kickoffs out of the end zone at will. Brown, when he returns, will be used primarily as a kick returner. A final decision on Brown must be made Monday, when his 2-week roster exemption expires. . . . For the Rams, tight end Jon Embree and Owens are today’s inactive players.
Record Pace: Ram quarterback Jim Everett has thrown 3 touchdown passes in 3 consecutive games. He has a good chance of breaking the team record for touchdown passes in a season, 30, set by Vince Ferragamo in 1980. . . . Andersen leads the NFC in scoring. He has converted 17 of 18 extra point attempts and 17 of 20 field goals with a long of 51.