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Robinson Doesn’t Dwell on the Present or Future

Given a chance to look and listen and soak it in one more time, perhaps for the last time, John Robinson either wouldn’t or couldn’t.

Robinson’s team had just played its last game at Anaheim Stadium in 1991. Robinson’s team, in some reconstructed shape or form, will be back for ’92. Robinson, in all likelihood, will not.

For nine years, this had been Robinson’s working address every autumn. For the first seven, the work had been good. But that was before 5-11, followed by 3-11, thereby placing all future work in jeopardy.

Time to get sentimental? Robinson thought not. “If you’re asking me if I took a step back and took a last look around, no, I didn’t,” he said. “I had other things on my mind.”

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Not a bad way to think, really.

By the end of the Rams’ 31-14 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, their second 31-14 loss to the Falcons this season and their eighth loss in succession, there really wasn’t much too see.

Not many fans. Only 35,315 showed up for the opening kickoff, and barely 10,000 braved the cold and the brisk wind of missed Ram tackles to witness the season’s final trudge of bowed heads into the tunnel.

Not many encouraging words. The Rams were booed off the field at halftime, jeered off the field after the game and entertained by the customary unfurling of the bedsheet insults. Among the most printable: “ATLANTA IS GREAT, IT’S GEORGIA WE HATE.”

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There wasn’t much of an effort, either. The Rams fumbled on their first play from scrimmage, surrendered 21 unanswered points after pulling to within 10-7, and played the second half as if they were working on a living, breathing definition of fait accompli football division.

This is the way Robinson wants to remember Anaheim Stadium, home to six playoff teams, Eric Dickerson’s best runs and Jim Everett’s brightest passes? No wonder he walked off with blinders on and head down.

“If it happens,” wide receiver Henry Ellard said, “you hate to see a great coach like John Robinson go out like that.”

If it happens. The inevitable, whenever and however unattractive, is always easier to spot and to discuss. When Robinson was asked about the possibility of having coached his last home game for the Rams, he replied, “We’ll pass on that” and suggested that he wasn’t going to offer any kind of analysis “or entertain any from you.” Everett had the same pat answer when asked about the future of the Rams, with or without Robinson, and whether that future should be approached with Robinson or without him:

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“I’m not prepared to talk about that here.”

Everett did call Sunday’s experience, as a whole, the deepest ebb in a season that has cornered the market on ebbs. “This is the lowest point of what a bad season’s all about,” Everett said. “Here we are.”

The crowd--or lack thereof? It was small and growing smaller by the quarter--"and deservedly so,” Everett said. “We’re not putting on a good show. They’ve got a right to leave.”

The Rams’ effort, Everett said, was nothing new. “Dismal,” he categorized it. “About like how we’ve played the past four games. . . .

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“I never imagined I’d have seen this stadium look the way it did today. I never imagined we’d be in this type of position, period. We were so inept, on both sides of the football, at all parts of the game. Inept is a great word for it.”

And Everett was not above it. His hands were the pair that dropped Tom Newberry’s center snap on the Rams’ first play from scrimmage. Atlanta promptly recovered on the Ram 19 and drove to a quick, gimme field goal.

“It pretty much snowballed from there,” Everett said.

With the score, 31-7, midway through the third quarter, Everett threw an interception and was on his way out of the game. As Everett hit the sideline, Robinson began talking to backup quarterback Mike Pagel, who began nodding and pulling off his warm-up jacket. Seeing that, Everett jerked his head around and hurried over to Robinson to plead his case.

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Everett talked Robinson into letting him finish out the quarter. After driving the Rams to nothing--Everett finished the day seven of 16 for 109 yards--he yielded to Pagel, who drove the Rams to a consolation touchdown with less than a minute to play.

With two games to play, two games to withstand, there will be more of that. Robinson says he’d “like to see more of Pagel” the rest of the year. More of Cleveland Gary, on parole from the fumble penitentiary, too. “Cleveland Gary will get to see some action in these last two games so that we can see where he fits in the Rams’ future plans,” Robinson said.

Notice the usage. Not our plans. The Rams’ plans.

If Robinson isn’t in those plans, Sunday will be remembered as one reason why. One tough question Everett didn’t dodge: Has the spirit died in this team?

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“It would seem so,” Everett said.


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