Ram officials met behind closed doors Tuesday, plotting their future. A crowd of reporters waited nearby. Then, at last, the startling announcement: The Rams had cut a veteran quarterback.
Jim Everett remains a Ram, but Coach Chuck Knox said that Everett, who has started 89 of the team's last 90 games, will spend the rest of the season as T.J. Rubley's backup.
"That is the plan," Knox said. "Now (Rubley) could get hurt or something, but we need to find out where he is."
Did the Rams consider releasing Everett on Tuesday as had been speculated?
"Well certainly when you discuss a situation, you discuss everything and all the possible ramifications," Knox said. "You discuss a lot of people."
But did the Rams specifically discuss Everett's future with the team?
"Let it be said that in any type of personnel decision that is going to be made, you discuss the whole picture, what it means and what it applies to your football team now and down the stream," Knox said.
The Rams would have saved $646,666 by releasing Everett, whose contract is not entirely guaranteed, but instead they elected to release Pagel and eight-year offensive tackle Robert Jenkins, which represents a savings of about $250,000.
"The money in Jim Everett's contract is not an issue that fuels his status with the football club," said John Shaw, Ram executive vice president. "If the coach felt it was in the club's best interests to make a change at quarterback, whatever those changes are, it's solely determined by how it affects the team. It's not affected at all by financial considerations."
The Rams elected to keep Everett because Knox apparently believes he gives the team its best chance to be successful--this season--should Rubley get hurt in the final six games.
Rubley's style of play, which includes a willingness to run, increases the chance of injury. Knox had no interest in playing Pagel as Rubley's backup, so he felt compelled to hang onto Everett.
"He's talking about how he can win this Sunday," an assistant coach said. "He's not ready to do something about next year. He's trying to win now."
A club official also said that Knox was unwilling to embarrass a player who has been with the team for eight years, and was concerned about the impact that might have on other players on the team or players who might be interested in playing with the Rams.
Knox said: "I can't be that specific," when pressed for an explanation of what went into the Rams' decision, but he added: "Jim Everett, in my opinion, can still play in the league. He'll be back as a starter at some point in time in the league or wherever."
A club official said the team will probably give Everett and his agent permission to seek their own deal elsewhere after the season. The Rams are obligated to pay Everett $500,000 if he reports to training camp next summer, and a base salary of $2 million if he plays with the Rams in 1994.
"I'm not sure you can get a fourth- or fifth-round conditional pick, given his contract situation," a source within the organization said. "But maybe he can work out his own deal. It's not something that the team is going to want to be tough about."
Tuesday was the players' day off, and Everett and Rubley could not be reached for comment.
Pagel, who had joked with Everett Monday about the prospect of Everett being released, said he was surprised to be the one who got the call.
"I told Jim, 'You're really not anybody in this league until you've been cut once,' " said Pagel, who completed 22 of 56 passes for 272 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in his three years with the team. "Jim just laughed. He's been here his whole career and doesn't understand what I was talking about."
The Browns released Pagel after the 1990 season, and now that Cleveland is without Bernie Kosar, Pagel said he might be interested in returning there.
"The timing of this shocked me," Pagel said. "For me to sit here and speculate this was done because of financial concerns, or because of the way I played or because of the way I handled myself, well, it would be ridiculous. It's happened."
The Rams considered releasing Pagel earlier this month because of collective bargaining considerations, but Knox decided to delay the decision because the team was having trouble finding a capable holder to replace Pagel.
Knox decided Tuesday to have Rubley work as holder the rest of the season, clearing the way for Pagel's release. Pagel, who was to earn about $475,000 this season, will receive $20,000 severance pay.
Jamie Martin, a free-agent quarterback from Weber State who has been on the practice squad, will fill Pagel's roster spot.