L.A.gives Schroeder fresh start as a starter

January 13, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

Los Angeles The last time Jay Schroeder put on a uniform for a playoff game, was sulking on the sidelines during Super Bowl XXII.

After being yanked in the final game of the Washington Redskins' 1987 regular season, Schroeder stood on the sidelines and watched Doug Williams take the team to the Super Bowl.

Schroeder, who was traded to the Los Angeles Raiders in September 1988, didn't take the demotion well.

In his book, "Quarterblack," Williams said that when Schroeder was benched, he "started acting like a spoiled, little kid. All he did was sulk about it."

Williams also called Schroeder, among other things, "a prima donna" and "selfish and arrogant."

In the Super Bowl, the Redskins built a 35-10 lead at halftime, but Williams refused to come out despite a painful knee injury -- simply to keep Schroeder on the bench. "I didn't want Jay to have any part of it," Williams said.

Schroeder will have a big part of it today, when the Raiders are host to the Cincinnati Bengals in an American Football Conference divisional playoff game at the Los Angeles Coliseum.

Schroeder has made a comeback from his benching in Washington, guiding the Raiders to a 12-4 record and an AFC West championship.

But Schroeder still comes into the game as the Raiders' question mark. The Raiders won running the ball with Greg Bell and Marcus Allen early in the season and with Allen and Bo Jackson late in the season. They're ninth in the league rushing the ball and 23rd throwing the ball.

The Raiders didn't ask Schroeder to throw a lot. He passed 334 times, 250 fewer than Warren Moon and 197 fewer than Dan Marino.

He also remains an enigma off the field, where he usually keeps to himself.

Mike White, who was brought in as quarterbacks coach to tutor Schroeder, said: "He's a quiet, reserved, bright young man. He's sort of a loner. He isn't typical of most football players. And, as a player, he doesn't have a lot of confidence because of the way his career has gone."

Schroeder has had a strange career. He took a fling at baseball after his sophomore year at UCLA before he finally turned to football, so he's had to learn while he's played.

Thrust into the Washington starter's job when Joe Theismann broke his leg in 1985, Schroeder took the team to the National Football Conference title game in the 1986 season, but lost his job the next season and alienated most of his teammates.

"Yeah, I get misunderstood a lot," Schroeder said. "It's been written, 'He doesn't care. He doesn't show emotion.' That's wrong. I care more than anybody and take these things to heart more than anybody. I've just learned to get over it. It's just sports in general. People don't understand you as a person, don't take the time to understand you as a person.

Schroeder had a midseason slump in 1990, when the Raiders suffered three of their four losses, and was the target of boo-birds. But coach Art Shell stuck with him, probably because Al Davis, the managing general partner, has made it clear he believes in Schroeder.

The result was that, in the final five games, Schroeder threw 11 touchdown passes and was intercepted only twice.

Blessed with the ability to throw deep, Schroeder often has been inaccurate and has had trouble reading defenses.

Now, it's up to him to get the Raiders their first playoff victory since they beat the Washington Redskins, 38-9, in Super Bowl XVIII in January 1984.

It's been a long drought for Davis, who rarely speaks a sentence without using the phrase the "greatness of the Raiders," and is quick to point out they're the only team to make the Super Bowl in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.

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