BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Fourteen years to the month after happily accepting his resignation, the Los Angeles Rams yesterday placed the franchise's future in the hands of Chuck Knox, the coach who they believe is the best and perhaps only man to lead them back from their desolation.
Knox, 59, introduced by club owner Georgia Frontiere at a news conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., quickly moved to assure everyone that he was now in control of the team's direction and brushed away the bitter parting after the 1977 season as an irrelevant relic of the past.
He said that although he had heard from other teams looking for a coach, the Rams were his only choice, so he signed a four-year deal worth about $2.9 million.
The Rams were the first team to give him a head coaching job, in 1973, and after stints in Buffalo and Seattle, he said he has every intention of ending his career full circle, back where it started in Southern California.
"When I started out 19 years ago, I stood here, before you, and everyone was asking Chuck Who?" Knox said.
"Nineteen years later, as I'm talking to you, I have still the burning desire in my gut to want to win, to want to be competitive, to want to get the job done. I just feel that it's the right thing for me, the right organization, the right people. . .We'll get it done."
Knox, who resigned last month after nine seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, was pointedly given the extra title of team vice president by the Rams, and said that he and only he was "accountable" for the draft, Plan B, and other personnel decisions.
Knox said he could and probably would bring in a personnel director to assist him, but he would retain final authority and final responsibility. Knox and the Rams emphasized that he has full power to fire or retain holdover assistant coaches from former coach John Robinson's staff and to bring in members of his former staff in Seattle.
This situation is in direct contrast to the unwritten understanding between the Rams and Robinson, who did not have an executive title, did not have a regular line of communication to Frontiere, and privately complained that he did not have enough power within the organization.
Once Robinson resigned, the Rams almost immediately decided that Knox, who is the sixth-winningest active coach in the NFL, was their first and only choice.
Knox is known as a player's coach and a man who gives and tolerates no nonsense from his team, a trait the Rams felt was necessary to coach a team that skipped out of control this past season.
Knox, who has made dramatic personnel moves almost every time he has taken over a team, said he would have to evaluate carefully a Ram squad that finished the season with 10 consecutive losses.
His first priority, which he said should be finished by late this week, is to put together his staff. He said he has met with the four members of the holdover staff most likely to be retained -- offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese, defensive coordinator Jeff Fisher, defensive line coach John Teerlinck and special teams coach Gil Haskell.