Rams mirror Redskins in problems, standings

November 21, 1993|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- For Baltimore football fans wondering why they should watch a Washington Redskins game today featuring a pair of 2-7 teams, CBS announcer James Brown has a quick answer.

"Don't they want to watch the team that might move there?" asked Brown, who has drawn the assignment of announcing today's game between the Redskins and Los Angeles Rams.

Brown's glib comment was an example of how rampant the speculation is that the Rams will be calling the moving vans in another year.

Nobody knows if the Rams are moving -- they can't until 1995 because their contract calls for them to give 15 months notice -- or if they'll move to Baltimore if the city doesn't get an expansion team.

There's no doubt, though, that this is a team with problems on and off the field.

The Rams drew only 37,073 for their game against the Atlanta Falcons last week and will draw more today only if the Redskins attract some of their West Coast fans.

The Rams are averaging 45,550 this season, which is 17,000 below the NFL average and more than 6,000 below the team's average for 1992. The Rams have sold out just one of their past 12 home games.

All the moving talk has added one more distraction for coach Chuck Knox.

"You just block it out," said Knox, who's coping with the same type of injury and quarterback problems that have battered the Redskins this year.

Knox, in his second stint with the Rams, is in his 21st year as a head coach. He's in the midst of a five-game losing streak for the first time, but he doesn't let it get him down.

"What you have to do is be thankful for the good days you've

had," he said. "You have to be a man about it. You have to stay positive, stay focused. That's the business. It's a tough, tough business."

But Knox knows there are tougher things than losing football games. He grew up in steel mill country in western Pennsylvania. figures if it weren't for football, he'd be an unemployed steel worker today.

"I'd be hanging out on the corner, going to the VFW clubs, finding out what's going on," he said. "There are a lot of things in life a lot tougher than this."

Like the Redskins, the Rams have a problem at quarterback. Jim Everett is the lowest-rated passer in the NFC (Washington's Mark Rypien is second lowest), but he'll still start.

Things are so bad that Knox refuses to let the offense be introduced at home so Everett doesn't get booed, although Knox insists he feels "lucky" introducing the defense.

Two weeks ago, Knox benched Everett for T. J. Rubley against the San Francisco 49ers. The Rams lost, 40-17, so Knox went back to Everett last week against Atlanta. The Rams were beaten, 13-0.

For his part, Everett has complained about offensive coordinator Ernie Zampese.

"I always said luck was when preparation met opportunity," Everett said. "Maybe we need to be a little bit more prepared."

When asked if his faith in Zampese's offensive system had been tested, Everett said, "Not only has the faith of the fans in me [been tested], but I'm sure the faith in Ernie, Chuck and everybody that plays on this football team."

Knox wouldn't respond to Everett's comments.

The Rams are 1 1/2 -point favorites despite all this, which shows the Redskins have just as many -- if not more -- problems.

Redskins coach Richie Petitbon is trying to shake things up by benching Rypien for Rich Gannon even though Gannon broke his foot Oct. 4 and said he wouldn't be able to play today if the game were on AstroTurf.

Gannon and Rypien are handling the situation well. Gannon is calling it an injury switch because Rypien is still bothered by his knee, and Rypien refuses to complain.

But there has been talk in Washington that Rypien, who was willing to play hurt, should get at least one more start against a team the Redskins think they can beat.

There also are questions about the system being used by offensive coordinator Rod Dowhower, who took over that duty when Joe Gibbs resigned as coach. There have been suggestions that Dowhower junked Gibbs' offense for a short-passing system, which Dowhower denies.

"When we put this offense together under my direction, we took the things that we used with Joe that were good and we added some things," Dowhower said. "We did not junk Joe's offense. I want to get that straight. It [the charges] bothers me because I don't think it's responsible. It's ridiculous. That's probably all I should say about that."

Regardless of what the problem is, the Redskins were held to two field goals by the New York Giants last week.

Unless one of the teams finds its offense today, this has all the makings of a low-scoring game.

Even if the Rams are headed to Baltimore, this might be a game that's not worth watching.

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