To teach his offense, Zampese would diagram plays on a blackboard and then show film clips of San Diego games to underscore his points. After that, he would haul the offense onto the field and practice plays over and over without the defense. "In San Diego, guys caught on more easily," says Zampese. "The offense was built around Dan Fouts. Charlie Joiner was already there. We always had people who could demonstrate."
Adds Everett, "By the end of last year, I started understanding Ernie's offense. I still make plenty of mistakes. I still get confused. I'll think too much about what I have to do. When that happens, I remind myself of the old motto, Keep it simple, stupid."
Everett spent the off-season training like crazy. On weekdays he lifted weights, biked, ran sprints and performed agility drills at the Rams' practice facility in Anaheim. On Sundays he went for long runs, sometimes as far as 10 miles. On Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays Everett threw to receivers. He concentrated on making his stance more compact and on following through with a consistent throwing motion.
"Jim used to drop back, spread his body wide, swing one leg out and throw as hard as he could," says Zampese. "He'd throw overhead, three-quarters or side-armed. He'd step toward a target or six inches to the left. The ball went in all different directions. Keeping his feet under him and making his body more compact is similar to shooting an anchored shotgun. If you put the barrel in a vice, then set the butt somewhere, you'll be more accurate."
Everett knows that the Rams' success—or lack of it—this season will mirror his own, and he hasn't let the "rising star" label go to his head. "You know the movie The Natural?" he says. "Well, I'm not that guy. I'll always have to work on my footwork, my release, my throwing. The rankings say I'm in the lower part of the league. Well, I think each guy on each team does something different. It doesn't matter if I'm never mentioned in the same breath as John Elway or Dan Marino. I just want to be the quarterback this team needs."