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But the truth is, Ferragamo not only can spell C-A-T, he also has dissected one; he is on leave of absence from Creighton University's medical school. "How dumb can you be if you're accepted for medical school?" Ferragamo asks. The problem is, when you talk to him, his attention appears to be in a different area code. This tends to make coaches, especially those who worry about their mortgages in the California real-estate market, slightly nervous. Haden's demeanor, on the other hand, is like a Boy Scout's: earnest and attentive.
Now that Ferragamo has backed up his promise with performance (a 59.8% completion average this season), he figures he deserves to be paid as much as anyone. He reads that Terry Bradshaw makes $400,000 a year. "I rate myself at the top," Ferragamo says. "I'd like to get paid accordingly. But I'm not writing the check. If they have respect for you, you'll get paid. If things don't work out, we've got Canada or the free-agent market." To cover himself against injury as he plays out his option, Ferragamo has taken out a policy with Lloyd's of London, reportedly for as much as $1 million.
There is a feeling among all the Ferragamos that Vince may well be in the wrong place, that Haden is more management's and L.A.'s type of guy. Ferragamo says that somebody is going to have to make a decision. "I'll guarantee that one of us won't be here next year," he says, "and there's a good chance that both of us won't be here."
Meanwhile, Ferragamo's former attorney, Caruso, has lost interest in the quarterback. "I'm like Frankenstein," he says. "I've created a monster. Ferragamo believes he's as good as I've been telling him he is. The trouble with Vince is that the last guy who talks to him has his brain. And he hears voices everywhere."
Chris Ferragamo disagrees. "Vince is his own man now," Chris says. "He's making his own decisions, discovering who he is." In high school, when Vince played for Chris, the coach got so mad at the quarterback that he broke a clipboard over the quarterback's head. "I wanted him to be better than he was," says Chris. "I always expected more. And I always got more. The Rams expect less and get less. He could be the greatest with a little help. By not signing him, they're saying they don't" want him."
Obviously, however, the Rams do want him. As for the money, public sentiment has shifted to management's side. Vengeful detractors dismiss Ferragamo's fine performances, claiming they occur only against weak teams. They were especially gleeful when Miami routed the Rams, after Ferragamo's diatribe over the Haden substitution against New Orleans.
Malavasi clearly is willing to stake his future on Ferragamo. "He's got the ability to be one of the great quarterbacks," Malavasi says. "Pat had the experience, but once Vince got in, he had the job. I don't play any musical chairs with my quarterbacks."
Not for now, anyway, although Ferragamo can evoke agony as well as ecstasy. Against the Jets, when he was good he was very good, passing for 284 yards, those four touchdowns and moving the club up and down the field so well that Punter Frank Corral practically had the day off, kicking only once. But when Vince was bad he was terrible, throwing four interceptions, three of them balls he just put up for grabs. "A couple of them were better than punts," said Ferragamo, simply shrugging his shoulders.
Ferragamo's Mad Bomber tendencies are one reason why, no matter how many scoring passes he throws, the "We Want Pat" faction will always be vocal. In the third quarter Sunday, Ferragamo caught a finger in the eye and ran off the field. In came Haden. Cheers. Haden passed for a first down. More cheers. Then Ferragamo came back. Cheers for Haden and boos for Ferragamo, even though Ferragamo already had three touchdown passes on the board.
Haden thought the whole thing was a little silly. "The applause meter had me the winner, but if I had not completed that pass, they would have booed me back up to the Coliseum," he said.