Soon after Baltimore's season ended, on Dec. 23, Jones filed a grievance against the Colts, saying, in effect, that Irsay had reneged on his verbal contract agreement. Irsay reportedly countered by promising, "I'll kick his ass right out [of Baltimore]. Frank Kush [whom Irsay hired on Dec. 21 to coach the Colts in '82] doesn't like him either, doesn't like his attitude." Irsay has denied he ever said that, but he did say he had sent Jones a letter proposing contract terms more than a month before, and that Jones hadn't responded. As far as he, Irsay, was concerned, that offer no longer stood. The message from management was clear—the Colts would listen to any and all offers from other NFL teams who were interested in Bert Jones.
Later, Jones filed another grievance against the Colts in which he argued that Irsay's disparaging remarks had made it impossible for him to play again in Baltimore and that therefore he should be declared a free agent with no restrictions. On April 12 an arbitrator ruled against Jones in both grievances. Two days later Jones asked to be traded. When the trade was made last week, Kush was asked what the final bone of contention was between the Rams and Colts. "We had no bone," he said. "Ours is all meat. The Rams got the bone."
For his part, Jones was asked what the Colts needed to rebuild the once-proud franchise. "A new owner," he replied.
But it was all hugs and kisses when Jones was introduced to the Los Angeles press last week, and he and Frontiere made a pretty pair indeed as details of the trade were announced. Jones spoke confidently of solving the Ram quarterbacking problems, while Malavasi made the requisite remarks about how Jones and Haden would have to fight for the starting job in training camp. Make no mistake—barring injury, Jones will start. Conspicuously absent in all of this was Ram General Manager Don Klosterman, who no longer wields the influence he did in the years when Frontiere's late husband, the late Carroll Rosenbloom, owned the team. "That 6-10 record pretty much convinced Georgia that she should start taking a more active role in things around here," says one club official. "She listens to everyone's advice, but then she makes the decisions."
"This is the first negotiating I've done from start to finish without anybody's help," Frontiere said, aglow with the triumph of landing Jones. "You see something sometimes that you feel is right for you, and the more you think about it, the more you have to have it. That's what it was like with Bert. You know, everyone likes to brag a little bit about picking up $200 at the races, or whatever. Well, we signed Bert for less than the Colts finally offered him."
Jones, well aware that he can more than make up the difference through endorsements and playoff money, says happily, "I'm here and proud of it. I'd play for a lot less money out here than I would back East." His contract, which was signed at Frontiere's Bel Air guesthouse on Wednesday, will bring Jones an estimated $2 million over five years compared with the Colts' three-year $1.3 million offer. It was negotiated by Bert's older brother, Bill, who jokingly said he got a Rams hat and a horse for his fee. Plus $1.50 in quarters which he won from Bert during the negotiations as they pitched them against a wall.
In the jubilant aftermath of the signing, Jones donned his new Ram jersey, No. 17—his old No. 7 had been worn by Ram Hall of Famer Bob Waterfield and had been retired—and prepared to pose for some pictures. He had just settled under a tree on Frontiere's lovely grounds and was uttering some hoary cliché—"...one thing we all know, you're only as good as you are today...."—when the aforementioned mockingbird unloaded his two cents' worth.
"What's that?" Jones asked, peering up suspiciously. "It wasn't.... Look here on my shoulder."
There on the shoulder of the spanking new jersey lay the dropping. "Good thing we don't believe in omens, eh Bert?" brother Bill said.