John Robinson, the embattled coach of the 3-10 Rams, is nothing if not realistic. "If our staff is retained," he says, "we'll make some real progress next year. I think there's an understanding we have to rebuild this team. The question is, Can this staff rebuild it?"
What Robinson means is, will his staff be given a chance to rebuild? He knows the ax might fall at season's end, that executive vice-president John Shaw might look for a new man—University of Miami coach Dennis Erickson? NBC's Bill Par-cells?—to right the ship, which has foundered since reaching the NFC Championship Game 23 months ago.
The 1991 Rams, who lost 27-6 to the Redskins on Sunday, simply are not a John Robinson-type team. Only the Eagles are running the ball less effectively than L.A., which is averaging 3.3 yards per carry, and Robinson can't settle on a starting tailback. He knows Robert Delpino isn't the long-term answer, because Delpino has added value as a kick returner and couldn't withstand the excessive pounding of being an every-down back, and neither Cleveland Gary nor Marcus Dupree has played well in brief appearances. What's more, L.A.'s superb pair of wideouts, Henry Ellard and Flipper Anderson, entered December with a mere three TD catches between them.
The defense's adjustment this season, from former coordinator Fritz Shurmur's thinking-man's scheme to Jeff" Fisher's attacking style, has been woeful because of injuries to five linemen and because of questionable use of Jerry Gray and Kevin Greene. Fisher moved Gray, a four-time Pro Bowl cornerback, into a nickelback role. And he shifted Greene, the cornerstone of the pass rush at end under Shurmur, to outside linebacker for the first 11 games of the season. Greene, whose 46 sacks were the most of any NFL player from 1988 through '90, has one this year.
The result of all this is potentially the worst season for Los Angeles since it went 4-10 in 1965. "I'm not suicidal or anything like that," says Robinson. That's good, because things can't get much worse for an NFL coach than being out of the playoff picture in November when his team was considered a contender back in the preseason.
The Chiefs are thinking about taking a quarterback with their first pick in the 1992 draft. The poor play of Steve DeBerg, who will turn 38 on Jan. 19, is pushing them into the sweepstakes for Houston's David Klingler, Notre Dame's Rick Mirer or Virginia's Matt Blundin. DeBerg threw a total of six interceptions in two recent K.C. defeats....
The Giants have to be worried about more than the three chipped vertebrae in quarterback Jeff Hostetler's back. Doctors say he may be able to play again this season, but he has another ailment—migraine headaches. Before New York's Nov. 4 loss to the Eagles, Hostetler nearly missed a start because of a migraine....
The Lions are 9-0 when they play indoors and 0-4 when they play outdoors.
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