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SO, ST. LOUIS, HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR RAMS?

Byline: KEVIN MODESTI

You wondered how long the Rams would take to wear out their welcome in St. Louis, and here's the answer.

Less than 1,000 days. Georgia Frontiere's Camelot was shorter-lived than the Kennedys'.

Four-game winners when they fled Anaheim after 1994, the Rams are 2-5 and on pace for another one of those seasons. Quick turnarounds are not only possible but common in the modern NFL, and of the last-place teams in '94, the only one that hasn't already made it to .500 or better is you-know-who.

The offense is about as nimble as the Gateway Arch, the fans who forked over $80 million for personal seat licenses are yawning loudly and the St. Louis media's good nature is being sorely tested.

``Thank God for the Blues,'' the St. Louis Post-Dispatch quoted a fan saying at the Rams' 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks at the Trans World Dome on Sunday.

At this rate, the Rams will lose more games in a 16-game football season than the Blues will in an 82-game hockey season.

What to do?

Between coach Dick Vermeil and Pro Bowl wide receiver Isaac Bruce, one of them has an idea, and it isn't Vermeil.

Sunday, Bruce lashed out at the play-calling and the team's effort, apparently venting frustration that started when he injured a hamstring in training camp and Vermeil questioned his offseason conditioning.

``It's going kind of backward for us,'' Bruce told reporters. ``I think we made some huge strides last year as far as putting points on the board and playing harder than we are right now.

``We're in a backpedal. The offense is not playing hard. The defense is playing hard sometimes.''

Vermeil responded by referring to Bruce as the Rams' ``so-called superstar'' and asking, essentially, who is he to make such broad criticisms?

The answer, actually, is Bruce really is a superstar. He's the community-spirited and very popular ``Reverend Ike'' to St. Louis fans and he has done more for the Rams than Vermeil has so far.

Vermeil, 60 and lured back into coaching 14 years after he walked away from the Philadelphia Eagles, might find his second case of burnout has a shorter incubation period.

The blame for the league's second-worst offense, which hasn't scored a touchdown this month, is falling squarely on Vermeil.

Among the criticisms:

Vermeil, known for a quick hook in his Philadelphia heyday, is too slow to make changes with the Rams. Biggest change so far: Rookie punter Will Brice was released.

Meanwhile, young quarterback Tony Banks takes every snap and completes less than half his passes while one-time Super Bowl MVP Mark Rypien sits, and running back Lawrence Phillips averages 3.6 yards and enjoys Vermeil's support.

Vermeil has spread himself too thin and should take over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Jerry Rhome.

On third down from their 15 in the second quarter Sunday, the Rams tried a reverse and fumbled the handoff.

``I don't think St. Louis wants to put the game in Tony's hands that early, and when you go to trick plays in the second quarter, that's an indicator,'' Seattle cornerback Jeremy Lincoln said.

The Rams don't throw deep to Bruce, their one true threat, often enough.

As Bruce put it: ``I'm going to be double-teamed probably for the rest of my career. If you're not going to try to maneuver some kind of way out of that, I guess I'm just going to be taken out of the game every week. I'm a guy who can beat the double-team. I've proven that before.''

Of course, singling out one player or one problem isn't fair to all the others. From horns to heels, the Rams are just a bad football team.

Occasionally the defense steps up against a struggling team, and that's how they beat the New Orleans Saints and the slow-starting New York Giants early in the season. Since then, they've lost three straight.

Anybody in the market for a worn-out welcome?

Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz, among others, has seen enough.

After the loss to Seattle he wrote this ``could have been the most inept offensive performance that this football-deprived city has ever observed.''

``The football Cardinals . . . were never this bad artistically,'' he wrote, accusing the Rams of ``fielding a vague and unidentifiable offense'' in which ``the play-calling borders on sabotage.''

Sometimes, such attacks from outside the fold will bring a team and its coaches together. So let's see a big hug.

You first, Ike. No, you first, Dick.

Right now, the Rams aren't good enough to use locker-room chaos as an excuse.

What to do?

The answer from Los Angeles: Hey, it's not our problem anymore!

BAD DECADE

The Rams have not had a winning season since losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the 1989 NFC Championship game. A closer look:

Year W-L Pct. Finish

1997 2-5 .286 ???

1996 6-10 .375 Fourth

1995 7-9 .438 Third

1994 4-12 .250 Fourth

1993 5-11 .313 Fourth

1992 6-10 .375 Fourth

1991 3-13 .188 Fourth

1990 5-11 .313 Third

1989 11-5 .688 Second

CAPTION(S):

Photo, Chart

Photo: (color) Star Rams wideout Isaac Bruce and coach Dick Vermeil are openly feuding.

Daily News file

Chart: BAD DECADE (see text)
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Copyright 1997, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:SPORTS
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 22, 1997
Words:870
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