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Didinger: Do You Remember The Last Eagles-Rams Game At The Coliseum?


You want to win a trivia bet? I have a question that is guaranteed to stump any sports bar crowd and it ties into Sunday's Eagles-Rams game in Los Angeles.

Here is the question: Who were the starting quarterbacks the last time the Eagles and Rams played at the Los Angeles Coliseum? No fair going to Google.

No, it wasn't the 1990 game. That's the last time the Eagles played the Rams on the West Coast but the Rams had left the Coliseum by then. That game - which the Eagles won 27-21 - was played in Anaheim in the same stadium where the Eagles are practicing this week.

Give up?

The Eagles and Rams last played in the Coliseum on September 25, 1977 and the quarterbacks were Ron Jaworski in his first season as an Eagle and Joe Namath in his first and last season with the Rams.

Most folks don't even remember Namath as a Ram. They remember him as Broadway Joe, the swashbuckling, mink-coat wearing playboy who led the New York Jets to victory in Super Bowl III. He was 34 and hobbling on two bad legs in 1977 when the Jets released him and the Rams signed him for one last hurrah.

It was the second week of the regular season and there was a fair amount of hype surrounding the game. It was Namath's first home game as a Ram and it marked a return to L.A. for Jaworski who spent three seasons with the Rams before coach Dick Vermeil brought him to Philadelphia.

Jaworski had spent most of his time in L.A. shuttling between the taxi squad and the role of backup to James Harris. He had a few starts, including two in the playoffs, but mostly he sat and watched. When he came back to L.A. with the Eagles, he wanted to put on a show for the Rams, the fans, and the L.A. media. Namath just wanted to prove he could still play.

The game was less than memorable. The Rams won 20-0. The Eagles were still rebuilding in their second year under Vermeil. They would win only five games that season. The Rams went to the playoffs but it wasn't due to Namath. He was a pale shadow of the quarterback who passed for a then-record 4,007 yards for the Jets in 1967.


Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Joe Namath started for the Rams against the Eagles in 1977.

Against the Eagles, Namath completed 12 of 23 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, one to tight end Terry Nelson, the other to running back Lawrence McCutcheon. Jaworski completed just 13 of 29 for 99 yards with three interceptions. The Eagles had only six first downs and 81 net yards. They crossed midfield once. This was not the homecoming Jaworski was hoping for.

After the game, I went to the Rams' locker room to interview Namath. There still was a curiosity about Namath, a hope that perhaps he could recapture some of the old magic. All the national magazines had done profiles talking about how he was rejuvenated with his new team and how he was planning to write a glorious final chapter of his NFL career.

I was hoping for it, too. I was a huge Namath fan during the Jets' run to the Super Bowl. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world that he guaranteed a win over the Baltimore Colts and then delivered it, shocking the world and the gamblers who made the Jets 18-point underdogs to the Colts.

But watching Namath that day at the Coliseum, I knew it wasn't going to end well for him in L.A. He won the game, yes, but he was dinking and dunking against a defense he would have demolished in his prime.

I looked around the locker room and there was no sign of Namath. His clothes were still there so I knew he hadn't left. I asked one of the equipment managers where Namath might be. He pointed to the trainer's room. "He'll be awhile," the guy said. He wasn't kidding.

Namath didn't emerge until almost an hour later. He had an ice pack taped to each knee. He didn't take any big hits in the game - the Eagles barely touched him - but it didn't matter. He was in pain every day whether he played a football game or not. He couldn't run sprints with the other players, it was too hard on his legs, so he swam laps instead.

He didn't have a lot to say. Mostly, he praised his teammates saying they won the game. He downplayed the idea of a last hurrah saying he was just doing his job. When I mentioned Super Bowl III, he said, "That was a long time ago." He limped off to the shower.

The next week, Namath led the Rams to a 34-14 win over the 49ers stirring excitement among those who believed it was the start of a hot streak. The following week, the Rams played in Chicago on a cold, rainy Monday night and the Bears battered Namath mercilessly. He completed 16 of 40 passes as the Rams lost before the national TV audience. It was his last start. The next week he was replaced by Pat Haden who led the Rams to an 8-2 finish.

Namath retired at the end of the season. Years later I asked him about that season which few people remember.

"You know when I knew it was over?" Namath said. "It was November, I hadn't played in weeks and we were on the practice field. Haden was running the offense, I was standing there watching and I realized I was bored. I had never felt that way on a football field. I mean, just bored. I thought, 'I don't belong out here anymore.' It was over."

An award-winning writer and producer, Ray Didinger was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995. He has also won six Emmy Awards for his work as a writer and producer at NFL Films. The five-time Pennsylvania Sportswriter of the Year is a writer and analyst for NBC Sports Philadelphia. Didinger will provide Eagles fans a unique historical perspective on the team throughout the year for You can read all of his Eagles History columns here.

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