Throwing It Back With … Jim Everett
Usually, professional athletes are guarded in interviews, especially the first time you ever speak with them. There have only been a handful of athletes I’ve interviewed in my decade-plus as a journalist who are open, honest and fun to speak to without having ever met me before: Torii Hunter, Nick Swisher and Brandon Inge from my years as a baseball beat writer and Corey Maggette during my one year covering the NBA are the guys that immediately come to mind.
Quarterback Jim Everett is now at the top of the list.
We caught up with Jim, who played in the NFL for 12 seasons and led the league in touchdown passes in 1988 and 1989. He is now running an investment advisory firm and he took time to talk to us this week for our latest “Throwing It Back With …” segment.
We talked about a myriad of things including what he’s up to these days, his time with the Rams and Saints, football in Los Angeles and how two small incidents shadow his legacy as a great quarterback.
What are you up to these days?
Thanks for giving me a jingle Matt. It’s always good to talk to true fans of the game of football. When I retired from the NFL, I decided to go back to school and work towards my Master’s degree at Pepperdine University. From there I was going to open up an Asset Management shop with my asset manager who had a boutique firm up near Stanford in Menlo Park. Unfortunately, during my last year in the MBA program, my mentor died suddenly of stomach cancer, which was tragic. At the time I was going to join up with the other fellas in the group but I decided to venture into my own registered investment advisory shop here in Orange County in 2000. It’s been 11 really wild and fun years. Going through the 2000 debacle and coming back and watching the stuff happen in ’05; where in the past only high net worth individuals had access to zero interest loan rates. Then everyone in the mortgage industry was peddling this paper and you didn’t even need to have a job to qualify for these loans. I didn’t understand the economics model that was going on with lending and we got the heck out of Real Estate. So overall, what we do is develop a strategic and tactical plan that does not happen in three hours, our financial plans happen over multiple years. I humbly understand that every game plan does not go perfectly…as in playing ball as well…nevertheless we’ve been had some very nice results with our programs for our families.
What is your greatest memory from when you were a player?
I would have to say that one of my all-time favorite memories was playing the New York Giants in the playoffs back in 1989. We pushed the game into overtime with a team that was supposed to clobber us, as were the Philadelphia Eagles with Reggie White and Jerome Brown and all those other guys the week before but we managed to win that one too. Yes, my favorite memory was going to overtime and we caught New York in man to man coverage and that was the time they were always playing Cover 2 because that’s what [Bill] Belichick did and we caught them on a blitz and we hit Flipper for a deep pass and he kept going right into the end zone, right through the tunnel, right into the locker room [laughs]. Here we are in the middle of Giants Stadium in the middle of the playoffs and you could hear a pin drop. It was awesome! That was a pretty spectacular time for us. The next week when we played the San Francisco 49ers in the championship it wasn’t so spectacular for us, but that shows you the ups and downs of living life. It’s not that far from the penthouse to the outhouse! [laughs].
How much attention do you pay to the NFL right now?
I pay quite a bit of attention. I don’t sit down and watch and analyze every game. Thank God for ESPN, I love the highlights as everyone else does. I do have my favorites which I root for. At times I think my wife thinks I’m idiotic because I always root for the offense, I don’t care what team it is. I’m watching the game and I’m rooting for both the offenses. She’s like ‘What team are you for?’ And I’ll say, ‘I just want them to score.’ I really get bored watching a few teams whose offenses aren’t as dialed in. I do like watching certain teams and certain offenses. I’ve always been a big fan of Norv Turner’s, of course he’s a disciple of Ernie Zampese, and Mike Martz is also. I pretty much know the coaching staff and what you know from the coaching staff, you know what brand of ball they’re going to play. As with the defensive coordinators, I know most of those guys. If they haven’t become head coaches, they’ve regenerated somewhere else and come up through the ranks. But one of the things that I was impressed with this year was the job that Jim Harbaugh did. I had a chance to play against Jim Harbaugh and he was a gutsy guy. Not always the most talented guy on the field, but always a burning desire to win and how he has translated that to his players, I think it’s phenomenal. I know they lost last week in a tough game, but he maxed out the talent more than any other coach and if he’s not the Coach of the Year, I don’t know who else it should be. I mean he got the most out of those guys of any coach I’ve seen in a long, long time. I see it in college coaching, but to translate that over to the pros. We’ll see if he can keep doing it year after year.
Did you have a favorite player to play with – and also against?
When I had three All-Pro offensive lineman in front of me – Dennis Harrah, Jackie Slater and Doug Smith at center, I mean who wouldn’t like that? I can tell you, five years later when all those guys were gone, it wasn’t as much fun. [laughs] It really wasn’t. I don’t care who you put behind there, and that’s kind of what the Rams went through in the 1990s is a lack of offensive line skill. I went back to some of the statistics and it wasn’t just me, but it was everybody that came after me that just got absolutely wiped out for a few years. It goes back to the things that I look at – if I were a general manager, it would be owning the line of scrimmage, both offensively and defensively. I think if you own the offensive line, you can put some average guys behind them and make it work. But if you have a sieve up front and you’ve got the best guy throwing, it still doesn’t make that much difference. I think the Bill Parcells brand of football of owning the trenches, I would attest to its success.
Favorite guys to play with? Receivers, I loved throwing to Henry Ellard and Pete Holohan, what a fun tight end he was. And that kind of brings up something that I think is pretty relevant to this year. If you look at the teams that were successful on offense, they had a dynamic inside player. Tight end, I guess you could say a slot receiver like Wes Welker owning the middle of the field, but I think most of the teams that could travel only far as far as their offense, and each team always had a good tight end, or a place to outlet the ball on the inside. Pete Holohan was always my guy, Wesley Walls down in New Orleans, boy was he good…and Quinn Early too.
Guys that I liked to play against? I guess I’m a glutton for punishment, but I always liked to play against Ronnie Lott. [laughs] He really was pretty dynamic. He made you play on top of your game. Sometimes we got him and sometimes he got us but you had to always account for Ronnie Lott. Deion Sanders was always a great guy to go against. Mike Singletary was tough as nails. The whole front line for New Orleans before I went there with Pat Swilling and Rickey Jackson, they would absolutely tear your head off. They weren’t there, of course, when I went down to New Orleans, but I wish they were! [laughs]. Great place to play and you talk about New Orleans…you gotta talk about Drew Brees, boy I like watching him play. He is a fellow Purdue Boilermaker and I love watching his success. Kyle Orton is also a fellow Boilermaker and I like to see him get the opportunity because I think he’s one heck of a competitor, too.
Did you feel any greater sense of pride when the Saints won the Super Bowl because you played in New Orleans and because Drew Brees is a Purdue guy?
What a combo deal. Being that I was down in New Orleans, I was fairly close to the Manning family. I know Archie and the boys when Peyton would come out to our practices. I love watching the Mannings play and I’m very excited that Eli is in the Super Bowl. As far as New Orleans, there’s no better supporters that deserved a Super Bowl win and there’s no better guy with what he gives back [than Brees]. It’s kind of unfortunate, I think, of how he left San Diego being that he hurt his shoulder and they shipped him away…I thought that was kind of a tough way to go out. But it worked out for both teams with Rivers going down there. I like watching him play as well. A bit unorthodox with how he throws it, but by golly is he effective.
Until recently, the split between the Angels and Dodgers seemed pretty big; the team in Anaheim seems to play second fiddle to the team in L.A. Did you feel that way when you were with the Rams, that you guys were second fiddle to the Raiders? Or was that even something you paid attention to?
I would say we were second fiddle to the Lakers more than anything else [laughs]. But who wouldn’t be with all of the championships that they were winning! [laughs] Second fiddle to the Raiders? I don’t know. I think that the Raiders are kind of on their own planet as far as with their following – the Raider Nation and the whole deal, I get it. Matter of fact, I almost became a Raider for my final two years with [Jon] Gruden because Jeff George was up there and I recruited him to Purdue. Nevertheless, I was going through a very difficult divorce and decided I’d rather be with my kids rather than continue on as a backup. I respect the Raiders. They have their own way of doing stuff. It seems a little different than the other teams out there but that’s just who the Raiders are. Being in L.A., or being in Orange County, because, to be honest, we were the Orange County Rams and I know they call them the L.A. Angels, but they’re still in Orange County and if they weren’t so successful I don’t know that they’d be getting as much coverage. But I remember showing up to games and playing a team like, say, Cleveland and half the stadium were Browns fans. And playing the Denver Broncos, a majority of Anaheim stadium was is orange! I thought it was pretty ironic, here I am a Purdue guy, and we’d have a home game and 80,000 people are there and 70,000 are rooting for you. When I got here in the pros, and maybe it’s a Southern California thing, but you have so many people coming from so many other places and I don’t know how to say this, but you ask somebody and rarely do they ever say ‘Yeah, I’m from Orange County.’ They’re always from Cleveland, or Dallas or New York and they keep their team even when they’re living out here in the sunshine. It was way different than the Midwest. I never got used to it. Way different than the New Orleans Saints. I’ll tell you what, when I went to the New Orleans Saints, when we played games, you had the 12th man. There’s no doubt. Talking about San Francisco, when we went up to play the [1989 NFC] Championship game, you couldn’t even hear yourself think when we played the championship game up there. I don’t know if that would be the case in Anaheim Stadium.
Did you feel that Southern California football fans were as passionate as other city’s fans?
No way. I mean absolutely not. If you took a poll around here, and I don’t think it’s a popularity contest, but there’s just too many other options for people to do. When you’re in St. Louis, there is one thing to do on Sunday. Well, maybe two. Go to church and you go and see the Rams play. [laughs] But when it comes to California, it’s a little different. Between Disneyland and Sea World and people that are transplants coming here. That’s why in the future I think a way that a Los Angeles team is going to be successful, in my humble opinion, it will have to be a home-grown team. I don’t see, say, a Jaguars – having a Los Angeles Jaguars and having them come out here will be something that people will embrace. I will say that if and when we do get a stadium – that’s a big if – because of the budget constraints that we have here in California, I think the NFL will have to introduce a brand new team “home grown.” And that’s my humble opinion. I think that’s the only way the Southern California faithful will embrace it.
One thing I always enjoyed, mainly because it seems so funky, is that early in the season you’d be playing on half a baseball field in Anaheim. Did that affect your strategy at all – as in, I don’t want to get tackled near second base and have to deal with dirt and scabs from the infield?
Even when we went to Houston back then and we played in the Astrodome they had these seams that they put in for the field and you’d twist your ankle. I remember falling down one time in a backpedal hitting one of the seams. I think the NFL has done a good job of making sure that the surfaces that are played on…are top-notch. I think that has changed. Twenty years ago it was different. Twenty years ago if the baseball field was on, you played on the baseball field. I can remember a game where the baseball season was just over. They had just put in new sod. We’re on the 1-yard line, ready to take the ball in, and it was actually against the 49ers, and Doug Smith goes to snap me the ball but gets it caught up in the sod – it doesn’t even touch my hands. It’s a fumble, they get the ball and two plays later, they hit John Taylor on a 98-yard slant route for a touchdown. They kick off to us, I believe it was Gaston Green at the time, fumbles the ball, they score again. So here we are about ready to go in for a score and next thing you know, I touch the ball and they’ve got 14 more points on the board. I’m like ‘Criminy!’ [laughs] So, did the baseball field affect us? Um, yeah [laughs]. It’s just a part of the game that can make your season or break it.
You put up a lot of great passing numbers, but you mostly played for a head coach who was known for running the ball and you played with a lot of different running backs. Would you have liked to play in a different system, even for a year, just to see what kind of numbers you’d put up?
I had a chance to be with Ernie Zampese and he was the offensive coordinator for Dan Fouts and he basically tutored Norv Turner who took it down to Dallas. I don’t really knock anything on the system, I think when Ernie came in, and it took us probably two years to get to the point where we had the right people to do what Ernie wanted to do. I always said that when Ernie first got here it was like trying to bring a dog bone to a cat. When Ernie arrived our tight end was 300 pounds [laughs] he’s just not going to get open! He was good for getting around the end and having Eric Dickerson run it, but anyways, I would have loved to play with Eric Dickerson longer – it was really only a year and a half because the second year was a strike year and he wanted to be traded after that. Anyways, I think if Eric Dickerson would have stuck around, him and myself and Henry Ellard could have really started jelling after my third year if things were working, but anyways that’s how things go. When Chuck Knox came in, Ernie was still there but he had his hands tied – we were going to “Ground Chuck” it out. So again…we weren’t built for that. I remember when I stepped out of the quarterback position, a rookie named Jerome Bettis had his first start. Thus I never had the opportunity to play with Jerome who was such a special back; I could tell he was special then. We had a running back rotation after Eric. We had Greg Bell, who was very decent but aging. We had Gaston Green, who was a first-round pick. We had Cleveland Gary who was another first-round pick. Charlie White was in there. We went through quite a few guys at the running back position and really never got settled at that spot until Jerome Bettis came in and by that time I was ready to be traded.
How do you feel you would have fit in with the current pass-happy NFL?
I would have loved it! Here they are running three-, four-wide receiver sets all the time. I mean that’s phenomenal. I even look at Purdue’s offense that they’re running up there. Even the stuff that Drew Brees and Orton and all those guys that are running up there now, I think ‘Boy, would that have been fun to do!’ We always had two backs and a little cloud of dust and our idea was play-action fake. It’s a little different brand these days. I like the five-yard [zone], less bumping. It was a lot more physical when we were playing and there was a lot more contact on the quarterback, frankly. We would get hit long after we threw the ball, but that was part of the game. I remember talking about this not too long ago; Jim Burt with the 49ers or with Randy White, believe it or not, who would keep crawling at you, they never gave up. The play is far down the field and they’re still crawling at you to get their helmet on your knee. Nowadays they would never allow that, but back then that was all fair game. Toe biters I called them. They just couldn’t wait to try to get you down low so you couldn’t step in to anything.
Owners in the NFL are pretty iconic but you had one with the Rams, Georgia Frontiere, who was less than conventional, to say the least. Did the players talk about it at all? Did you care?
Well, put it this way. We knew, as players, that there were certain owners who need to run a profitable business, we knew that. We had a head coach who knew that. Those are just the rules we played by and we tried to max out what we had with what we could get. Also, in my tenure, free agency started up. We didn’t have that early in my career, so that was a whole different situation. Absolutely, we knew we were playing against other teams that would play by a different set of rules, absolutely.
We’re not trying to ask you to out anybody, but performance-enhancing drugs are the hot topic these days in sports. Was that stuff going on when you played? Was there talk about it?
Was there talk about it? Was it going on? Absolutely it was going on!
In your career, who hit you the hardest?
Bill Pickel. [laughs] Because I didn’t see him coming. We were playing the Raiders up in L.A. Irv Pankey had my back side and I was trying to dodge Jackie Slater’s guy from the front side, I just needed to move in the pocket and I moved with my head moving to the left and Irv gave me a late ‘Look out!’ and I caught Pickell’s helmet planted in the left ear hole. [laughs] Most of the time you can see the guys coming and you can kind of go with the blow. This time I had moved to the left really hard just to avoid a guy coming from my right and then I got ear holed the other way. It was black out! [laughs] I definitely remember that hit. Actually came back to play the second half. The concussion stuff wasn’t really was not the issue it is today.
You mention that, and it’s funny to think that you haven’t been retired that long, but the game has changed so much in the time you’ve been away from it.
I think that’s part of the NFL brand and why it’s so successful. They’ve done a really good job of trying to take care of their marquee players. Even the receivers. Back in the day when you’re going down the field when you’re a receiver and you knew you were going to get a helmet-to-helmet hit from Ronnie Lott – you just knew that was coming. That’s why you had guys ducking. Nowadays that type of hit is actually a fine. I think the NFL has really refined its brand to help the player out. I think that’s obvious that you see from a fan’s standpoint. I think they’ve done some things to protect the guys that can’t protect themselves. When you’re in a throwing motion, as a quarterback, you’re going to get hit. But when the ball’s gone you’re not going to get hit. I think that’s a benefit. I think that’s a healthy way. I’m not saying they’re running around wearing skirts these days, but I think it’s healthy for the game to have your players in there and not hurt. Down the field they’ve done a nice job and I think some of the evolution that has come from even college football, some of it is coming to the NFL which is exciting. I still don’t think we’re going to see the pistol offense other than Denver run it, but they’re just too good of athletes to run that program full-time. The NFL has refined its brand and it’s a great game, and really fun to watch. The changes are good for the fans and the players. I applaud the owners and the players for not striking and getting something done for the good of the game. When you know you’re going to get billions of dollars in the new TV contract and the players had 60% of the current TV revenue and you know you’re going to get 50% more of a much higher number, I mean, come on, it’s not that hard to figure out a win-win.
How did it feel in 1994 when you were with the Saints to sweep the Rams that year?
Oh, it was great. It was really good, one of the best feelings ever. I hear all these interviews, for example this year when Orton was playing Denver; he came back playing for Kansas City and he’s like ‘Yeah, it’s just another game.’ ‘Really? I Hit the BS button.’ I’ve been there, know that – there’s no way! [laughs] You’re going to get your best game from the scorned athlete. That’s just what happens. No one likes to be shunned, I don’t care who it is. Anyways, I’m glad I had the chance to be with some good guys with the Saints. I’m glad that a guy like Quinn Early caught 90 balls when I went down there. Prior to that I think the most catches he had was 48. A guy like Wesley Walls, he had close to 90 catches as well. It was after my second year down there, they all got contracts through free agency and left. I’m going ‘Hey man!’ [laughs] ‘You’ve got to stick around! Who’s going to be my go-to guy?’
Or on the other side, maybe float me a little of what I helped you get?
Well, I’ve got to tell you; Quinn Early bought me a Rolex watch. That’s the kind of guy he is. He is top-notch.
I heard recently that you had agreed to a deal with a restaurant chain about your incident with Jim Rome and Rome nixed it – is that true?
That’s 100% correct. I had a very nice, six-digit deal that was going to go on with a burger chain and they just wanted to use some of the clips on that and I gave them the green light, going ‘Yeah, that’s great, let’s go.’ I mean, how many years ago was that? That was in 1993, so almost 20 years ago. So I said ‘Sure.’ For whatever reason, I don’t think that Jim Rome thought that was good for ‘his brand,’ whatever that is. [laughs] I’m still trying to figure that out after all these years. So here I am on Twitter and having a chance to communicate and I get hit a lot about the Jim Rome stuff and, yeah, absolutely, I’m good at calling a spade a spade. [laughs]. There’s no two ways about it. He likes to give people a hard time, but he doesn’t want any s^-t thrown his way. So, I guess, he likes to dish it out, but he doesn’t want it back. And, you know what, I received so many letters after that incident and I’ve got to tell you, you would not believe the number of letters I got from his old high school mates. It was hilarious! I wish I would have saved them. I guess he was really quite the character in high school…guess some things never change.
Last year, I actually moderated his Q&A on stage and he talked about it and while he never said that he regretted it, he did say ‘Should I have done it? Probably not.’
He totally had me in a Barbara Walters moment. He really could have done some fun stuff and made me a puppet, rather than turning me on him. He was young. We all do stuff when we’re younger when maybe we wouldn’t. There are some things in my life I’d do differently – we all have it. But the fact is, we’re talking about it today and he’s still on TV, so he’s done something right. I’m sure, at times, he’s interesting. I don’t have any bad blood with him, but there’s only so far you can push any person. You see the politics now on TV and gosh, they’re beating the heck out of each other. At some point in time it’s like ‘Really? It’s only a $200,000 a year job – really? You’ve got to say that about my personal life?’ [laughs]
It seems unfortunate that you had such a great career and you have that incident and the ‘Phantom Sack’ incident come up right away when you search for your name online. It doesn’t seem fair. Do you feel that way as well?
Well, let’s mention the ‘Phantom Sack.’ It was the last game of the season for us, it’s the championship game, and we’re down 30-3 with like four minutes left to go. Frankly, my contract’s up. And Ernie [Zampese] is like ‘OK, two-minute offense.’ And I look at him and I go, ‘Really? We’re going to score 27 points in the final four minutes – I mean, c’mon.’ Frankly, I’ve got to say, I’ve never been a quitter, but I’ve already had seven sacks for the day and I wasn’t going to have eight, nine and 10. So, let’s put things in perspective. Were we going to make 27 points up in that amount of time? No. Was it the most brutal thing a quarterback has done? No. Phil Simms has done it a million times. Peyton Manning’s ducked it when there’s not a play there. And frankly every receiver was covered and there was nowhere to go with the ball. I’m not saying the ‘Phantom Sack’ because John Madden likes to blow things out, but trust me, that was way blown out of proportion; however, I did 100% take the dive. We were in a game that was pretty much over. That’s the way I look at it. And the Jim Rome thing, it’s funny. I threw a couple hundred touchdowns but I’m remembered for throwing a table and going after one reporter. It’s almost like Bobby Knight – how many games did he win in his college career? But we’re going to remember him for throwing a chair and down-talking a kid once? C’mon. I have more respect for the game and the whole deal, but it is funny how we like to remember specific events and things. That’s just the nature of the beast. I’m all good with it.
What else would you like to add, that you’d like people to know?
I’ve got a beautiful wife named Rachel. I’ve got wonderful kids. I love my family and that we’re devoted Catholics. I don’t think a lot of that personal stuff ever gets out. We’re part of our parish and we’re very active and we try to do the right thing for our community. That, to me, is a big part of my life. Usually I would have been gone right now because my daughter has a basketball game.
I’m sorry for extending this.
No worries! I mean how many years ago was it that I played? 15 years or so? But we’re here talking about the Jim Everett Company, and I am having fun talking about some great memories too. I have a chance to brag about my family. You know, this is a blast. Now talking about talking… I like to watch Troy Aikman on TV – I didn’t get a chance every day to say that he does a very good job; Phil [Simms] does a good job on air too. Matt, did you see ‘The Moose’, when he was calling the playoffs the other day? Boy does he need to get a new tie, shirt and jacket combination. I don’t know who dressed him on his last game, but that wouldn’t have gone over on our team plane.[laughs] Someone’s got to work on wardrobe with Daryl Johnston. And Tony Siragusa, what a card that dude is. He was funny as heck to play against. I think he talked more on the field than he does now and he talks a hell of a lot now. That guy would never shut up. And now he’s getting paid to talk! What a win-win that is. I figure, the only time that Tony is quiet, it looks like, is when he eats! [laughs] He’s in desperate need of the ‘push-away diet’ – push away from the plate Tony…push-away.