'All hell broke loose'

Jaworski: Shack was still nursing a shoulder injury. So, right before the national anthem, Knox tells me I'm starting. But Shack knows the Cardinals' defense really well. We make this arrangement: He'll hold a red towel. If he drops it, the blitz is coming. Just before the half, I see the red towel on the ground, and I hit Harold Jackson for a 66-yard touchdown pass.

Harris: I was watching the free safety to see where he lined up. On a blitz, he left the post route uncovered. It was funny watching Jaws that day. Wherever he was on the field, he'd be looking over at me to see if I was holding the towel or not.

Knox: Jaws leads us to a 35-23 win and into the conference championship, so he is now the hot hand. But James Harris is looking better and feeling better. By virtue of his play all season long, Harris is more worthy of the start. So Harris started. And history failed. Miserably. We got smashed [37-7 by the Cowboys]. It failed. I failed. Afterward, you could hardly see me for all the fingers.

Dryer: The arc of Shack's story has a lot to do with the Rams' failure to stick with a quarterback. The Cowboys had Staubach, the Steelers had Bradshaw, the Vikings had Tarkenton, and we had the Headless Horseman. I'm surprised they didn't ask me to line up behind center. And then along comes Pat Haden.

Knox: In the winter after the 1975 season, we picked up Haden, local guy, USC Rhodes Scholar, dearly loved by all. For whatever reason, James Harris was in trouble. C.R. [Rosenbloom] invited [wife] Shirley and me to one of his infamous dinner parties at his house in Bel Air. I think maybe Jonathan Winters and Ricardo Montalban were there. We all gathered in C.R.'s living room. With this spark in his eye, he said, "Let's play a game. Let's vote on who we want for President this year, and then, just for fun, we'll vote on who we want for Rams quarterback." So he passed around these little pieces of paper and everybody voted. Shirley and I were the only ones who voted for James Harris.

Skip Bayless, then a Los Angeles Times staff writer and now a writer and on-air personality for ESPN: The 1976 season was total chaos. You literally would not know who was starting until the morning of the game. Shack had the backing of the players, and Jaws was getting antsy because of his potential. But Rosenbloom favored Haden. It became pretty clear that he and Don Klosterman, the GM, were pulling the strings.

Knox: We're heading down to Miami to play in a game that's scheduled for the Jewish holiday, Yom Kippur. [C.R.] raised all kinds of hell with commissioner Pete Rozelle about not honoring a Jewish religious event. We play the game anyway, and after being down 21-7, James Harris throws for more than 400 yards and we come back and win 31-28. Afterward C.R. is right there, and, in a big show in the locker room, kisses Harris on the cheek and says, "Great job, from one member of a minority to another." Five games later Harris is benched.

Pat Haden, now the USC athletic director: I was just a naive, 23-year-old kid, and I had no idea about what was happening behind the scenes. All I know is that Shack and Jaws could not have been more welcoming to me. Being the rookie, though, I did have to pay for the breakfasts. To be honest, I felt like I was just along for the ride. I handed the ball off to Lawrence McCutcheon and John Cappelletti, and passed it to Ron Jessie and Harold Jackson when they got open. It's not like I led us into the playoffs.

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