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FILM STUDY, PERSONAL TIES MAKE JAWORSKI A SUPER ANALYST

If this Sunday's Super Bowl match-up between Tennessee and St. Louis proves anything it is that there is no such thing as a football expert.

If there were, then the NFL would have included the Rams and Titans on the Monday Night Football schedule. And announcers would know the difference between a lateral and a forward pass and a completion and an incompletion.

But since they don't, the NFL is offering to put a referee on standby for ABC's Al Michaels and Boomer Esiason in case an obscure rule becomes pertinent.

If there is one expert whose value has increased during the playoffs it is Lackawanna's Ron Jaworski, who works for ESPN and will be part of ABC's four-hour pregame marathon.

Jaworski's stock went up in Buffalo when he explained the Bills' decision to start quarterback Rob Johnson over Doug Flutie against the Titans. Jaworski didn't address the silly things, like the threat to team karma by pulling a starter with a 10-5 record. He went to the film room, explaining that defenses playing the Flutie-led Bills didn't respect his arm and that Johnson would stretch the field. He wouldn't say so, but you also got the sense that Jaworski might have gotten some insight from the Bills' coaching staff. After all, Bills offensive coordinator Joe Pendry had the same job in Kansas City in 1989 when Jaws was the QB.

Having played for Los Angeles (Rams), Philadelphia, Kansas City and Miami, Jaworski has developed a wide network of friends among coaches. As the Philadelphia quarterback the last time St. Louis coach Dick Vermeil was in the Super Bowl, Jaworski was in demand this week.

"I'm the guy who has to define (Vermeil) from 1981 to the year 2000," Jaworski said in a phone interview. The perception is that Vermeil has changed. If perception mattered, the Titans' lateral would have been a pass and the Bills might be in the Super Bowl.

"Everybody is talking about change and I've known Dick for 27 years," said Jaworski, who had dinner with his former coach the last two Saturdays. "And quite honestly, he hasn't changed at all. I would call the word 'adapted.' He has matured and the time away from the game certainly helped him. He has grandkids now, football isn't all consuming to him. He is still focused, he is still intense. He understands things a little bit better."

After further review, Jaworski also disputes the conventional wisdom that Vermeil got the Eagles too tightly wound before their 1981 Super Bowl loss to Oakland. "It wasn't true at all. We got to the Super Bowl because of work ethic. If we had won the game, we would have won the game because we were a hard-working team. We lost the game so people said we worked too hard."

Now Jaworski works hard looking over 12 to 14 game films a week. He has been typecast as the X and O man of ESPN's "NFL Edge Matchup" series, alongside Merrill Hoge and Suzy Kolber. He says he looks at more film now that he did during his playing days, sometimes because analysts Jackie Slater, Phil Simms and Matt Millen ask him to look at film of specific players.

After looking at film of Tampa Bay and St. Louis, he predicted a Ram blowout, 42-10. Having been the analyst for Tampa Bay's preseason games, he got some pregame ribbing from the Bucs. The Rams won, 11-6, with the Bucs' ability to shut down the Ram offense surprising Jaworski.

"I've broken down film and I know exactly why," Jaworski said. "Tampa Bay, No. 1, is a very quick defense, especially the linebacker position. And they use John Lynch very effectively. They, in effect, played a 4-4-3 and they brought Lynch up in the middle near the line of scrimmage and he would buzz out and take away what the Rams like to do, and that's run the short crossing routes underneath."

Jaworski thinks that Tennessee safety Blaine Bishop can do some of the things that Lynch did. But there are pronounced differences between the Titans' and Bucs' defenses and Jaworski also expects the Rams to adjust and throw more pass plays to the outside and deep.

"The antithesis of the Tampa defense is the Tennessee defense. Tampa is probably a 90 percent zone team. The Titans are a 90 percent man-to-man team."

He admits he is a little biased about this Super Bowl, because of his friendship with Vermeil and several of his assistant coaches.

"The last two weeks I've actually sat with Dick after Saturday's practices and we've gone over the game plan," Jaworski said. But then, he is friends with every head coach from the final four teams.

"I played for Dick Vermeil, Jeff Fisher (Titans) was on the staff in Philadelphia in 1986 so I know him as a player and a coach. In Kansas City, Tony Dungy (Tampa Bay) was the defensive backs coach. And Tom Coughlin (Jacksonville) was the receiver coach in Philadelphia in 1984-85, so these guys are all my friends. That's how I get good information, too."

Jaworski almost left two years ago for CBS, but ESPN wouldn't let him go, expanding his duties with a contract that has three years to go.

"I love what I do right now," he said. "I wish there was a combination that I could be an analyst and some of the stuff I am doing."

And who does he like Sunday?

"The Rams in a tight game, 27-24. The Rams are a fast, quick team built on speed to play on the carpet. If this game was played on grass, I would probably lean a little bit toward Tennessee."

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