Philadelphia quarterback Ron Jaworski ranks second in the National Football League with 12 touchdown passes this season. He also ranks first in interceptions, 16. Such opposing statistics do not surprise Jaworski or worry his coach.
"That's my damn desire to stick the ball in there too much," Jaworski said in a telephone interview prior to yesterday's practice for Sunday's game against the Redskins in Philadelphia.
"I haven't learned to take what the defense gives me.I'm going for the big play instead of taking the layoff, or dumpoff, to my backs," he added. "I have to develop the fine line between getting the ball there and throwing the layoff."
For Jaworski, whose uniform number (7) and starting experience are the same as the Redskins' Joe Theismann, it is the most difficult development in his first season as a regular quarterback. He started only nine games in four years with the Los Angeles Rams.
Jaworski said a quarterback has to recognize his ability, "and realize that the defensive backs are the best in the world, too. You have to know what you can and what you can't do."
When told of Jaworski's self-assessment, Eagle coach Dick Vermeil replied:
"That's part of what's going to make him a good one. If he throws an interception, he's not going to let it bother him. He's going to come back and throw a touchdown."
The Vermeil-Jaworski connection goes back to 1973, when Vermeil was an offensive assistant coach with Los Angeles and Jaworski was the team's No. 2 draft choice out of Youngstown State, the only "side-saddle" quarterback in the nation that year.
A side-saddle quarterback lines up behind the guard and takes a short snap from the center, a la the shotgun.
Vermeil, entering the second year of rebuilding a team that had previously traded away its top draft choices through 1979, was in the position that he did not have to win immediately. He was not required to trade for a patriarchal quarterback who could play error-free ball. He wanted a quarterback who would develop along with the team.
So, on March 9, the Eagles traded the bargaining rights to disgruntled tight end Charlie Young to the Rams for the bargaining rights to Jaworski, who had played out his option.
Vermeil gave a four-part answer to the question of why he chose Jaworski, whose raw talent had earned him the nickname, "The Polish Rifle."
"I knew he had a fine arm."
He had the kind of personality I wanted to lead the team."
"It was a situation in which he was available."
"I was in the situation our quarterback (Mike Boryla) was mad at me and wanted to be traded."
The personality that Vermeil wanted was "a real competitive guy . . . mentally and physically tough . . . establishes rapport with people quickly . . . and assumes responsibility."
Thomas Henderson, the Dallas Cowboy linebacker, has decribed the Eagles future is a year or two away, team in the league. "They beat you up, but they don't beat you," he said recently.
Indeed, jaworski says that the Eagles' futuree is a year or two away, but that Vermeil has been getting players with "character." Jaworski defines character as "guys who get knocked down and will get up and try harder, guys who are slugging it out all the time.What we lack in ability, we make up for in determination."
The Eagles can equal their 1976 victory total by beating the Redskins Sunday. When they played the Redskins two weeks ago in Washington, Jaworski had a broken thumb on his throwing hand. He constantly three the ball low, many a time on the hop to his receivers. He was nine for 27 with three interceptions.
It was revealed later that on his first pass against the Redskins, he banged his thumb against an onrushing defender's helmet. The blow caused his thumb to swell so much he couldn't grip the ball naturally.
Yet, after the game, he refused to alibi. A week later, after throwing for two touchdowns and running for two more against the Saints, he admitted that the Washington game was "an embarassment, to me."
He recalled linebacker Brad Dusek batting down his fourth-down pass with the Eagles at the Redskin 30 and 41 seconds to play.
"You know," he said yesterday, "Harold Carmichael was open. Maybe . . . but that's history."
To Vermeil, Jaworski is the ideal foundation on which to build a team.
"He has a very good football head," the coach said. "Nothing is complicated to him football-wise. He's always thinking football. It's his whole life. I called him up at 11:15 last night to go over a couple points in the game plan, and he was watching game films.
"He's not a guy thinking about getting a law degree. To some guys, it (football) is a way to make a lot of money, a good living quickly . . . They enjoy doing it, but they picture themselves doing something else as quick as they can."
Jim Curzi, the Redskin conditioning coach, is in Arlington Hospital with a broken kneecap. He suffered the injury when hit on the sideline in the Giant game three weeks ago and had been hobbling around on it for more than two weeks . . . Coach George Allen said he had no plans to call quarterback Joe Theismann's plays.