SAN DIEGO — The Chargers decided to take somewhat of a risk Wednesday by signing free agent quarterback Mark Herrmann from the Indianapolis Colts.
San Diego hopes Herrmann may one day materialize into the successful quarterback in the pros that he was in college.
Herrmann set nine NCAA records and 23 school records in his four-year career at Purdue University. But in four years of pro football, he has started just three games, none worth writing home about.
"We're taking a chance on him," Charger assistant head coach Ernie Zampese said. "The Colts were willing to let go of him. They didn't feel he was going to be an all-pro, or they wouldn't have let him loose."
The Chargers don't envision Herrmann as an all-pro, either. They are simply looking for a man to replace Ed Luther as the backup to Dan Fouts.
For the time being, the Chargers are calling holdover Bruce Mathison their No. 2 quarterback. However, Mathison has played even less than Herrmann in the pros.
"We thought it was in our best interest to bring Mark in and look at him," Zampese said. "We're not worried about what others think of him. Let's bring him in and find out for ourselves."
The Chargers had brought Herrmann to town last week for what amounted to a tryout. Rich Campbell of the Green Bay Packers also auditioned, but the Chargers were more impressed by Herrmann.
If Herrmann makes the Charger roster, San Diego will compensate Indianapolis with a low draft choice in 1986. Compensation will not be required if Herrmann does not make the team.
Coach Don Coryell has traditionally carried three quarterbacks on his roster. But with the roster limit being cut from 49 to 45 players this season, the Chargers are contemplating keeping only two quarterbacks.
Herrmann became available when Rod Dowhower, the new Indianapolis coach, indicated he would only keep two quarterbacks. The Colts are expected to retain Art Schlichter and Mike Pagel.
Last season, Herrmann made one of his two starts in a 38-10 loss to the Chargers. He was intercepted four times while completing 18 of 32 passes for 222 yards.
Two weeks previous, Herrmann made his other start against Pittsburgh. He was removed at halftime with Pittsburgh ahead, 16-0.
In college, things were much different. Herrmann completed 717 of 1,218 passes for 9,946 yards and 67 touchdowns in his Purdue career.
Despite his success in college, Herrmann was only a fourth-round draft choice of Denver in 1981. The word among NFL scouts was that he did not have a pro-type arm.
Through four pro seasons, Herrmann is still trying to prove himself. He has completed 79 of 152 passes for 1,029 yards and 2 touchdowns while being intercepted 13 times.
Herrmann has also been injury-prone the last two seasons. He missed the first eight games of 1983 with a broken collarbone and the first seven games of 1984 with a fractured right thumb.