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Pro Football : Three Black Players to Be at Quarterback for Contending Teams

November 18, 1987|Bob Oates

Former Pro Bowl player Jay Schroeder, the Redskins' 26-year-old quarterback, has been asked in Washington this week to pretend that he's Jim Everett.

This is a backup's role, and Schroeder has become just that.

Thus 10.7% of the National Football League's starting quarterbacks are black. That's 3 of the 28, indicating a measure of progress in an area of the NFL that has needed it. They are:

--Doug Williams, who will replace Schroeder in the Ram-Redskin game Monday night in Washington.

--Warren Moon, who will quarterback the 6-3 Houston Oilers against the 6-3 Cleveland Browns Sunday in a battle for first in the AFC Central.

--Randall Cunningham, who will lead the Philadelphia Eagles against the St. Louis Cardinals this week after surviving the New York Giants' defense last week.

Moon is the most polished of the three, Cunningham the most promising.

Williams has a big arm, but the others have both shown better touch.

Explaining Schroeder's demotion, Redskin Coach Joe Gibbs said: "Jay has lost some of his accuracy."

Temporarily, that is, Gibbs added.

So Schroeder becomes the third quarterback to be afflicted recently with this strange malady. The others are Dave Krieg of the Seattle Seahawks and Ken O'Brien of the New York Jets, who like Schroeder were overthrowing or underthrowing their receivers for weeks at a time.

O'Brien has recovered from his long 1986 slump and again has the Jets in first place.

For a while, Krieg appeared to have recovered, too. But his last start wasn't his best--and, this week, here come the 8-1 San Diego Chargers, the team with pro football's best record.

Schroeder?

Some scouts say that he has a sore arm or shoulder or both.

The National Football League will give us something different at the San Diego Super Bowl Jan. 31. The Rockettes are coming.

The Radio City Music Hall group from New York has been engaged to bring in a 350-piece band with 88 grand pianos and a 44-woman Rockette line.

This won't, however, set any Super Bowl records. They're only hiring a cast of 2,000.

If the Giants are back in the race, they can give some of the credit to former Ram quarterback Jeff Rutledge, who is 2-0 this month in relief of injured starter Phil Simms.

Rutledge had a 298-yard afternoon in Philadelphia Sunday when his long passes beat the Eagles, 20-17.

"Phil has the stronger arm, but Jeff is a great reader (of defenses)," Giant General Manager George Young said.

"Jeff sees the whole field," Young said. "He's very smart, and doesn't rattle."

The surprise is that Rutledge can perform so successfully after such a long wait for his first real NFL chance.

"When you sit for nine years, you don't know whether you can really do it," he said.

"There is always a little doubt in your mind when you don't get a lot of chances. I waited a long time for this. I mean a long time."

The plus for the Giants is that in Simms and Rutledge, they apparently have two winning quarterbacks. Some teams don't even have one.

The Indianapolis Colts did it the hard way Sunday, spotting Dan Marino and Miami a 14-0 lead, then coming back to win, 40-21.

This was a new kind of experience for Indianapolis running back Eric Dickerson, the former Ram recently exchanged for six draft choices and a couple of players.

"The Rams were never as poised as this club because they couldn't throw the ball," he said. "When they got behind, 14-0, there was an 'Oh, no!' feeling. The Colts were the most poised team I've ever been around."

The Colts are lining up Dickerson as the big man in their one-back system. He has two backups, Albert Bentley and George Wonsley.

"You need three running backs altogether in this system," said second-year Coach Ron Meyer, who usually sends in Bentley as a replacement for the Rolls-Royce on third down plays, regardless of what's needed--short-yardage power or long-yardage passes.

"That's one way of spelling Dickerson," Meyer said after Bentley had made six first downs on third down runs or catches against Miami.

Meyer and Washington's Gibbs are the NFL's two principal one-back coaches.

"Gibbs converted me," Meyer said. "I think it's the only way to go because you have a second tight end on the field instead of a fullback.

"The second tight end gives you a bigger blocker than any fullback and a taller receiver. He is probably 6-4 and 245 or 250."

Don't one-back teams miss a running threat by a fullback?

"In a football game, there isn't but one football on the field at a time," Meyer said. "I like to give it to the guy who can do the most with it."

They're saying in the East that Eagle Coach Buddy Ryan's attitude toward the recent strike replacements has upset club management but also raised morale on the team.

Ryan refused to take the strike games seriously and, management charged, just went through the motions for three weeks as the Eagles lost three in a row.

"The first thing Buddy did when the veterans came back was to fire all 53 scabs," Philadelphia writer Ron Reid said.

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