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PRO FOOTBALL : Quarterbacks Become NFL's Hired Guns


Was I dreaming, or did I really hear that . . .

Miami Dolphins free-agent quarterback Scott Mitchell visited the Minnesota Vikings last week. That makes one wonder: What about Jim McMahon?

That's easy. If Jimmy Mac wants a home, he always can look for Phoenix Cardinals Coach Buddy Ryan, who would love to bring in his old friend from the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles.

Yeah, but then that might leave Steve Beuerlein without a job in Phoenix. No, he always can look to the Washington Redskins and his former Dallas Cowboys position coach, Norv Turner.

Then again, the Cowboys still need a solid backup for Troy Aikman. Well, the Los Angeles Rams' Jim Everett knows the Cowboys' offense, which now is being run by Ernie Zampese, the former Rams' coordinator who trained Turner in Los Angeles.

The Rams don't need anybody fancy, just efficient. That would describe Bernie Kosar. But then you have the Atlanta Falcons' Chris Miller, who wants to play for a West Coast team on a grass field. Why not the Rams?

We need to find a home for Redskins quarterback Mark Rypien, a great guy with two tough seasons behind him. He may want to consider an interesting backup position with the Los Angeles Raiders. Rypien's specialty is the deep pass--the Raiders go deep all day. And the Raiders know that Jeff Hostetler is a rugged quarterback whose reckless style leaves him vulnerable to injury.

Erik Kramer is signed, sealed and delivered as the Bears' quarterback. So, no way are the Bears going to pay Harbaugh $3 million to be Kramer's backup.

Harbaugh is looking at Indianapolis, where Bill Tobin now runs the football operations. In a similar job with the Bears, Tobin made Harbaugh a first-round draft pick in 1987. Tobin still loves the guy.

That may explain why Tobin has been fielding offers for Jeff George. The Redskins have called, trying to dump wide receiver Desmond Howard, who needs a new home. They also are willing to deal their first-round pick (No. 3 overall).

The problem is Ted Marchibroda surely can't see the merits of losing George and gaining Harbaugh. There's no comparison in ability. But Marchibroda has no personnel power. It all belongs to Tobin.

In a nice twist, the Falcons also are interested in George. Remember, it was the Falcons who traded the first pick of the 1990 draft (who turned out to be George) for offensive lineman Chris Hinton, wide receiver Andre Rison and a future No. 1 (who turned out to be wide receiver Mike Pritchard).

New Falcons Coach June Jones won't abandon the run-and-shoot. In fact, he just hired his mentor, Mouse Davis, as the quarterbacks coach. And I distinctly recall that when Davis rated the best run-and-shoot quarterback prospects in 1990, his clear choice was Jeff George over Andre Ware. Davis, then an assistant with the Detroit Lions, thought George's quick release and sweet arm were naturals for the offense.

Speaking of Kramer and Ware, the Lions have some real problems. They have an interest in George and Houston Oilers quarterback Warren Moon.

(Pssst, Moon would rather be with the Rams, I think.)

The New Orleans Saints know they need somebody to pass the ball, although Wade Wilson still is an option. They are studying Mitchell and Bubby Brister. The Saints also brought in Green Bay Packers restricted free agent Brett Favre, but he would cost a bundle--say, $25 million to $30 million over five years, plus first-and third-round picks.

If the Packers lose Favre, they think left-hander Mark Brunell has some Steve Young-like qualities. But this is a playoff team and 1994 is hardly the time to plug in a second-year quarterback such as Brunell.

Wait. I think Packers Coach Mike Holmgren might be able to talk the San Francisco 49ers into trading Steve Bono.

JOE GIBBS CALLED his closest friends first. Some of them were former Redskins coaches who were hoping to be reunited with Gibbs on the expansion Carolina Panthers.

Only the phone calls left them in disappointment. Gibbs decided last week to withdraw his name as a candidate for the Panthers' job because he still is enjoying life after coaching with his wife, Pat, and two sons, J.D. and Coy.

Behind the scenes, Gibbs actually was able to determine how much money he would be paid (about $2 million), with a generous budget for his coaching staff. But once everything was in front of him, he couldn't pull the trigger.

"I don't know if it was painful (making the decision)," Gibbs says. "It's a big one. When you think about going back to coaching, there's a lot that appeals to me."

The Panthers will proceed in 1994 without a coach. It really won't hurt them because they don't begin play until 1995 and a personnel staff is in place to evaluate talent for free agency, the expansion draft and the college draft.

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