WASHINGTON — Washington-- Joe Brodsky, an assistant coach with the Dallas Cowboys, was serving in a similar capacity with the University of Miami Hurricanes when he first saw quarterback Steve Walsh.
To put it mildly, Brodsky wasn't impressed.
Walsh doesn't look as big as he's listed -- 6 feet 2 and 200 pounds -- and he doesn't have a rocket arm.
Brodsky said he thought to himself, "If this guy ever takes a
snap, we won't win a ballgame."
Brodsky now laughs at that evaluation, because Walsh started 24 games for the Hurricanes, and they won 23 of them.
That's Walsh's calling card. He doesn't have the classic arm, size or speed for a quarterback, but he gets the job done.
"I have no doubt that my physical ability is more than capable of winning in this league. It's important to understand things on the defensive side of the ball and know where to throw the ball. I know I have the ability to get it where I need to throw it," he said.
Walsh has been confounding the scouts since he was in high school in St. Paul, Minn., and the Hurricanes were one of only three college teams to recruit him.
When he passed up his senior season at Miami to enter the supplemental draft, Dallas took him on the first round, but skeptics charged that the only reason the Cowboys selected him was that his college coach, Jimmy Johnson, had become the Cowboys' head coach.
Last year, Walsh started five games for the Cowboys after Troy Aikman broke a finger and guided the team to its only victory of the season -- 13-3 over the Washington Redskins at RFK Stadium.
Today, Walsh returns to RFK Stadium for the second time this season. He suited up but didn't play when the Redskins beat the Cowboys, 19-15, Sept. 23.
Things will be different this time. He'll be starting for the New Orleans Saints, and he's back to his old tricks -- he's winning.
The Saints made a Lawrence Welk trade for him on Sept. 25 -- uh one, uh two, uh three. They gave up their first and third draft picks in 1991 and a conditional second-round pick in 1992 -- that could be upgraded to a first-round choice -- to get him.
John Fourcade had flopped and Bobby Hebert was holding out (he still is), and the Saints were desperate for help at quarterback.
Walsh made his first appearance on Oct. 14, when he replaced Fourcade in the second quarter against the Cleveland Browns and completed 15 of 26 passes for 243 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Saints to a 25-20 victory.
The Saints lost their next two games, to the Houston Oilers and the Detroit Lions. Walsh was booed after being intercepted by the Lions for the third time, and was replaced by Fourcade in the fourth quarter.
But he's come back to lead the team to victories over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, giving the team a 4-5 record.
He's done it by handing off to Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who has rushed for 122 yards and 155 yards in the past two games, and by throwing just enough (17 and 13 times) to keep opposing teams off-balance.
This is similar to the ball-control style that coach Jim Mora ran with the Philadelphia-Baltimore Stars in the United States Football League with Chuck Fusina at quarterback and Kelvin Bryant at running back. It helped the Stars play in all three USFL championship games and win two of them.
Mora said he is impressed that Walsh has developed so quickly, because he's had so little time to learn the Saints' system.
"We brought him in after the third game, and he's had a crash course in learning our system. It hasn't been easy on him, but he's handling it extremely well," Mora said.
"He's a good passer, and he's got good feet and nice poise back there. He's smart, and he plays with confidence."
Walsh also is used to living with the skeptics.
"There are always going to be guys who aren't going to think highly of you," he said. "I don't worry about it. I let those guys make their opinions and do their jobs. I'll do mine, and life will go on. It pushes me to kind of stick it in their face a little bit."