Trudeau is hero but not starterBackup QB enjoys moment in...

December 16, 1992|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Staff Writer

Trudeau is hero but not starter

Backup QB enjoys moment in the sun

For the moment, Jack Trudeau is the darling of Indianapolis. But when the Colts take the field at the Hoosier Dome on Sunday against the Phoenix Cardinals, the darling of Indianapolis will assume a low-profile position on the sideline. He will be a backup quarterback again.

Trudeau, a seven-year NFL veteran, accepts his subordinate role to franchise quarterback Jeff George, albeit reluctantly.

"It's hard to sit down when you know you're playing real well, when basically you know you helped get the team on a three-game winning streak," he said this week. "But there's no sense fighting city hall, no sense in me getting upset."

If the Colts are an unlikely playoff contender a year after they went 1-15, Trudeau, 30, is their improbable hero, a symbol of their rise from the ashes. Since George cracked the first &L metacarpal bone in his right hand last month, Trudeau has become one of the NFL's hottest quarterbacks.

After passing for 266 yards in a loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Trudeau led back-to-back victories over the Buffalo Bills (337 yards passing) and New England Patriots (209 yards). When coach Ted Marchibroda pulled George in the fourth quarter against the New York Jets on Sunday, Trudeau came on to throw the winning touchdown pass.

At 7-7, the Colts need help to gain a wild-card berth in the AFC, but their schedule (Phoenix, at Cincinnati) is favorable. Despite Trudeau's heroics, George will start Sunday.

When he was benched Sunday, George threw his helmet. When Trudeau threw the winning pass, George was an unemotional observer. But there is no animosity between the two quarterbacks, Trudeau said.

"Jeff's just got to get over it," Trudeau said. "I know he was very angry. He and I are pretty good friends. When it happened, we said something to each other almost at the same time: 'It's nothing between you and I.' "

Marchibroda said yesterday that George was still upset. "I can understand it," he said. "I'd be disappointed if he wasn't."

Marchibroda, meanwhile, has a new appreciation for Trudeau.

"He prepares himself extremely well," the coach said. "He studies very well, he's never surprised by anything. He's a cagey, wily veteran. He's the perfect backup."

If nothing else, Trudeau's recent success has made his position in Indianapolis more secure. If free agency finally arrives in the NFL this week, it will come too late to afford him the chance to move to a team where he can be the starting quarterback. After holding out most of training camp, he signed a three-year, $1 million-a-year deal.

"The main thing it's done for me is that Ted Marchibroda and the new coaches here have found out I can play," Trudeau said. "If Mr. [Bob] Irsay doubted I was worth the money he's paying me, maybe now he thinks he's got a steal."

Since he went 0-11 as a rookie in 1986, he has a 16-15 record as a starter for a team that has struggled. Eagles linebacker Seth Joyner, who created a firestorm of controversy with comments published this week about his coach, quarterback and owner, held a news conference yesterday in Philadelphia to clear the air. Sort of.

He offered no apologies, issued no retractions. Instead, he said he had learned his lesson and would be more careful in future interviews.

"What's done is done. What's said is said, and I can't go back and fix it or take it back," he said. "So I move on from here, and that's the end of it."

Maybe. In a New York Times story Sunday, Joyner called Rich Kotite, his coach, a "puppet," said owner Norman Braman cared only about making money and blamed quarterback Randall Cunningham for the firing of coach Buddy Ryan after the 1990 season. Since those comments appeared, there is speculation Joyner may be traded.

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