Shuffle rarely deals pat hand to coach


September 22, 1994|By BILL TANTON

The last thing a football team needs is a quarterback controversy.

When no one is sure which quarterback is No. 1, it does a lot of things, all of them bad. Among them:

It deprives the team of a true leader on offense, which a quarterback naturally is.

"The quarterback is your guy," Baltimore Colts coach Weeb Ewbank once explained to a young sportswriter who looked amazingly like me, only with dark hair instead of gray.

"The quarterback calls the plays in the huddle," Ewbank went nTC on. "He handles the ball on every play. The other players look to him for leadership. The team has to know who their guy is."

That's another thing. Indecisiveness, going back and forth from one quarterback to another, rips a team apart.

In a worst-case scenario, half the players will want one quarterback to start; the rest will favor the other.

No team in that situation has ever accomplished much.

Years ago, the Washington Redskins had a famous quarterback controversy involving Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer.

In Baltimore there was never a quarterback controversy on the Colts. John Unitas was always the guy.

Even Hall of Famer Unitas had a bad day now and then. When he did, Memorial Stadium would echo to the crowd's chant of: "We want [Gary] Cuozzo!"

Neither Ewbank nor his successor here, Don Shula, was ever tempted to yield to that plea. They knew the value of their guy. They knew no one else was going to assume that role as long as Unitas was around.

So now we have a change of quarterbacks at the University of Maryland, from junior Scott Milanovich, who started the first three games, to sophomore Kevin Foley, who will open against Wake Forest Saturday at Byrd Stadium.

The truth is, it may not make a lot of difference at Maryland whether Milanovich or Foley is the guy.

The 1-2 Terps aren't going to win any championships. They won't be going to any bowl games. Besides, both quarterbacks have talent.

It could make a big difference next year, though, with both due to return.

Chances are, the team will respond better behind one QB than it will another. Last Saturday, in the 24-13 win at West Virginia, it responded better to Foley, who now gets his first start.

The Terps coaches are walking on eggshells this week as they discuss the change. It's that sensitive.

They don't know whether Maryland will continue to play better with Foley, or if Milanovich will win his job back. They want to keep both confident and ready to play.

Coach Mark Duffner fell all over himself at his news conference, trying to avoid saying anything that could be construed as harmful to either player.

"Both quarterbacks will play this week, but Kevin earned the privilege of starting by his play last week," said Duffner. "Milanovich is scripted to come into the game in the second period, just as Foley did before.

"Scott has a terrific arm and makes big plays. Kevin has a knack for coming in and making big plays. Both are fierce competitors. We're very confident in both our quarterbacks."

I swear, you'd think Duffner was talking about a pair of Heisman Trophy candidates instead of two guys on a team that rarely wins a game.

"The only decision that's been made," said Rob Spence, quarterbacks coach at Maryland, "is that Kevin will start against Wake Forest. Nothing is carved in stone."

So it will be decided on the field, as it should be, and no one knows how it will turn out.

Everybody knows one thing, though. They know it's not good for this Maryland team if the No. 1 quarterback job is up in the air.

I have a feeling Foley will emerge as No. 1 -- as the guy.

That would shock some people because Milanovich last year set the school's one-season passing record with 3,499 yards. He was third in the country in completions with 279 on 431 passes.

Foley comes from good quarterback stock. His brother Glenn quarterbacked Boston College last year and is now with the New York Jets. Another brother, Ed Jr., captained B.C. in '89. Their father, Ed, quarterbacked Boston College from 1964 to 1966.

That shows. Milanovich has the stronger arm. Foley is the guy who takes what the defense gives him.

Which QB will the players want? Why, they'll want the one they can win with. They'll get the answer to that soon.

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