Winning ugly pretty nice to Harbaugh

On the NFL

September 15, 1996|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Jim Harbaugh seems almost too good to be true.

The Indianapolis Colts quarterback continues to confound the skeptics who figured last year's storybook season was a fluke.

He has led the Colts to a 2-0 start with a quarterback rating of 113.0 -- best in the AFC and second overall to Brett Favre's 131.3.

He takes his team, which has been battered by injuries, to Dallas today for the matchup the Colts would have played in the Super Bowl last season if Aaron Bailey had hung onto Harbaugh's last-second pass in January's AFC title game against the Steelers in Pittsburgh.

It's about time for Harbaugh to say he's underrated and doesn't get any respect.

But that's not Harbaugh.

He scoffs at any suggestion that he should be ranked with superstars such as Favre, John Elway and Troy Aikman.

"Those guys are phenomenal quarterbacks," Harbaugh said last week. "They've got all the tools. I'm just kind of a grinder. I don't really have the arm that they do or the ability to read coverages like they do. I would not put myself in their category. I'm just happy to be on the field with them."

This is the same tune he sang last year when he said: "Personally, I know I'm not going to the Hall of Fame. If I was a horse, I'd be a mudder. I'm never going to look like Dan Marino or John Elway or Joe Montana. I've come to grips with that, and I just try to play my own game. As ugly as it is, I wouldn't recommend it for anyone else. I go by the seats of my pants a little bit."

Harbaugh doesn't get any style points, but he keeps getting the job done.

"He should get the lion's share of the credit for the way we have played," said Lindy Infante, who replaced Ted Marchibroda as Colts coach.

It's not surprising the Colts are 10-point underdogs against the Cowboys. They have several players injured, including running back Marshall Faulk and defensive end Tony Bennett.

But Aikman said the Cowboys won't be looking past the Colts.

"They play with a lot of confidence," he said. "It seems they are never out of the game with Harbaugh at quarterback."

Said Harbaugh: "With everybody healthy, I think we can play with anybody. We want to prove last year was no fluke.

"It does hurt when we lose Marshall. He's our one and only superstar. It's disappointing, but we're just going to go to Texas Stadium and let it rip against a roster which is a 'Who's Who' of the NFL.' "

Loaded question

It'll be interesting to see what play the Cowboys call if they get to the Colts' 1-yard line today.

Since Emmitt Smith arrived, they usually have called for the load left play, and it usually works. Nine of Smith's 25 touchdowns came on 1-yard runs last year.

But it's also the same play the Eagles stuffed twice on the infamous fourth-and-one call in Philadelphia last year. And last week, the New York Giants stopped Smith three times with a yard to go on third and fourth downs.

So the Cowboys have announced that they're working on the quarterback sneak in practice.

"I think everybody in the world knows load left," Smith said. "This is just an invitation for someone to come in and tear your head off."

Since they've announced they're practicing the sneak, will they really run it, or are they just looking to keep the defense off guard when Smith runs load left?

Salary cap problems

The Ravens' salary cap problems, which have resulted in the team having a 50- instead of 53-man roster and only one player on the five-man practice squad, may hit more teams next year.

That's the opinion of Joe Banner, the Philadelphia Eagles senior vice president. He said a lot of teams will have problems next year because they've always negotiated escalating salaries and the cap isn't expected to rise.

Noting the release of such players as Andre Rison by the Ravens and Clyde Simmons and Garrison Hearst by the Arizona Cardinals, Banner said, "You're going to see much, more more of this kind of thing next year.

"Clearly, there are teams just trying to manage the cap each year as opposed to really developing a concept and a philosophy. That's what happened in Baltimore and that's what happened in Arizona. Crunch time came, and crunch time is going to come again next year. You're going to see a lot of teams forced to do something to address this issue."

The league doesn't expect to get much relief until a new television contract is negotiated in 1998.

Lion's share of complaints

The Detroit Lions always seem to have problems. They posted a 21-6 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last Sunday, but Johnnie Morton and Brett Perriman complained they didn't get enough passes thrown their way by quarterback Scott Mitchell.

Morton has one catch in the first two games and Perriman has six; Herman Moore has 20.

"I'm going to get a No. 84 jersey [Moore's number] and put 'Morton' on the back. Maybe I should just steal Herman's jersey before the game," Morton said.

Mitchell replied: "You have to stay together and not let any outside distractions take away from what we're doing. The whole thing is really stupid at this point. People need to relax a little bit."

What the Lions really should be thinking about is giving the ball to Barry Sanders, because their opponent today, the Eagles, gave up 171 rushing yards to the Green Bay Packers on Monday night.

Playing hurt

Chip Namias, the Buccaneers' public relations director, doesn't like to fly, but he found out last week that earthbound travel can be dangerous. He broke his foot stepping off the team bus before Sunday's game against Detroit at the Silverdome in Pontiac, Mich.

Pub Date: 9/15/96

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