Fickle fans in Philly love Hoying

ON THE NFL

December 07, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Philadelphia is a town where they boo Santa Claus and cheer Bobby Hoying.

Makes perfect sense.

After all, how many touchdown drives has Santa directed lately?

The mania over Hoying shows that Philadelphia fans, noted for being so quick to boo, can be just as quick to cheer a player who captures their fancy.

Hoying has done just that, going from third-string quarterback to folk hero in three weeks.

When the Eagles came to Baltimore three weeks ago with a 4-6 record for Hoying's first start, nobody dreamed he would make this kind of an impact.

"I don't think anybody had any an idea he would play this well," Eagles coach Ray Rhodes said. "If anybody did, I wish they would have told me. I don't think you can predict that."

Hoying showed a lot of poise against the Ravens, surviving nine sacks to get a tie.

He then led the Eagles to an upset victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers, but his game against the Cincinnati Bengals last week was the stuff of legend.

After his boyhood hero, Boomer Esiason, gave the Bengals a 42-41 lead with a minute left, the fans were chanting, "Bob-by! Bob-by! Bob-by!" when Hoying took over with 54 seconds left.

He responded by directing a 61-yard drive to set up the winning field goal. Suddenly, the Eagles were 6-6-1 and still alive in the NFC East, which is now being called the NFC Least.

If they beat the New York Giants at home today, and win on the road at Atlanta and Washington, they'll finish 9-6-1 and probably win the division.

Rhodes is doing his best to calm the Hoyingmania. "Don't jinx the quarterback," he said.

But Rhodes contributed to it by mentioning his name in the same sentence with Joe Montana, Steve Young and Brett Favre.

"As far as some of the things we're asking Bobby to do, compared to what was asked of Brett at the same time, we're asking Bobby to do a lot more," the coach said. "He's doing things at the line of scrimmage, picking things up, that we don't ask a lot of young players to do."

Of course, Hoying is going to have some bad days. All young quarterbacks do. But he has energized the fans and the franchise.

He also has showed that the scouts who didn't think he had a strong-enough arm were wrong when they let him slip to the third round of the draft.

All this explains why today's Ravens game against the Seattle Seahawks has a fascinating twist with Eric Zeier starting. The scouts thought he was too small and then he was rushed in too soon as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns in 1995. Now he gets his first real chance.

Maybe Zeier can prove the scouts wrong. Maybe he can't. But it'll be interesting to watch him try. There's nothing like a young quarterback playing well to energize the fans.

Replay it again

The debate over instant replay is likely to be lively at the owners' meeting next March.

Some fuel was added to the fire last Sunday when the Giants' Tito Wooten was given credit for an interception even though he caught the ball on the bounce.

Because it happened in New York, it got a lot of attention.

It didn't get as much attention in Arizona last week, when Jake Plummer spiked the ball to set up a Joe Nedney field-goal attempt of 46 yards, the longest of his career.

The officials didn't notice that Pittsburgh had 12 men on the field when Plummer spiked the ball. If the penalty had been assessed, Nedney would have been 5 yards closer. He hooked the 46-yarder, and the Cardinals lost in overtime.

It was the second game this year that the Cardinals have lost in overtime after a bad call. The Redskins were given credit for a fumble recovery to set up the winning touchdown in Week 3, even though league officials later admitted Leeland McElroy was down when he lost the ball.

Instant replay fell three votes shy of passing last year, mainly because the proposal would have cost a coach a timeout even if a call was overturned. New York Jets coach Bill Parcells and Oakland Raiders owner Al Davis, who had two critical swing votes, objected to that and voted no.

Ozzie Newsome, the Ravens' vice president of player personnel, said it could be different this time.

"I think it's gaining momentum," he said. "It's going to be the main discussion."

But it takes only eight votes to block it, and there are some strong opponents.

One is George Young, general manager of the Giants.

"What bothers me is that we have the best officiating in pro sports and the worst image," he said.

That's because the league runs its officiating bureau as if it were the CIA. Except for a report to a pool reporter, the NFL gives no explanations and hands out fines for criticizing the officials, leaving the image of a cover-up.

Money talks

The Seahawks, who make their first appearance in Baltimore today, are going to be one of the league's closely watched teams during the off-season.

That's because they're owned by billionaire Paul Allen, the Microsoft co-founder whose net worth is probably more than the combined worth of the other 29 owners.

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