Eagles seek play-caller, no experience necessary

Week 7 In Review

October 20, 1998|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

When the NFL season opened Sept. 6, journeyman quarterback Bill Musgrave was unemployed. Four days later, the Philadelphia Eagles brought him in to serve as quality control coach, a menial staff job.

Sunday, he called the offensive plays in the Eagles' 13-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers.

That's how brutal this season has become for the 1-6 Eagles. Seven weeks into a nightmare, a career backup cut by the Indianapolis Colts last August is suddenly calling the shots on offense.

"Bill Musgrave called the plays. That's a decision I made. All right?" coach Ray Rhodes said after Sunday's loss. "I just wanted to see if he could get it all turned around a little bit."

Rhodes has been unhappy with first-year offensive coordinator Dana Bible's version of the West Coast offense, which went nowhere with quarterback Bobby Hoying and only slightly farther with Rodney Peete.

After Musgrave reportedly called some plays in the Eagles' 17-12 victory over Washington in Week 6, Rhodes decided this week to strip Bible of his play-calling responsibility altogether and turn the offense over to Musgrave.

Musgrave, 30, got the Eagles inside San Diego's 35-yard line five times, only to find misfortune. Those possessions ended in a missed field goal, a field goal, an interception, a touchdown and a fumble.

Obviously, it wasn't all Bible's fault.

But if desperate times call for desperate measures, Rhodes got the right man. In an undistinguished nine-year career, Musgrave was a clipboard carrier for the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos. He didn't play anywhere in 1997, and tried to make it with the Colts as tutor for Peyton Manning this year. He was the desperate choice, all right.

Coordinating 101

Of the 11 offensive coordinators hired this season, Bible is the most endangered, but he's not the only one struggling. Here are some trouble spots:

Gil Haskell, Carolina: His version of the West Coast offense isn't clicking, either. He has had to play with a patched offensive line, his best running back missed a plane and his best quarterback quit on the team. No wonder the Panthers are 0-6.

Ray Sherman, Pittsburgh: He replaced Chan Gailey and promised to open up the offense, but discovered that quarterback Kordell Stewart isn't inclined to throw deep much anymore. There were a lot of boos for the offense at home in a 16-6 win over the Ravens on Sunday.

Marc Trestman, Arizona: His franchise quarterback, Jake Plummer, is struggling, and the offensive line is terrible. The Cardinals have allowed 25 sacks, including eight in Sunday's loss to the New York Giants.

Tom Moore, Indianapolis: His franchise quarterback, Manning, has thrown 14 interceptions, and until Sunday, the Colts hadn't scored more than two touchdowns in any game.

Next batter

It shouldn't take New Orleans coach Mike Ditka long to get newly acquired Kerry Collins, the quarterback who quit on Carolina, in the lineup. A year ago, Ditka claimed Buffalo's Billy Joe Hobert on waivers after Hobert failed to properly prepare for a game. Four days later, Hobert played for the Saints.

Quarterback has been a carousel position for the Saints in Ditka's two seasons. He has started five different players there in 22 games. Heath Shuler made the most starts (nine) and has a 4-5 record. Next is Danny Wuerffel (3-3), followed by Hobert (3-2), Doug Nussmeier (0-1) and Billy Joe Tolliver (0-1), who started in Week 7.

Home-field what?

You couldn't blame the Tennessee Oilers if they developed an inferiority complex. Unappreciated in Houston, unwanted in Memphis, they're apparently unloved in Nashville.

Despite a Beanie Baby giveaway -- Chocolate the Moose -- the Oilers drew only 33,288 to Vanderbilt Stadium this week for a 44-14 rout of Cincinnati. That left well over 8,000 empty seats. The team moves into its new stadium next year, but will anyone notice?

Flagging effort

There was some grievous officiating around the league Sunday. The Colts couldn't hold a 21-point lead in San Francisco, thanks to some questionable calls. Twice, the Colts had end-zone interceptions waved off because of defensive holding.

And on the 49ers' game-winning field-goal drive, a controversial 27-yard pass-interference penalty was called against the Colts' Tyrone Poole. Said Colts coach Jim Mora: "It was a horrible, horrible job by the officials."

In Tampa Bay, after the Bucs staged a fourth-quarter rally to beat Carolina, 16-13, Panthers defensive coordinator Vic Fangio offered this critique: "I don't know what was worse out there, me or the officiating."

Et cetera

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