Backup Beuerlein's Pro Bowl season one for the aged

On The NFL

December 26, 1999|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

Kurt Warner's storybook season has him on pace to become the 10th NFL quarterback to pass for 4,000 yards and 30 touchdowns in the same season.

What has gone overlooked is that Steve Beuerlein has the chance to become the 11th.

Warner's rise from Arena League quarterback to the Pro Bowl for the St. Louis Rams has been remarkable; Beuerlein's rise from the scrap heap of NFL journeymen to the Pro Bowl is almost as surprising.

Beuerlein assumed his starting days were over when, with the Phoenix Cardinals in 1994, Buddy Ryan benched him for one of his old favorites, Jim McMahon.

"I figured I would spend the rest of my career as a backup," Beuerlein said.

In 1995, he moved on to the Jacksonville Jaguars, for whom he started five games, and the next year he joined the other expansion team, the Carolina Panthers, as Kerry Collins' backup.

When Collins flamed out last year, Beuerlein was thrust into the starting role. Now he's playing the best football of his career.

He has thrown for 29 touchdowns and 3,851 yards, compared with Warner's 36 touchdowns and 3,878 yards. If Beuerlein finishes with big games against the Pittsburgh Steelers and New Orleans Saints, he can make the 30/4,000 club. At 7-7, the Panthers even have an outside playoff shot.

"I owe it to this organization," Beuerlein said. "I can't tell you how thankful I am that they've given me this chance."

Tight end Wesley Walls said: "The way Steve's playing right now, he's making this whole thing work. And it's a beautiful thing when it works like this."

Beuerlein's on a roll after throwing for 373 and 386 yards the past two weeks against the Green Bay Packers and San Francisco 49ers.

At 34, he's showing that quarterbacks often get better with age.

Law and order

It wasn't surprising that commissioner Paul Tagliabue delayed a decision on Orlando Brown's punishment for pushing an official to the ground until a hearing in February. Tagliabue is noted for being slow in making decisions.

But February?

Why the delay? Aren't all the facts already known? Can't he figure out how many games to suspend Brown?

Tagliabue needs to address the issue of how Brown got hit in the eye.

Why are officials throwing flags with BBs in them? Can't they just drop them? Why do they feel they have to make a statement by throwing a flag?

It's not as if this is the first time it's ever happened. A Washington Times columnist pointed out last week that Don Hasselbeck got hit in the face by an flag in a 1979 New England Patriots-Minnesota Vikings game. He needed eight stitches to close a cut above his mouth, which, he says, still bothers him occasionally.

The league got by with no flags at all until 1948. The officials used to blow horns for calls until fans started bringing similar sounding horns, so they switched to flags.

Hasselbeck said he tried to get the league to address the problem of weighted flags 20 years ago and was ignored.

"And here it is 1999, and they still haven't done anything about it. They're so quick to fix other `problems' -- like limiting the size of towels [worn with uniforms]. But here's something they could do to protect the players and, well, it's just absurd that this could happen more than once," Hasselbeck said.

Cowher's downfall

Just two years ago, Bill Cowher was the toast of Pittsburgh.

The Steelers coach was a native who took the team to the playoffs in his first six years in the league.

He was so popular that he hired the late agent Robert Fraley, who was noted for getting big deals for clients, such as Bill Parcells and Dan Reeves, even though he had two years left on his contract.

The team's owner, Dan Rooney, never had a coach hire an agent before and wasn't about to start dealing with one now.

But Cowher was so popular that Rooney let his son, Arthur Rooney II, negotiate a three-year extension at $2 million a year that tied up Cowher through 2002.

It has all fallen apart for Cowher since then, with two straight losing seasons. There's been a lot of speculation that Cowher lost his fire when he got the big deal.

Whatever happened, he's no longer the toast of Pittsburgh. Folks there don't take well to losing, and Cowher has been the subject of vicious rumors about his personal life.

It reached the point where Kaye Cowher, his wife, gave an interview the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to discuss what the paper called "unsubstantiated talk about her husband's infidelity that has popped up on the Internet, in taverns and on the streets of Pittsburgh."

Terming her husband her "soul-mate," she said of the talk: "Absolutely no truth to it. My husband being attacked for calling the wrong plays or using the wrong players goes with the territory, but it has crossed the line.

"It's ridiculous. It's absurd. And when you question a person's character and morals, it crosses the boundary."

The remarkable thing is that she felt she had to address the rumors publicly.

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