Cowboys' QB quest rolls on

ON THE NFL

October 27, 2002|By Ken Murray

Unable to break their long slide into mediocrity, the Dallas Cowboys turn the page on the brief Quincy Carter era today and start over with Chad Hutchinson.

The one-time Stanford quarterback and former minor-league baseball pitcher will take his first snaps in an NFL game against the Seattle Seahawks. Hutchinson, 25, last played in a football game that counted in 1997.

"Everybody is speculating on how Chad will do, and I don't know," Cowboys offensive coordinator Bruce Coslet said. "I mean, how can we know? We need to find out because we weren't getting it done, the way things were going."

The Cowboys were 3-4 under Carter this season, averaged just 13.4 points a game and scored just eight offensive touchdowns. When Carter threw four interceptions in a dreary 9-6 loss in Arizona last week, he was out and Hutchinson was in. Carter, a second-round draft pick in 2001, was 6-9 in 15 starts.

It's been six years since the Cowboys last won a playoff game, and they're coming off a pair of 5-11 seasons. Owner Jerry Jones paid Hutchinson a $3.1 million signing bonus, which meant Carter was on a short leash this year.

"I'm very patient, but I'm very impatient," Jones said. "What is important to say is that we need to get on with the process of developing a quarterback that can get us where we want to go as a franchise."

Since losing Troy Aikman to repeat concussions last year, the Cowboys have gone through Carter, Anthony Wright (now with the Ravens), Clint Stoerner and Ryan Leaf as starters.

Hutchinson made 23 starts at Stanford, winning 12, before washing out of the St. Louis Cardinals' minor-league system in four years. It's likely that on the day he throws his first NFL pass, he will be remembered more for handing the ball off to Emmitt Smith, should Smith eclipse Walter Payton's career rushing record.

Turning on the juice

Quarterback Chad Pennington came out winging in his first two starts for the New York Jets. He completed 79.3 percent of his throws against the worst two secondaries in the league (No. 32 Kansas City and No. 31 Minnesota), the highest percentage by any quarterback in his first two starts since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

As recently as training camp, Jets coach Herm Edwards voiced the concern that Pennington was becoming too cautious and cerebral in the pocket and pushed him to be more decisive. Now Edwards says, "We've gained a little electricity because of Chad."

Regrettable comment

It took Detroit Lions president/CEO Matt Millen six days to express his regrets to the entire team after calling an unidentified player a "devout coward" on Mike Ditka's radio show in Chicago two weeks ago. The fallout from his ill-advised comments could have repercussions far beyond that, though.

Team owner William Clay Ford said he has no plans to remove Millen, but he wants to talk further about Millen's perspective on the team.

Millen's explanation sounded less than plausible: "Where I came from, we fought on the sidelines, in the locker room. We called each other out, you made each other accountable, and in the end, you play and that's it."

Close competition

David Carr and Joey Harrington were the first and second quarterbacks taken in April's draft. Now, after six games, they're within one-tenth of a passer rating point of each other.

Carr, the first pick in the draft by the Houston Texans, has a passer rating of 66.9. He is 1-5 in six starts. Harrington, the third pick by the Lions, has a rating of 66.8 and a record of 2-2 as a starter.

Curiously, Harrington has a first-half passer rating of 123.9 and a second-half rating of 62.8.

Running rampant

Despite all the passing and wide-open offense in the league this year, the rushing numbers are skyrocketing, too. Through seven weeks, there have been 16 150-yard-plus individual rushing games; it was nine last season.

If the trend continues, the league would finish with 40 150-yard rushing games. The record is 29, set in 2000.

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