What's right is right. Up to now Vinny Testaverde has spent his time fattening up on all the patsies on Miami's powder-puff schedule. Soon it will be time for some weak sister—in the NFL—to try to get fat on Vinny. In fact, this is a big week coming up for the NFL's Sorry Six—Green Bay, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Diego and Houston—that unhappy collection of failing teams that have managed to stumble, bumble and fumble their way to at least an outside shot at the golden arm of the certain No. 1 draft choice and Heisman heir.
In the key matchup on Sunday, Houston, with a record of 2-9, takes on winless Indianapolis, so far the team to, er, catch. Should the Colts falter and win, Green Bay and San Diego, both at 2-9, with games against the Bears and Raiders, respectively, this week, are waiting, ready to pounce backward, if that's possible, toward that all-important first pick. And let's not count the Cards out of this one. With a game this week against Kansas City and a tough schedule the rest of the way, they have a chance to lose them all.
The reason for the early speculation this year is that Miami's Testaverde is so clearly the class of the draft. "I don't think there's any question he's the first pick," says Mike Holovak, Houston's vice-president for player personnel. "He's tall [6'5"], he's heavy [218 pounds], he's fast, he has a strong arm and he has a quick release." Says Joe Woolley, director of player personnel for the Eagles, "He has all the throws—the touch throws, the drill throws—and he has good awareness. He can gain that extra second by sliding to the right or the left.... Testaverde sits up there right now so far above the second pick...this year it drops off pretty quickly after that first pick." San Diego director of scouting Ron Nay says it simply: "It's hard to find a franchise player, and he's it."
Whoever drafts Testaverde should be prepared to pay for him. Russ Thomas, the Detroit G.M., who signed Chuck Long to a four-year, $1.65 million contract, says next year's signings will be dependent on the new TV contract and the revenues resulting from it. But Gil Brandt, the Cowboys' vice-president for personnel development, assesses the matter differently: "When you have 1,600 agents trying to represent the players, the way you make a name for yourself is by asking for the highest salary ever for a rookie." He concedes that Testaverde will probably get somewhere between the $500,000 a year given last season's top rookie, nose-tackle Tony Casillas, by Atlanta, and Joe Montana's salary of $900,000. But Brandt says he wouldn't be surprised to see Testaverde's agent ask for a million or more a year.
November 24, 1986
If that seems exorbitant to the drafting team and a trade for Testaverde is considered, who would be in a position to make one? Two teams are mentioned most often: the Houston Oilers and the San Francisco 49ers. Both have two first-round picks and, if so inclined, might be in a position to trade up for the No. 1 choice. The 49ers, of course, won't need a quarterback unless Montana reinjures his back. Others considered as possible dealers are the Raiders and the Seahawks, both in need of a quarterback, and Dallas, the trade-up masters.
Testaverde, while admitting that he would prefer to go to a warm-weather city, told SI he'll gladly play for whoever drafts him. He denies that he might emulate the John Elway/Jim Everett histrionics of recent years that forced the drafting teams in both cases to trade them. "Just because I'm doing better now," he says, "I'm not going to change and start demanding things." Unless his agent—about 150 of them have called, says his father, Al—eventually persuades him otherwise, that should be good news for a beleaguered G.M. come negotiation time.