Just another Pleasant Valley Sunday in the NFL. In Indianapolis, Colt defensive tackle Steve Emtman tore two ligaments and a tendon in his right knee. In Philadelphia, Bear wideout Wendell Davis snapped the patellar tendon in both of his knees, and Eagle linebacker Ken Rose broke his leg. In Cleveland, Dolphin linebacker John Offerdahl (surprise!) separated his right shoulder. In Phoenix, Patriot quarterback Drew Bledsoe sprained his left knee.
But on the list of the day's carnage, one name in particular leaped out: Dan Marino. The man who had started 145 games in a row at quarterback for the Dolphins—every game since Sept. 2, 1984—tore his right Achilles tendon in Miami's 24-14 win over the Browns.
On Sunday night defensive end Bruce Smith and linebacker Darryl Talley of the Bills sat in their Buffalo hotel awaiting their Monday-night meeting with Houston, and they talked about the fall of Marino in stunned and even mournful terms. Smith and Talley have been chasing quarterbacks together for nine years, and they have terrorized Marino in 17 games during that span.
"I always thought Dan had a halo on or a suit of armor," said Talley. "This doesn't happen to Dan Marino."
"The Lord has blessed him to keep him healthy at that position," Smith said. "But he's strong and he has such a quick release, and he doesn't get hit as much as other quarterbacks. That's helped him. Even though it helps our situation because he won't be there, this cuts deep. I want to see Dan Marino out there."
"It's a shock," Marino said after the game. "I line up every week and play and nothing happens to me." The prognosis, coach Don Shula said on Monday, is for Marino to miss the rest of the season but to make a full recovery and continue his career next September, at age 33.
Let's hope so.
THE LAST ROUNDUP?
Off came the black ten-gallon hat and the sunglasses that hide the bloodshot blue eyes. Atlanta coach Jerry Glanville is not one for introspection, but he was in a reflective mood last Thursday as he discussed his future in light of the Falcons' 0-5 start. What would he do, he was asked, if he got fired? Where would he be without coaching?
"I'd be in the cemetery," said Glanville in a gravelly whisper. "I'd be dead."
The Falcons were expected to be much better this year. But their defense is the worst in the league; starting quarterback Chris Miller is out for the season with a knee injury; his backup, Bobby Hebert, has an ailing elbow; and future Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson is second string. In Atlanta everyone is down on Glanville, though the Falcons will probably wait until the end of the season to can him; Glanville's staff is full of loyalists, making it difficult to select an interim successor.
"My son [Justin, 11] came home from school the other day and told me everybody was talking about me getting fired," said Glanville. "I told him Mike Ditka's been fired. I told him every coach gets fired. I told him I'll be fired too someday, just like every coach the Atlanta Falcons have ever had. I also told him the longest I've ever been without a job is five days."
Things might be different this time. Assuming the Falcons don't make a remarkable turnaround, he will have had only one winning season since he came to Atlanta in 1990. Plus Glanville's forth-rightness and outrageousness scare a lot of owners. His act may finally have grown stale. Last week, though, Glanville was still trying to remain upbeat. "The season's not over," he said. "Did you see Hoosiers? They would never have made that movie if Milan had started the season undefeated. You've got to come back something big to be special."
That seemed to spur Glanville to a high school memory. "Do I have a right to complain about football?" he said. "To complain about this season? Me? Absolutely not. Football has been wonderful to me all my life. In my high school yearbook, in 1959, in Perrysburg, Ohio, you know what they wrote under my class picture? 'Life without football is not life.' "
Sometime soon Glanville might get the opportunity to see exactly what life is without football.
Not since Houston's Earl Campbell led the league in rushing from 1978 to '80 has any back won three straight NFL rushing titles. The Cowboys' Emmitt Smith won the crown in '91 and '92, but if history provides a lesson, he is unlikely to make it three in a row. Smith missed the first 2½ games of this season as the result of a contract dispute, and since 1941—the first year in which statistics on games played were kept—no runner who has missed more than one full game has gone on to win the rushing title. "Is that right?" Smith said when SI broke the news to him. "Well, if there's anybody in the NFL who can do it, I think I'm the man."
Having gained 105 yards in Sunday's 27-3 win over the Colts, Smith is 313 yards behind the league leader, Barry Sanders, whose Lions had the week off. In order to end the season with 1,500 yards—the ballpark figure for the league leader in recent years—Smith will have to average 108 yards over the remaining 11 games. Says Smith, "I need to have a couple of really huge days to get back in the race. I look at it this way: No one ever won a rushing title and the Super Bowl in the same season until I did it last year. I can do it."
Perhaps, but here's more for Smith to ponder: Since '41 only one back, Larry Brown of the Redskins, has even finished as high as second in the race after missing more than one game. In 1972 Brown played 12 games of a 14-game season and trailed Buffalo's O.J. Simpson 1,251 yards to 1,216.
And the next-best performance by a back after sitting out for more than a game? The Chargers' Marion Butts, who in 1990 played in 14 of 16 games and gained 1,225 yards to come in third, behind Sanders (1,304) and Buffalo's Thurman Thomas (1,297).
Say what you will about the sunset-years slippage of Al Davis, but those were his two wideout projects—Alexander Wright and James Jett—who beat a good Jet cornerback, James Hasty, for touchdowns in the Raiders' 24-20 comeback win. And that was his trash-heap quarterback, Vince Evans, rescuing a game that seemed long lost. For one Sunday, anyway, Davis's big-gain passing game once again worked its rusty magic. The Jets have now lost twice in eight days to backup quarterbacks, blowing leads of 21-0 to Philly's Bubby Brister and 17-0 to Evans. "Devastating," said New York defensive end Marvin Washington, correctly, about the loss to the Raiders....
Phoenix center Ed Cunningham on the perennially disappointing Cardinals, who fell to 1-4 with a 23-21 loss to the previously winless Patriots at half-filled Sun Devil Stadium: "Write us off. We haven't proven we're worthy of people's attending." Is he being too tough on his club? Listen to Cardinal running back Johnny Bailey: "If we can't beat the worst team in the league at home, who can we beat? I'm figuring on a 30-or 40-point victory, and we come out and play like a Pop Warner team. It's just sickening. We should be embarrassed to show our faces around town."
...Cornerback Darrell Green, an 11-year Washington veteran, on the Skins' worst loss ever at RFK Stadium, 41-7 to the Giants: "It's the most disappointing and embarrassing game that I can remember since I've been a Redskin. The end. Thank you."
...Want to know why the Bears, who have 1-4 talent, are 3-2? Through Sunday's games they were tied (with the Steelers) for the lead in the NFL with 15 takeaways, including an amazing 12 in a row without a turnover of their own—a streak that stretched to near halftime of their 17-6 upset of the Eagles....
Cowboy quarterback Troy Aikman has a slight separation of his left shoulder, torn rib cartilage and an achy right knee, and he's playing the best football of his life. "I'm starting to accept the fact that it's part of the job of an NFL quarterback to be in some pain," he says. "I still want a 15-year career. But we ain't playin' tennis here." In Sunday's win in Indianapolis, Aikman completed nine of his first 10 passes for the second game in a row. In his last 10 games Aikman has thrown 15 touchdown passes and only two interceptions....
The Vikings' 15-0 win over Tampa Bay was the first NFL shutout in the 12-year history of the Metrodome.
GAME OF THE WEEK
Houston at New England, Sunday. After Monday's loss to Buffalo the Oilers are 1-4, but there is light on the horizon. The next five weeks will present the season's most disappointing team with New England, Cincinnati, a week off, Seattle and Cincinnati again. These three clubs are a combined 13-50 since the start of 1992.
THE END ZONE
Houston owner Bud Adams was recently heard to complain that his players were getting themselves involved in too many off-the-field pursuits during the season. Odd. His coach, Jack Pardee, and his two coordinators, Buddy Ryan and Kevin Gilbride, combine for 11 weekly radio and TV shows.
MOTOR CITY MADNESS
Back in August, the day before Detroit was to play Dallas in an exhibition game in London, the Lions' practice, on an open field in Hyde Park, was interrupted by a huge dog careering through the players, with two children in hot pursuit. Perhaps inspired by the sheer nuttiness of that scene, coach Wayne Fontes announced that Rodney Peete would start at quarterback the next day. But when the game began. Andre Ware, not Peete, was under center. And Fontes hasn't slopped playing musical passers since.
Fontes has three quarterbacks—Erik Kramer is the other—and no one knows from week to week who will get the call from the coach. Fontes is doing the Lions a terrible disservice, and the way he has handled the quarterbacks in the past year has compromised his ability to lead the team into the future. Granted, none of the three is a Joe Montana, but no quarterback can develop into a confident, competent leader if he is forced to twist in the wind every week. Peete was given the nod for this Sunday's game against Seattle, and Fontes says, "The only way I'll take Rodney Peete out of the football game is if he gets hurt." Right. And there's a 50% chance of showers inside the Silverdome.
Here's how Detroit's three quarterbacks have been used over the team's last 16 regular-season games:
Weeks as starter
Weeks as second string
Weeks as third string