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The Man in Charge

With his job on the line, Jets quarterback Glenn Foley showed he's ready to be the starter

by David Fleming

Posted: Wed August 26, 1998

Sports Illustrated When he learned he would not start the second game of the exhibition season, Glenn Foley, who was supposed to be the Jets' first-stringer, did what most of us do when we've hit rock bottom: He called Mom. Boy, did she set him straight. "Glenn started to talk about this and that and how Bill Parcells was treating him, and I just cut him off," says Sue Foley. "I said, 'Hey, Glenn, not everybody has to love his boss. But we all still have to do our job.'" In the case of a quarterback working for Parcells, truer words may have never been spoken.

Glenn Foley
Foley won over Parcells with an impassioned performance against the Giants.    (John Iacono)

Foley, the carrot-topped former Boston College passer, entered training camp as the No. 1 quarterback after Parcells had cut high-priced and often ineffective Neil O'Donnell in the off-season. The move was based largely on Foley's scrappy performances while subbing for O'Donnell in 1997, particularly a 24-19 comeback victory over the Patriots in Week 8, a game in which Foley completed 14 straight passes at one point and engineered three second-half scoring drives.

But early in camp Parcells didn't see the same kind of fire in Foley that he had witnessed last season. So Parcells, who was worried that a subpar passing attack would force him to overuse running back Curtis Martin, started free-agent pickup Vinny Testaverde against the Ravens on Aug. 15. (For good measure Parcells let Foley find out through the media.) After both quarterbacks struggled in a 33-0 loss to Baltimore, Parcells announced that Foley was his starter again.

Through it all, Foley tried to be as calm as Parcells was calculating. "Hey, I knew way before it happened that something like this was coming," says Foley, a seventh-round draft pick by the Jets in 1994. "It's part of playing for Bill. I mean, the guy had a quarterback controversy when he was in the Super Bowl with the Giants. It's probably going to happen to me every year. You fight through it. That's just the way he motivates me."

Whatever the system, it seems to have worked for Foley. A year ago, as O'Donnell's clipboard caddie, he couldn't even get tickets for his parents to the annual preseason game against the Giants. So Sue and Ed Foley, who is also a former BC quarterback, drove up the New Jersey Turnpike from Cherry Hill, sat in their car in the Giants Stadium parking lot and listened to the game on the radio. But last Thursday night, with Sue and Ed in the stands for this year's rematch against the Giants, Foley completed his first nine passes and finished 14 of 22 for 192 yards and one TD in a little more than two quarters of work. The 27-23 win earned Foley a hug from Mom and praise from Parcells, who said, "This is what I hoped would happen. He's got work to do, but that was progress."

Most important, Foley attacked the defense and played with passion. When Giants star cornerback Jason Sehorn went down with a season-ending knee injury on the opening kickoff, Foley picked apart every sub the Giants used in Sehorn's spot. Foley also audibled several times to plays that yielded big gains.

After throwing an interception that safety Percy Ellsworth returned 42 yards for a touchdown at the start of the second half, Foley was afraid he might get yanked again. "With Bill you never know what to expect," he says. Instead Foley returned on the next series and threw a 30-yard strike to Keyshawn Johnson. Afterward Parcells was so impressed with how Foley had responded that as he walked past Foley's locker, he shouted, "Hey, look, it's Dan Fouts!"

For one night, anyway.

Issue date: August 31, 1998

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