He's No. 1
There's nothing physically imposing about Bear quarterback Steve Walsh. Underneath his jersey he has a chest like the guy next door, and his stomach looks nothing like a washboard. His arms and shoulders aren't powerful and his back isn't muscular, so when he throws downfield, you tend to hold your breath until the ball finally gets there. When he's chased out of the pocket, Walsh lurches along on gangly legs. And inside his helmet is a clean-cut, baby-faced kid who doesn't look like he could ever rip your heart out.
Well, looks aren't everything.
"Because I don't look like an athlete and I don't throw like Dan Marino or John Elway, people figure I can't get the job done," the 27-year-old Walsh says. "I always get beaten up in the media over lack of arm strength. When I do something, everybody acts surprised."
What he is doing in Chicago—winning football games as the starting quarterback for the Bears—has surprised everybody but Walsh. He was a poised and confident field general on Sunday in a 20-10 victory over the Lions at Soldier Field. Walsh completed 25 of 31 passes for 185 yards, including a 30-yarder to Jeff Graham for a touchdown, and is now 6-0 as a starter.
Chicago's victory, coupled with the Vikings' 31-21 loss to the Jets, moved the 7-4 Bears into a tie with Minnesota for the NFC Central Division lead.
"My strength is making good decisions," Walsh says. "I protect the football, and I get it into the receivers' hands. I'm secure enough in my ability to know what I have to do to be successful."
During his two years as a starter for the University of Miami, Walsh found out what it takes to be a winner. He led the Hurricanes to a national championship in '87 and had a 23-1 record as a starter. In the NFL, however, Walsh has been in the wrong place at the wrong time. The Cowboys made him the second pick of the 1989 supplemental draft, a couple of months after they had selected Troy Aikman with the first pick in the regular draft. Then, in September 1990, he was traded to the Saints for three high draft picks. While the Saints' regular QB, Bobby Hebert, held out, Walsh led New Orleans to the playoffs. That wasn't good enough for the Saints, who re-signed Hebert and sent Walsh to the bench.
Last April the Bears signed Walsh to a $600,000 free-agent contract, expecting him to back up Erik Kramer, whom they signed to an $8.1 million deal in February. Walsh subbed successfully when Kramer missed three games with injuries, then took the starting job for good in Week 10.
Walsh has flourished in the Bears' West Coast-style offense. "This system accentuates my strength," he says. "I've got somebody inside, outside and in the flat. When I can read a defense and use the whole field, I can complete the pass."