There is no quarterback controversy on the New York Giants, got that? Absolutely none. Dave Brown took a shot in the back on the Giants' second series against Arizona on Sunday and was through for the day. Danny Kanell, the rookie from Florida State whose NFL game duties had consisted of kneeling down three times at the end of a blowout, took over and beat the Cardinals 16-8 at the Meadowlands. Or let's put it this way: The Giants beat the Cardinals while Kanell was playing quarterback.
He was shaky in the first half, good in the second, especially on the two throws that doomed Arizona. But in a town that loves controversy, particularly of the quarterback variety, this performance will not trigger one, no it won't, because that's what everyone on the Giants told me. Brown is the starter, Kanell's the backup, see?
"A quarterback controversy? Oh, sure, let's have one," coach Dan Reeves said, laughing. "Just what we need."
Seven weeks ago, when the Giants were 0-3, there was a quarterback controversy: Brown versus Brown. Is he or ain't he? Can we build a future around him or not? No other party was mentioned because there wasn't one. Tommy Maddox, brought in by Reeves in '95 to challenge for the job, was gone. Cut in August. Stan White, the third-year pro, was and is a perennial backup. Kanell was the green, fourth-round draft choice.
Brown responded by winning three out of five. But on Sunday the 22-year-old Kanell stepped in and made a couple of terrific throws. Aeneas Williams had him nailed in the third quarter on a cornerback blitz, but Kanell stood tall, took the wallop and completed a 12-yard toss to Thomas Lewis, setting up a 32-yard field goal to make it 6-0. In the final period Kanell was scrambling when he laid a pass in the hands of Lewis, who was racing across the field, for a 24-yard TD. That made the lead 13-0 and put the game out of reach. It's not out of reach at 13-0, you say? Then you've never seen Boomer Esiason throw on a windy day at the Meadowlands. Believe me, it was out of reach.
Does this kind of performance by Kanell generate an honest-to-goodness controversy? "You know New York," said left guard Lance Smith. "They're going to create one even if it's not there."
"You should have heard them in the stands," said Mary Ann Rooney, the wife of the Giants' pro personnel director, Tim Rooney. "All they were yelling was 'Dan-nee! Dan-nee!' "
I can't remember ever hearing the fans yelling, "Dave! Dave!" but sometimes fans get confused, right?
Brown, a likable chap, looked surprised when someone mentioned a controversy. "I don't know why there would be one," he said. "I've proved myself all year."
"Oh, there might be if Dave hadn't been playing well in the last few games," said cornerback Jason Sehorn. "But Danny did some nice things out there, didn't he?"