Talk-show phone lines have been humming and newspaper headlines screaming about NFL quarterback controversies this season. Last weekend nine teams were dealing with dueling signal-callers, the most visible battles being in Buffalo (between Alex Van Pelt and Todd Collins), in New York (Jets Glenn Foley and Neil O'Donnell) and in Philadelphia (Ty Detmer and Rodney Peete).
Conventional wisdom says that nothing tears apart a team like a quarterback controversy, and that a coach must resolve such a schizophrenic situation immediately. Maybe. The phenomenon is nothing new, of course. In 1980 the Los Angeles Rams allowed the rift between costarters Vince Ferragamo and Pat Haden to ravage the team and ruin its chances of returning to the Super Bowl. The most extreme—and disastrous—quarterback time-share occurred in '71, when Dallas Cowboys coach Tom Landry alternated Craig Morton and Roger Staubach on a play-by-play basis. After a week of this shuttle system (Dallas lost to the Chicago Bears 23-19), Staubach was named full-time quarterback, and the Cowboys went on to win Super Bowl VI.
In many cases, however, teams that have been unsettled under center have flourished. From 1949 to '52 the Rams remained a perennial winner and title contender while Bob Water-field and Norm Van Brocklin shared the quarterbacking. Best buddies and on-the-road roomies Sonny Jurgensen and Billy Kilmer were rivals on the Redskins for four years ('71 to '74). Still, with Kilmer taking most of the snaps for coach George Allen, the Skins went 40-15-1. In 1979 the Miami Dolphins endured a brief battle between an aging Bob Griese and Don Strock, followed by an extended one between Strock and David Woodley, cast in the dashing-young-guy role that Strock once played. Woodstrock, as the quarterbacks were called collectively, led the Dolphins to the '83 Super Bowl, which they lost to Washington 27-17.
History suggests above all that a coach should be sure of his choice, lest he push the wrong button. Near the end of the '91 season the Seattle Seahawks chose Kelly Stouffer, not Dave Krieg, as their man. A year later Krieg was leading the Kansas City Chiefs into the playoffs, and Stouffer was languishing on the bench and on his way out of football.
Behind the Dean E. Smith Center on the North Carolina campus are two parking slots labeled RESERVED AT ALL TIMES. One is for athletic director Dick Baddour. The other had always been for the man for whom the arena is named. Though he is, of course, retired, Dean Smith still goes into the office almost every day. Yet his old parking space remains empty. Smith, who points out that he's no longer the basketball coach, wedges his BMW in wherever he can find room on the crowded campus. "Just like the rest of us," says assistant sports information director Kevin Best. The rest, it seems, includes basketball coach Bill Guthridge, who may have taken Smith's place but not—at least for now—his space.
A Terrific Two
During last Saturday's Breeders' Cup, Favorite Trick smashed a field of the best 2-year-old colts in America in the $1 million Juvenile championship, emphatically announcing himself the winter-book favorite for the 1998 Kentucky Derby. He also brought to a close a stunning campaign in which he was undefeated in eight starts. As jockey Pat Day walked Favorite Trick toward the winner's circle, the little bay colt's diminutive trainer, Patrick Byrne, echoed the sentiment that was pulsing around Hollywood Park: "He is the Horse of the Year!"
There's ordinarily a strong bias against voting a juvenile the highest honor in racing—a bias that is not without reason. Babies don't venture out of their division to race against mature horses, and they don't carry high weights over a classic distance. Not since Secretariat in 72 has a 2-year-old been named Horse of the Year.
But 1997 has been anything but ordinary for racing, with no horse establishing himself as the best in the land. There was no Triple Crown winner and certainly no Cigar, whose 16-race winning streak from 1994 to '96 captured the public's fancy. Even the $4 million Breeders' Cup Classic was of no help this year; the race was decimated by a slew of defections and was won by Skip Away, a 4-year-old for whom the Classic was only his second Grade I victory of '97.