Twenty-six years ago the 38-year-old Morrall replaced the injured Bob Griese and led the Dolphins down the stretch of their 14-0 season and into the playoffs. Griese returned in the second half of the AFC title game and started the Super Bowl victory over the Redskins. If Cunningham is Morrall, that means Fiedler is Jim Del Gaizo, the Dolphins' third-string quarterback mat year. Now it's up to Fiedler—whose grandfather was famed Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler's second cousin—to keep the fine-tuned Vikings offense playing smoothly.
"We won't change what we do to accommodate Jay," Minnesota offensive coordinator Brian Billick said on Monday. "He was a pentathlete in college. He knows all our routes well. You'll see he throws a nice, deep ball. Cincinnati obviously will load up on the run and force us to win with Jay. Great. Bring it on."
Bobby Taylor's New Deal
Avoiding the Franchise Tag
In the wake of the pathetic Eagles' signing of Bobby Taylor to a seven-year, $27.9 million extension, which made him the league's fourth-highest-paid cornerback, here's what the two parties who made the deal would like you to believe: Taylor felt loyalty to the team that made him a second-round draft pick in '95, and Philadelphia wanted to reward him for that loyalty.
In truth, here's what sealed the deal: The 2-7 Eagles were desperate to make a move that their fans, who despise thrifty owner Jeffrey Lurie, would perceive as a positive step. More important, Taylor knew that if he didn't sign an extension, Philadelphia could have slapped its franchise player tag on him in February, severely limiting his earning potential. With such a designation, the Eagles would have been obligated to offer Taylor a one-year deal in '99 for about $4 million, the average '98 salary of the five highest-paid corners in the league. Taylor could have negotiated with other teams, but any club that signed him would have had to send Philadelphia two first-round draft choices or some other agreed-upon compensation.
"I knew they would have put the tag on me, and that's the last thing you want," Taylor said last week. "You get no money up front, and you'd never see free agency."
Packers wideout Antonio Freeman and Vikings middle linebacker Ed McDaniel would be wise to follow Taylor's lead. Both are free-agents-to-be who are sure to be labeled franchise players if they don't get deals done before the end of the season.
Cade McNown's Low Rating
The Flawed View Of Quarterbacks
One team's college scouting board, which rates seniors by position, has a particularly rank ranking at quarterback. Listed at No. 11—behind such big-timers as Mickey Fein of Maine, Ted White of Howard and Mike Cook of William and Mary—is UCLA's Cade McNown, who is only on an 18-game winning streak, is a four-year starter in a league renowned for preparing NFL quarterbacks, is running the same pass offense as the Packers' and has guts and guile. At worst the 6'1", 214-pound McNown, who has thrown for an average of 279.8 yards a game, with 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season, should be the third-rated senior passer, behind Central Florida's Daunte Culpepper and Syracuse's Donovan McNabb.
You would think that NFL scouts would have learned something from watching Doug Flu-tie. The Steelers' director of football operations, Tom Donahoe, who remains impressed with McNown, says, "Some people are maybe concerned with his measurables: You'd like a guy a little taller and maybe a little faster, but he's been a very productive quarterback at a high-level program, and you can't disregard that."