Tulane Passer Grows on Scouts
After the draft, vertically challenged Tulane quarterback Shaun King is going to write a thank-you note to Doug Flutie. "Dear Doug," King says, as if dictating the letter, "I really appreciate your proving to people you don't have to be six-foot-three to play quarterback in the NFL."
In his senior year at Tulane the six-foot King threw for 3,232 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also finished with the highest quarterback rating in NCAA history (183.3) while guiding the Green Wave to its first undefeated season since 1929. Yet until Flutie led the Bills to the playoffs and was voted into the Pro Bowl in 1998, NFL scouts routinely wrote off quarterbacks as short as King, who as a teenager in St. Petersburg used to hang from a chin-up bar for extended periods in hopes of stretching himself taller.
"Flutie has made a big difference," says King. "Height isn't such an obstacle now because he forced people to look at smaller quarterbacks."
That was certainly the case at the combine, where King's stock continued to rise. Scouts love his field smarts, leadership skills and toughness. (He played eight games in 1998 with a broken left wrist.) Even so, he's not likely to be drafted until the second or third round, perhaps by a team with an established veteran quarterback. That would give King time to, uh, grow into a starter's role.
Collins Hits It Big, But Why?
There have been some doozies in the flurry of free-agent signings—cornerback Carlton Gray, cut by two teams last year, got $3.4 million a year from the Chiefs—but the Giants' acquisition of quarterback Kerry Collins takes the cake. Bidding against themselves, the Giants made Collins their highest-paid player in average salary, doling out a four-year, $16.9 million contract with a whopping $5 million bonus.
They did that despite the fact that Collins has been in a free fall since he quarterbacked the Panthers to the 1996 NFC Championship Game. Of the 29 quarterbacks who have started at least 15 games over the past two seasons, Collins is last in quarterback rating (58.7), last in percentage of passes intercepted (4.9) and 28th in passing accuracy (50.4%). Then there are the off-field problems: allegations that he directed racial slurs at two Carolina teammates in '97; allegedly asking out of the lineup last October, which led to his release; and his arrest on DWI charges about two weeks after being picked up by the Saints.
New Orleans officials groused privately about his lackadaisical work habits, and at the team's postseason personnel meeting, no coach or front-office executive spoke in favor of re-signing the quarterback. Collins's agent, Leigh Steinberg, told SI that only two other teams inquired about his client's services. Both wanted to discuss a backup role, and neither made a concrete offer.
So why did New York fork over such a big bonus? Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi says, "That's the market rate for a quarterback." No, that's the market rate for a good quarterback.