SI Vault
Paul Zimmerman
October 31, 1988
Why have so many NFL quarterbacks been injured this season? Dr. Z offers one theory—and ideas on how to reverse the trend
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October 31, 1988

What A Downer

Why have so many NFL quarterbacks been injured this season? Dr. Z offers one theory—and ideas on how to reverse the trend

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"Maybe they ought to put a glass booth around them, like the Pope has," says Giants noseguard Erik Howard.

Hickey feels the answer is to get quarterbacks working off a shorter drop and to teach them how to throw the ball away when their man is covered and to brace themselves for a hit. He also favors returning to a running game to calm down the defenses. "Pound the ball at them, and pretty soon they'll start using sturdier linebackers," he says. "Use bigger wide-outs to block downfield. and they'll bring in bigger cornerbacks to play the run tougher. Then people will look at those defenses and realize they can throw on them, and you'll start moving back toward where we are now. It's a game of action-reaction cycles. Always was, always will be."

Brister suggests adding another player on offense. The Patriots' chief talent scout. Dick Steinberg, thinks that quarterbacks should be allowed to ground the ball intentionally at any time to prevent late hits. And San Francisco coach Bill Walsh says one solution would be limiting the number of blitzes, as is done in the Pro Bowl. But then he quickly changes his mind. "That would be severe surgery to the game." he says. "We've gone as far as we can with the rules."

So what should the NFL do? Let it blow over and hope that the cycle has run its course? Go to a more conservative, maximum-protection style of offense? Teach quarterbacks to drop, look and fire, even if it means throwing the ball away? Dan Marino, the quarterback with the least number of sacks per dropback, has gotten booed in Miami this season for unloading early. But he also has remained healthy and hasn't missed a game.

There's one more solution we haven't mentioned. "What I'm going to do is get as strong as I can to protect myself," says Colt rookie quarterback Chris Chandler, who does extra work on running and strength conditioning. "I think the weight room has become as important for quarterbacks as it is for linemen."

Maybe that idea makes the most sense of all.

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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