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Conerly was unable to play much in the first two Giant games this year because of infected teeth and the burden of quarterbacking fell squarely on Shaw. He squeaked through the first game (a narrow victory over San Francisco) with a relatively undistinguished performance; before the Giants' second game with the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, Sherman needled him. Sherman will not say what he told Shaw but whatever it was it worked.
"He went into the game grim," Sherman said. "He was mad at me and at the Cardinals and at himself. He was an angry young man. This kind of controlled inner anger is a part of being a good quarterback. All the best ones have it. You've seen Bobby Layne cuss out his team for bad blocking. Norm Van Brocklin does the same thing. Conerly is not that effusive, but he gets his point across to the players. The quarterback has to be able to do that. He has to demand and get respect from all the players on the team. He's got to know more than the rest of them. He's a kind of middle ground, above the players and below the coaches. It's a lonely place and no place for a really nice guy. A little anger helps."
"I know I'll get to play here," he said. "I'm adjusted to the receivers on this team now. They're great. A quarterback doesn't have much time to look when he drops back; Gifford and Rote and Schnelker run their patterns so well that you know they'll be there when you look for them. The Colt receivers are great, too, but I never threw to them often enough to get adjusted to their styles of running."
Shaw started against the Steelers. He played for most of the first three quarters, and when he left the game the Giants were leading 12-7. He throws a flat pass, harder than the feathery, easy-to-catch Conerly passes, and Giant receivers two or three times dropped the ball when it was on target. Even so, he looked good, and he ran the team crisply and well.
"He made one call I wouldn't have made," Jim Lee Howell, the Giant head coach, said after the game. "We'reahead 12-7, in field-goal range, and he called a pass that was intercepted. A field goal would have been as good as a touchdown. But then he called another play I wouldn't have a little earlier and threw to Rote for a touchdown. The way I look at it is that it's his game while he's in there to run the way he wants to. He's in charge, all the way. If I start sending in plays, I have to send all the plays in and I'm not going to start doing that. You have to give the quarterback authority. It is the only way he can run a team."
When Shaw was taken out of the game, late in the third quarter, it was because Howell thought that Conerly, through his long experience and past superlative performances, would provide a psychological lift for the Giants which Shaw, still a relative newcomer, could not'. Shaw, aware of the reason, was not angry.
Sitting on the bench, he absorbed an object lesson in controlled anger from Conerly. The 39-year-old Giant quarterback, who has worked very little during the last five weeks, was off in his passing. Time and again he overthrew Giant receivers who had worked free behind the rather porous Pittsburgh secondary defense. Each time he left the field, Conerly looked grimmer and angrier. The Steelers' own angry old man—Bobby Layne—passed beautifully to young Buddy Dial for a Steeler touchdown in the third quarter, then herded his team into field-goal range in the fourth to take a 17-12 lead with 7� minutes to play. Here Conerly, tired and weak and, above all, angry, produced two wonderful, desperate plays. On a fourth down deep in Giant territory, he passed 18 yards to Kyle Rote, who lateraled to Schnelker for another 16. Two plays later, he threw a long, tall pass 44 yards in the air and Frank Gifford, timing his leap perfectly, took the ball between two Steeler defenders and fell over the goal for the winning touchdown.
With Conerly recovering now, it is likely that Shaw will play only a quarter or two a game.
"It's a lot better than it was with the Colts," he said. "I'm beginning to get my confidence back. I think aggressively and positively now." And angrily.