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For week ended September 12, 1999 Posted 19 Sep 1999

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Detmer plays losing hand with gambler's smile

Summarized by Eric Bunker

Detmer plays losing hand with gambler's smile
Columbus OH Dispatch 10Sep99 L3
By Bill Rabinowitz: Dispatch Sports Reporter

BEREA, OHIO -- Former BYU quarterback Ty Detmer has been a target of criticisms that have dogged him throughout his eight-year NFL career. Few players with Detmer's credentials have been derided as much.

As a Heisman Trophy winner, he was called "too short" by the NFL. With Fifty-nine NCAA passing records, he was classed as having a weak arm. With three, three hundred-yard passing games as a pro, but still only classed as a backup. It seems that the only thing the prototype-obsessed NFL cared about then was his height, (6'0") and his weight, (185lbs.)

Detmer, 32, is starting this season for the Cleveland Browns. However, he came in knowing that he was brought in as a bridge to the Tim Couch era and the season is unlikely to end that way. Tim Couch, Cleveland's $48 million-dollar man selected the first round of this years draft -- is the team's projected future quarterback. Detmer knows the future is bound to arrive soon, but anything can happen on the football field.

The son of a High School football coach, from an early age, Ty had a knack for throwing accurately and having an innate understanding of the game. In his final high- school appearance, his father let him call the plays. Detmer threw for well over 500 yards that evening.

With Brigham Young's pass-happy offense, Detmer set NCAA records for touchdown passes (121), yards passing (15,031), most completions (958), most attempts (1,530) and total yards of offense (14,653). As a junior, he won the Heisman Trophy.

He has always prided himself on being a smart quarterback. Now that description was used by the NFL scouts as a euphemism to connote that Detmer lacked the physical skills to succeed in the NFL. He wasn't selected until the ninth round in the draft, going to Green Bay.

"It was hard, especially seeing some guys you've never heard of in college go before you," Detmer said. "I've always felt like a good quarterback is smart and can get the job done. All of sudden, the (scouting) combine comes and everybody starts going off the charts instead of watching film and seeing what guys do on the field. It's tough to deal with, and you get ticked off about it. But once you get an opportunity, you try to make the most of it."

That opportunity to shine didn't come in Green Bay, which was concentrating on building budding star Brett Favre. Ty threw only 21 passes in four seasons with the Packers before signing as a free agent with Philadelphia.

He was 7-4 as a starter his first season with the Eagles, leading them to the playoffs in 1996. Detmer staved off a challenge from Rodney Peete during the next preseason and got off to an even better start personally in 1997, but the Eagles starting against a tough schedule went 2-4 the first six games, including a memorable Monday night loss to Dallas. In a move seen by some as desperation scapegoating, Eagles coach Ray Rhodes yanked Detmer, who didn't play in the final six games.

Going to San Francisco in the off season, he spent last season as a backup to Steve Young. In his only start, he threw for 276 yards and three touchdowns.

The funny thing is that Ty has lasted long enough in the NFL that some of its obsession for prototypes has begun to fade. For example, five-foot-9 Doug Flutie had a storybook season with Buffalo last year. Chicago took undersized Cade McNown with the 12th pick of the draft and made him the cornerstone of the franchise. Detmer knows that's the likelihood that this would happen for him with the Browns is not real great, nor with anyone else either for that matter, but stranger things have happened.

"You look at some of the quarterbacks last year -- Flutie, Vinny Testaverde and Randall Cunningham," Detmer said. "They were in tough situations before and all of a sudden hit the right situation and were able to be successful. Once you get out there playing, you never know what's going to happen."

Time will tell.

Copyright 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 Kent Larsen · Privacy Information