While most of American was watching Marlon Brando tip-toe through the tomatoes or St. Louis rub out the Dallas Cowboys, Brian Dowling spent Monday night in the Midway Hotel in Green Bay, Wis., studying yet another in a long line of offensive playbooks.
Earlier in the day, the Packers had made this well-traveled 30-year-old Yale graduate an offer he couldn't possibly refuse - a chance to be the backup quarterback for the final games of the 1977 season. And maybe there would even be a chance to play against the Redskins Monday night, the team that let him dangle by his thumbs for seven long weeks earlier this year.
The Redskins released Dowling in the final week of the exihibit season to make room for linebackers Mike Curtis and told him there was an excellent chance he would be recalled. Just a bookkeeping procedure they said. Stick around. And so he did.
While he was waiting for telephone call that never came, "I got to play a lot of golf, I ran, I played racket ball, all the things you usually do. I had rented my house in Boston to a guy on the Patriots (backup quarterback Tom Owen) and we had a place rented in Virginia through October. So I figured I'd just stick around and wait."
When the trading deadline passed two weeks ago, Dowling shrugged his shoulders and move back to Massachusetts to resume his career as a salesman of annuities for a Boston insurance company.
"Nah, I'm bitter about it," Dowling said. "My whole problem started when Chris (Hanburger) had his appendix problem. I honestly believe if he hadn't been sick I'd still be in Washington.
"All through the years, George Allen had always kept three quarterbacks. That's why I came down there in the first place. I believed George when he said he wanted me on the team. But then they had those injuries and I guess he felt it was better to keep an extra defensive guy and some special team people."
Allen confirmed yesterday that Hanburger's illness cost Dowling a job. "He did a good job for us," Allen said. "He calls plays well, he's got a better arm than a lot of people think and he can scramble enough to give you problems. In his heart, he's a Redskin man because he wanted to be with us so much."
"When the deadline passed, I thought it was the end of me," explained Dowling. "No, I wouldn't have tried again next year unless somebody had offered me a great contract that was guaranteed. I came to Washington because I thought I'd be coming in at the end of Billy Kilmer's career and I could play four or five more years. But that's the way it goes."
But on Monday morning, Dowling recieved a call from Packer coach Bart Starr, desperate to find a backup after starter Lynn Dickey broke his leg Sunday against the Rams. Assured by Starr that he had an excellent chance to make the team, Dowling flew to Green Bay, worked out briefly in the morning, and signed later in the afternoon, selected ahead of veterans Gary Marangi and Steve Spurrier.
"I don't know what their plans for me are," "I know they've said the kid (rookie David Whithurst) is going to start. Oh, yeah, I'd love to play against the Redskin, not because I'm bitter, I'd just like a chance to show them that I could have made a positive contribution."
Dowling insists he already has memorized the packer offense and that Starr did not sign him just to get extra information on the Redskins. Allen agreed. "I'm sure Bart didn't pick him up for that," he said yesterday. "Oh, sure, he can tell them a lot of things. But they've got to be able to do it and do it right time. They still have to execute."
Dowling said "No matter who I play against, I'd try to mix things up, sprint out, drop back, scrable, anything to keep them guessing. I really think we have a chance to win our last five games. None of the teams we play are unbeatable, not even the Redskins. The Giants proved that.
"When I was a kid, Bart Starr was the type of quarterback I always tried to pattern myself after. He didn't have a rocket arm, but he used his head. I'd like to think that's what I do."
The Redskins had a light two-hour practice yesterday with several staters - middle linebacker Harold McLinton (pinched nerve in neck), defensive end Dennis Johnson (sprained ankle) and safety Jake Scott (pulled leg muscle) held out as a precaution . . . all three should be available against the Packers . . . Rookie fullback Clarence Harmon, who sprained an ankle in Philadelphia, also ran well during the defensive period and Allen said he should be able to play . . .
Tight end Jean Fugett caught a forearm in the jaw and staggered off the paying field, seemingly out cold on his feet late in practice. He was revived and took a lot of teasing from his teammaates because the knockout came hust before practice-ending windsprints . . . Hanburger was still working with the second unit yesterday. Curtis is expected to start in Hanburger's place again Monday night . . . Allen said he was not surprise the Cardinals defeated the Cowboyd. "Our problem is still the same," he said. "We still have to beat Green Bay, Dallas and St. Louis. We can still control our own destiny."