Although he believes Doug Flutie "has the greatest instincts of a college quarterback since Roger Staubach," Assistant General Manager Charles Casserly says the Washington Redskins would not use a No. 1 draft choice to take the Boston College quarterback.
"There's no question that Flutie would fit into the Redskin system," Casserly said. "But we wouldn't be looking at a quarterback high this year. We have Joe Theismann and we have confidence in Jay Schroeder and Babe Laufenberg for the long run. We want to give those guys every chance. We think both guys can develop into starting quarterbacks.
"When you have a 35-year-old fullback with a bad back (John Riggins), you have other priorities," said Casserly, who scouted Flutie extensively his junior year and has seen him play several times this season. "My personal feeling is that the kid will go in the second round, but you never can tell. This is a very tough kid to grade because of so many contradicting factors."
The Redskins' general manager, Bobby Beathard, was not available to comment yesterday, but throughout the National Football League, scouts, personnel directors and general managers have been debating the Flutie Factor all season. In the wake of his game-winning pass and spectacular showing against Miami last week, the volume of conversation has hit new decibel levels that should not drop until the NFL draft April 30.
They're talking about gambling big money and a valuable choice on a quarterback who stands 5 feet 9 1/4, weighs 176 pounds, runs the 40 in the average speed of 4.88 seconds and does nothing but win football games, pack the bleachers and draw people to their television sets.
"The only thing against the boy is his height," said Harry Bluffington, director of the United Scouting Combine based in Tulsa, a group that scouts college players for 19 NFL teams, including the Redskins. "He is everything in the world you are looking for except for four inches in height. If you have a great need for a quarterback, a team would not be taking a chance using a No. 1. I think he'll go fairly high and play somewhere."
That is not a universally held opinion.
Last spring, a United scout gave Flutie a grade of 5.9 of a possible 10, meaning he was considered on the verge of contributing (not necessarily starting) in his first pro year. He was graded 7 on quickness, agility and balance; 7 on intelligence, and 6 on strength and durability. In the fourth critical category -- height, weight and speed -- he got a 2.
Mike Allman, director of player personnel for the Seattle Seahawks, said, "his arm seems to vary. When you first see him in the warm-ups, you say, 'No way.' But the longer you stay there, the better it gets. He doesn't get many batted down, but he's also only throwing about 50 percent. But the kid is magic; anything he touches is gold. I think Atlanta is interested and Cleveland is probably looking real close, too. I'd be a little afraid to pick him No. 1, but I'd be scared as hell not to."
One NFC scout wrote in his report, "He is a productive winner in college . . . Again, he does not have good throwing talent for his size . . . He'd be too much of a problem . . . It could be embarrassing to take him . . . Some team may want him for situations, but I can't see him playing for us. Possibly better off in Canada or the USFL."
The USFL would love to have Flutie. On Tuesday, the league gave the New Jersey Generals the rights to draft Flutie and owner Donald Trump said, "We'd be very interested in Doug Flutie . . . We think he's got a very good future."
The USFL will draft in January, and any NFL team that does use a No. 1 choice to pick Flutie would become involved in a major bidding war. Buffalo should have the first or second pick in the draft and needs a quarterback. But will owner Ralph Wilson, who has lost a number of players in salary disputes, open up his wallet to sign a little quarterback with a big question mark?
Also, Buffalo has the rights for the next three years to Jim Kelly, the former University of Miami quarterback now with Houston in the USFL. Considering all the problems that league is having, Kelly might become available. "And if he became available, obviously we'd be very interested," said Buffalo General Manager Terry Bledsoe.
And what about Flutie?
"Flutie is as exciting a college player as I can recall," Bledsoe said. "He's not what the computer is comfortable with, but he makes things happen . . . As to whether we'd spend a No. 1 for him, it's way too early to tell."
Few NFL talent scouts are ready to say that Flutie would be their man in the first round.
"I doubt he'll go in the first round," said Reed Johnson, the Denver Broncos' college scouting coordinator. "Any team that takes him is going to have to move him around. You have to have bootlegs, sprintouts. Are you going to change your whole philosophy for one guy who's 5-9? When the time comes for the draft, there may be a lot of guys who excuse themselves and go to the restroom."
"Right now, I think he'll be taken around the second or third round," said Minnesota General Manager Mike Lynn. "But the skilled players are always upgraded in the bowl games. There will be some clubs who will put him in a first-round category.
"I don't buy all this bunk about him being too small. We had a quarterback here who was about his size and he took us to three Super Bowls. (Fran) Tarkenton always claimed he was 6 feet, but I'm 6 feet and I looked right in the middle of his forehead."
"I really don't know," said Mike Hickey, director of player personnel of the New York Jets. "I do know he's the kind of guy you never want to say can't do something. His college career is, 'You can't do . . . fill in the blank,' and so he does it. He thrives on challenges.
"As a pro prospect, the height factor has to be in the equation. He also is not the all-time mechanical guy. He'll throw it sidarm, underhand, behind his back. Throw sidearm in the pros at 5-9 . . .
"He'll throw into coverages because he knows his receivers so well. Many times he'll throw crossfield or into the flat with one-on-one coverage. In college, they may be incomplete or almost intercepted. In the pros, things that are almost incomplete or almost intercepted turn into touchdowns (for the defense).
"But I truly love the guy. My respect for the kid will never be diminished no matter what happens in the pros. This is the kind of guy you tell your kids you saw play. This is our generation's Red Grange, Jim Thorpe. He defies all the odds because all he does is win."