On Thursday, I read in this paper that the Washington Redskins would not -- I repeat, would not -- use their No. 1 pick to draft Doug Flutie, even if he were available.
Charles Casserly, assistant general manager, said the Redskins had "other priorities" in this draft.
Then on Friday, Bobby Beathard, the general manager, listed the team's draft priorities as running back, secondary and offensive tackle. Beathard said: "If we felt there was a prospect at one of those positions who could help us, we would take him in the first round."
Beathard did not denigrate Flutie. On the contrary, Beathard called Flutie "the top quarterback prospect in the country," and said, "I'm in love with the kid. I think he's fantastic." If by chance a worthy prospect at those priority positions was not available, the Redskins would indeed take Flutie, if available.
Beathard and I agree on Flutie. We disagree on the priority.
Not only should the Redskins draft Flutie if he's available, they should do everything in their power to trade up to get him.
Doug Flutie was made for this team.
During the last four seasons the Redskins, more than any of the NFL's elite teams, have proven you can win big with a small, sprint-out passer. Since their offense is already tailored to such a quarterback, who better to bring in as Joe Theismann's eventual replacement than Flutie?
He's got magic. You don't want magic?
All week long -- ever since Flutie threw a last-second perfect spiral 60-some yards into a 35-mile-per-hour wind to beat Miami -- I've had to read stories telling me that pro football scouts think Flutie is too slow, too wild and, worst of all, at 5 feet 9, too short for the NFL.
Pro scouts have all but said he has The Plague. Draft him, and die.
That's their opinion.
With all due respect, here's mine:
The kid wins. And he packs them in. What more do they want?
Since when did Randy Newman become chairman of the board of Blesto-V? Don't want no short people 'round here? What about 5-6 Davey O'Brien? Ancient history, you say? Fine. Bob Griese. Fran Tarkenton. Both 5-11. They're history, too? How about Theismann? He's 5-11, tops, and he has been the NFL's best quarterback the last two seasons. Who do the scouts think would be a perfect QB? Ralph Sampson?
Give me a break. We're not talking Mary Lou Retton here.
Pro linemen aren't that much bigger than college linemen. If Flutie got the ball over, around and between college linemen -- and I suspect the fact that he is the all-time leading collegiate passer might be a useful statistic here -- what's to prevent him from doing the same in the pros?
"If I was 6-5, I'd have to prove I can't play," Flutie has said. "But since I'm 5-9, I have to prove I can. That's unfair."
They've got an artist here for the taking. Instead, they want someone who'll paint the garage.
No one has ever accused the NFL of being even slightly impulsive. Its feet are anchored so deeply in the mud of the status quo, it's a wonder the league's logo isn't an attache case sinking into a pool of quicksand. If Flutie does not get drafted in the first round, it will be because the individual teams -- like so many other Fortune 500 corporations -- did not have the good sense and the courage to reject the scouting bureaucracy and go with their hearts and eyes instead of their computer printouts and their high-priced consultants.
Here's a typically negative scouting report on Flutie, prepared by one NFC scout: "He is a productive winner in college . . . 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 . . . I can't see him playing for us. Possibly better off in Canada or USFL."
Sure, pass on him.
Ship him to Canada. Or lose him to the USFL; the New Jersey Generals, a.k.a Trump's T-Bills, are drooling for him. Better yet, sign him as a free agent and make him a defensive back.
Deliver me from these geniuses.
On the other hand, there are some Flutie fans out there, like George Young, the Giants' general manager, and Pat Sullivan, g.m. at New England. Young says: "We've watched him play for four years. Everybody knows he's great. Suddenly, we measure him and start mistrusting our eyes. He's got an arm. He's mobile. He sees the field one way or another, maybe he's got a periscope. When you have an exceptional player like him, you'll find the better he does, the taller he gets in the program." Sullivan says: "If we're in a position to do so, we'd make him the No. 1 pick."
There are six NFL teams that can reasonably justify not using their No. 1 pick to draft Flutie: Miami, with Dan Marino; Denver, with John Elway; San Francisco, with Joe Montana; San Diego, with Dan Fouts; Chicago, with Jim McMahon, and St. Louis, with Neil Lomax. And there are two others that might get away with it: the Giants, with a finally healthy Phil Simms, and Houston, which just spent millions on Warren Moon.
Reed Johnson, the Broncos' college scouting coordinator, doubts that Flutie will go in the first round, and lays out a classic status quo case against him: "Any team that takes him is going to have to move him around. You'd have to put in bootlegs, sprint-outs. Are you going to change your whole philosophy for one guy who's 5-9?"
If you believe he will win for you, of course you do.
But even if you accept Johnson's premise, that Flutie isn't worth changing for, you can make a case for the Redskins trying to trade up to get him, since they already use bootlegs and sprint-outs.
The only thing the Redskins have to change is their minds.
Bobby Beathard, a terrific g.m., was a 5-9 quarterback himself. So if anyone should be partial to Flutie, it's Beathard. "I'm partial to talented players," Beathard said. "If a player is small, I won't penalize him for it. Flutie is an exceptional talent. So was Eddie LeBaron." Beathard knows all about LeBaron. In 1959, Beathard went to training camp with the Redskins, but was cut. One of the quarterbacks Beathard lost out to was LeBaron, all 5 feet 7 of him. LeBaron was in the NFL for 11 years, and passed for 13,330 yards. Apparently, he wasn't too short.
Beathard and Joe Gibbs are two of the rare innovators left in the NFL. Most likely, Flutie will be long gone before the Redskins pick. But by chasing after him, they can be daring, and in so doing dare to be great.
It's not just a bold move, it's a good one.