Nattily attired in a floral print shirt and white linen slacks after his team's 19-6 victory, quarterback Randall Cunningham of the Philadelphia Eagles looked as if he had stepped out of the pages of Gentleman's Quarterly or perhaps onto the set of television's "Miami Vice."
The operative word is cool, a quality that paid dividends for the Eagles when Cunningham managed to take it from the locker room onto the playing field. Even after his team's upset victory, when most of the Philadelphia players were engaged in all sorts of merry-making, Cunningham appeared almost staid.
"I was so happy that I almost started crying," he said in a monotone. "The thing is, though, you gotta be calm. When you're calm things are okay. I played nervous in my first game; that was my problem."
A sudden replacement for 12-year veteran Ron Jaworski last week against the Los Angeles Rams, the understandably jittery rookie from Nevada-Las Vegas completed 15 of 41 passes and was intercepted four times in a 17-6 loss.
He did run 11 times for 94 yards, but on many of those carries he was scrambling for his life. Against Washington, however, he took what should have been a trump card for the Redskins -- their defensive pressure -- and literally ran away with the game.
"He made things a little, no, a lot difficult for us," said defensive end Dexter Manley. "He makes some big plays. When you've got a quarterback that can run like that, you have to cut your rushes and keep your containment going. You're doing things that you don't normally do."
But Manley and the other defensive linemen got no sympathy from the Redskins' defensive backs, who were in a quandary of their own.
"Anything can happen when you're playing against a guy like that," said cornerback Vernon Dean. "A lot of times we were man for man and you can't leave the receiver to get the quarterback until he crosses the line of scrimmage. But we're moving 20-30 yards downfield. How are we gonna tell if he did cross the line?"
Cunningham ran eight times for 60 yards, 37 of them coming on a second-quarter scramble. Although the play didn't lead to a touchdown, it was important in that, as Manley said, the Redskins had to play things that much closer to the vest. "He had control of the game then," Manley said.
"I relaxed more, too, and I could sit back in the pocket," Cunningham said. "I had always planned on doing that. In the second half I didn't need to run."
In the final 30 minutes, he completed four of six passes for 107 yards (for the game he was eight of 15 for 187 yards with one interception). The longest of those completions was a 69-yarder to Mike Quick on third and six from the five.
The biggest one, though, was a 17-yard pass to Earnest Jackson, good for the Eagles' first touchdown this season. The play came, naturally, on a scramble and, according to Cunningham, because of cool.
"I was supposed to roll out to the right, but when I got there I saw Manley and (Dave) Butz and those guys there and I said, 'No, this isn't the right way to go,' so I scrambled back over to the left. I was going to run the ball but I saw the little fellow and I decided to throw it to him instead."
A short time later, Cunningham almost completed his second NFL touchdown pass but tight end John Spagnola dropped the ball near the goal line. Before the game Spagnola had disparaged the change in quarterbacks.
Afterward, Spagnola said: "Within the last week, Randall's grown up an awful lot. He showed me something today, especially against a team we've had trouble with.
"We all knew that Randall was the quarterback of the future; we just didn't know that the future was this soon."
Even Cunningham admitted that he was taken aback by the changeover: "It was tough for both Ron and me. Here's this 12-year veteran who comes out fired up every day. One day he doesn't have his job and it's not fun anymore. It hurt me inside the way it happened. I didn't earn the job; his position was given to me."
Cunningham knows he'll have to work to keep it.
"I'm working hard," he said. "After practice every day when everyone else has gone home I have meetings with the coaches."
When he does finally get to leave, he does it with style -- and cool, behind the wheel of a Porsche 944.