Attention in the O.R.: Doctors Kildare, Casey, Welby, Fiscus, Howser, call your service. The NFL needs you. Stat.
Let's hear all the quarterbacks sing together on this one: "I was feeling soooo bad. I asked my family doctor just what I had. I said, 'Doctor' (Doc-tor!) 'Mister M.D. Can you tell me, what's ailing me?' "
Talk about your lost weekends.
Jim Kelly: sprained knee.
Phil Simms: sprained foot.
Jim Harbaugh: separated shoulder.
Steve DeBerg: dislocated finger.
Bernie Kosar: sprained right thumb.
Anthony Dilweg: arch boo-boo. (Don't laugh. It's an injury like this that's kept Gerald Riggs on the sidelines for two years. It's probably the only injury Kelvin "Which Way To The Emergency Room" Bryant hasn't had.)
Why go for punters? The next time the NFL holds its supplemental draft, why not go for someone out of Harvard Medical School?
Well, this certainly changes the playoff picture, doesn't it? Forget about conference records, point differential and coin flips. The tiebreaker will come down to total unbroken quarterback bones.
(Just a word here about artificial turf: Gaaacckkk! Every one of these QBs went down on rugs. Who's laying these things, Mr. Ray?)
Of course, the big winners here in Orthopedic Derby are the Redskins. Their No. 1 quarterback broke his bones early in the season. He's healed now. So they're sitting pretty. They took one giant step without having to ask, "May I?"
You say you didn't want to have to play at Chicago, after squeaking by, 10-9, at RFK? Here's looking at you, kid. With Harbaugh out, the Bears are down to Ditka's personal punching bag, Mike Tomczak, and the rookie, Peter Tom Willis. You say you dreaded going to the Meadowlands to play the Giants one more time because Simms always finds a way to beat you? This is your lucky day, isn't it, because, honestly, how much does Jeff Hostetler scare you? Yes, the Redskins may still have to go to San Francisco, but if the 49ers are vulnerable at all, they are vulnerable at home. On the road they never lose. (Speaking of the NFC draw, the surprise team, of course, is the Cowboys. Jimmy Johnson may have the worst case of freeze-dried hair since Conway Twitty, but he's an automatic choice for conference coach of the year. Burnsey, on the other hand, will be available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.)
These injuries come at a particularly lousy time for the AFC, which finally had two teams large enough and strong enough to have a realistic chance at the Super Bowl: Kansas City, with its Predator II Backfield, Christian Okoye and Barry Word (the last thing you want with rumblers like that is DeBerg having to work out of the shotgun to protect the finger on snaps), and the overdue Bills. In Saturday's telecast of the Bills-Giants game, Bill "Have I Mentioned Lately I'm A Genius?" Walsh got so slurpy about Kelly and the Bills, I expected him to sign on as GM at halftime.
You'll recall the average score of the last six Super Bowls: NFC 40, AFC 14. True, the Denver Broncos represented the AFC in three of those games, and the Broncos had this annoying, canine-like habit of rolling over on their backs and saying, "Scratch me here." Underneath "Speed Limit 55," true football fans have written in, "Broncos 10." Fortunately for the 100 million Super Bowl viewers, the Broncos capsized this year -- and let's hear it for that radio putz, Rich Goins, who can climb down off his billboard doghouse now that the Broncos finally won a game, after losing six in a row. If Goins had any real guts he'd stay up there until the Nuggets won three in a row, which could be as early as 1995.
My colleague, the stylistic Michael Wilbon, has a provocative theory about NFL quarterbacks drafted in the last dozen years, a period he says ushered in "the modern era of scouting." Exempting Joe Montana, a third-round pick in 1979, and Boomer Esiason, a second-round choice in '84 -- who presumably were drafted using Street and Smith's and a Ouija board -- the theory concludes that only QBs who were first-round picks could lead teams to the Super Bowl. With John Elway, Simms, Jim McMahon, Dan Marino, Doug Williams and Tony Eason taking teams there in the latter '80s, the theory appears sound.
As the playoffs shape up now, though, the theory may require revising. None of the five NFC teams already in the playoffs would start a No. 1 pick at QB if the playoffs began today. Montana falls into the asterisk class. Hostetler was a No. 3; Tomczak a free agent (Willis, No. 3); the Redskins' Mark Rypien a No. 6, and Philly's Randall Cunningham a No. 2. Only the Cowboys, in line for the last wild-card spot, have a No. 1 pick, Troy Aikman.
Three AFC teams have officially made the playoffs. Miami, with Marino, has a No. 1 pick at QB. Buffalo now turns to Maryland's Frank Reich, a No. 3. The Raiders start Jay Schroeder, another No. 3. None of the other logical playoff contenders starts a No. 1. Cincy's Esiason was a No. 2; Kansas City's DeBerg was a No. 10 (backup Steve Pelleur a No. 5); Houston's Warren Moon and Seattle's Dave Krieg were free agents; Pittsburgh's Bubby Brister was a No. 3.
Sticking to his theory, Wilbon -- who gave us Broncos over 49ers last year and New Coke to revolutionize the soft drink industry -- assures us Dallas and Miami will meet in the Super Bowl. ("Can I get an extension until 1992?" he asked.) The rest of us eagerly await the medical progress of Kelly, Simms and Harbaugh.