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Tex Maule
February 15, 1971
With many of the NFL's star quarterbacks growing old the search is on for their replacements. Here are the youngsters most likely to succeed
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February 15, 1971

Tomorrow's Generals

With many of the NFL's star quarterbacks growing old the search is on for their replacements. Here are the youngsters most likely to succeed

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The Boston Patriots, by virtue of finishing the 1970 season with the worst record in pro football, increased their value by $1,500,000. On the Friday before the Pats' last game, the team's stock traded at 11¾. That Sunday, Boston lost to Cincinnati 45-7 and earned the right to pick first in the draft. When the market opened on Monday, the stock began to climb. Analysts arrived at the $1,500,000 figure by multiplying the number of shares outstanding—237,800—by 6¼, the amount the stock has risen.

This flurry reflected the value investors placed on the No. 1 pick, who, to no one's surprise, turned out to be Jim Plunkett (see cover), Stanford's Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback.

It also demonstrated the transcendent importance a quarterback—a good quarterback—has for a pro football team. When NFL owners, scouts and coaches daydream, they do not entertain visions of Raquel Welch, gushers or tropical isles. At least not all of the time. What frequently comes to mind is a young man who stands 6'3", weighs 215 pounds, has an IQ in the very superior category, a powerful, accurate arm, good speed and a lot of poise.

With many of the fine quarterbacks of the past decade getting on in years—John Unitas is 37, Bart Starr 37, Sonny Jurgensen 36 and John Brodie 35—the search for young talent has become even more intense than usual. Twenty-three quarterbacks were chosen in the 1971 draft, although some, like Ohio State's Rex Kern, were selected for another position; Kern showed in the Hula Bowl that he could play defensive back, and the Baltimore Colts took him in the 10th round.

The three top choices this year were quarterbacks: Plunkett, Mississippi's Archie Manning, who was drafted by New Orleans, and Santa Clara's Dan Pastorini, selected by Houston. This dreamy trio joins half a dozen other young quarterbacks already in the pros, who could become the Starrs and Unitases of the future: Dennis Shaw of Buffalo, Greg Landry of Detroit, Greg Cook of Cincinnati, Bob Griese of Miami, Terry Bradshaw of Pittsburgh and Don Horn, recently traded from Green Bay to Denver. Not all of them have been successful to date, but all have shown they have the stuff that dreams are made of.

Gil Brandt, the chief scout of the Dallas Cowboys, presides over what may be the most sophisticated scouting system in the league. If player evaluation can be reduced to a science, Brandt and his boss, Cowboy President Tex Schramm, have come as close as anyone to doing it. Computers in Palo Alto sift the vast amount of information gathered by Cowboy scouts and from the printouts emerge the archetype for each position.

"We look for a number of things in a quarterback," Brandt said last week. "In our system he must have an IQ of around 120. All of those you have mentioned [the six listed above and the three rookies] except one, are in that range."

Brandt was dining in a plush Dallas restaurant and he arranged a short saltcellar and an equally short pepper shaker on either side of a tall vodka and tonic. "Then you have to have height," he said. "The quarterbacks coming up must be able to see over the defense. I think in the last 10 years or so, defensive lines have grown two or three inches taller on the average and the six-foot quarterback can't see over them. The quarterback [he tapped the saltcellar] is small and his receiver [the pepper shaker] is small and the defensive end [the vodka and tonic] is big. If the quarterback rolls to one side or the other, he cuts off half the field, since most quarterbacks can't throw back against the roll. So we demand height."

All the young quarterbacks deemed most likely to succeed are 6'2" or over except for Griese, who is 6'1".

"One statistic you don't see is tipped or blocked passes," Brandt went on. "They don't happen to tall quarterbacks. A tipped pass invites an interception. When you see in a scout's report that a kid has three or four passes a game tipped or blocked, you can bet he's too short."

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