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Outside the Lines:
Hearing Footsteps


Here's the transcript from Show 74 of weekly Outside The Lines - Hearing Footsteps

Host: Bob Ley, ESPN.
Reported by: Jeremy Schaap, ESPN.
Guest: Boomer Esiason, former NFL quarterback; Jerry Rhome, former NFL coach and player.

Announcer - August 26, 2001.

Unidentified Male - Right here, right now! When that whistle blows, ain't no turning back!

Bob Ley, host - In the ultimate team sport, it may be the largest contradiction.

Shannon Sharpe, 11-year NFL veteran - They brought this guy in to replace me, but they want me to train him and teach him everything that I know. But he's trying to take my job.

Ley - At quarterback, that tension is magnified by the complexity of the position. Chris Chandler took the Falcons to the Superbowl, but now is mentoring Michael Vick, the quarterback of the future. It's the latest challenge for Chandler, who has seen his share of NFL ups and downs.

Chris Chandler, 2001 Pre-season rating 88.1 - I've never been one that, I think, has gotten the respect I deserved. And I don't anticipate or expect it to all of a sudden start happening.

Ley - Vick is patient for now.

Michael Vick, 2001 Pre-season rating 52.3 - I can't sit on the sidelines forever. They didn't pay me that amount of money.

Ley - Today on Outside The Lines - The delicate process of teaching a young quarterback when the veteran is hearing footsteps.

Announcer - Outside The Lines is presented by State Farm Insurance.

Joining us from ESPN Studios - Bob Ley.

Ley - How well would you train someone to take your job? That, essentially, is what NFL quarterbacks are often asked to do, in an intriguing collision of human nature, seven-figure salaries, and the classic values of team play. For young Michael Vick, this summer marks the beginning of a career in which the Atlanta Falcons have invested $62 million. For Chris Chandler, this would all be disturbingly familiar, but for his own substantial contract and a Superbowl appearance.

An NFL starting quarterback is big man on the media campus; he is a leader expected to impart intangible qualities and an athlete who must instinctively make multiple instantaneous decisions. The part of that which can be taught is a tribal wisdom handed down by veterans to rookies. Traditionally, the process takes years; but there may be urgencies for the Falcons, who have won only nine games in the last two years. And, by the end of last season, could not even half-fill the Georgia Dome. And Chris Chandler has been down this road before.

Jeremy Schaap examines this balancing act between tutoring and tension.

Unidentified Male - With the first selection in the 2001 NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons select Michael Vick.

Jeremy Schaap, ESPN correspondent - A joyous event for the Atlanta Falcons and their fans - One of the most gifted players ever to play college football was joining their team.

Is he Superman?

Ray Buchanan, six interceptions last season - Probably Superman without the cape right now.

Schaap - You haven't showed off even a little, thrown the ball 70 yards, you know, or outrunning a defensive back?

Vick - Well, what I did -- that's the first day.

Unidentified Male - Michael Vick looking over the middle, gets it out -- runs out of trouble and has a lot of running room. Michael Vick across the field...

Schaap - But at the dawning of the age of Michael Vick, at least one man had reason to be less than thrilled. Just two years earlier, Chris Chandler had led the Falcons to the Superbowl and he'd been selected for the Pro Bowl. Now the franchise has staked its future on another quarterback.

Dan Reeves, fifth all-time rusher in Dallas Cowboys history - Well, I can remember being about 26 and being a starting tailback with the Dallas Cowboys when they drafted Calvin Hill, and I kind of resented that.

As I told Chris when I talked to him, this deal was too good for us to pass up.

Schaap - For Chandler, the Falcons' decision to draft Michael Vick must have dredged up a painful memory. In 1995, Chandler signed with the Houston Oilers to be their starting quarterback. But less than a month after he joined the team, the Oilers selected quarterback Steve McNair with the third overall pick. Chandler was only 29, and suddenly he was expected to groom McNair to eventually succeed him. It was a recipe for resentment.

Chandler - I was under the impression they weren't going to draft him, so it was a little frustrating when it did happen. And it was something I didn't expect or want to happen.

Schaap - Could you have been more generous with Steve McNair?

Chandler - I think possibly, but I think the situation could have been a lot worse, too. You know, you follow me?

Again, it was a much more, in my opinion, competitive thing. You know, you're out playing golf with a buddy and you know the put breaks right, and a couple of bets on the line, you might not mention anything to him.

Schaap - It was a strained relationship, and to this day, McNair refuses to discuss it.

But when the Falcons drafted Michael Vick, Chandler reacted more generously. He even allowed the Falcons to restructure his contract so they could sign Vick to the richest contract in franchise history - $62 million over six years.

Were you concerned at all, coming in here, what your relationship with Chris Chandler would be like?

Vick - Kind of, you know, I was hoping it would be a good relationship.

Schaap - How would you compare your relationship with Michael Vick to the relationship you had with Steve McNair?

Chandler - Different, you know, I mean. I always got along great with Steve. We -- it was much more of a competitive situation there, though. I felt more like my job was on the line. And in this situation I don't. With Michael, hopefully he can watch the way I practice, watch the way I play and prepare. And that, hopefully, is something he is going to learn from and really benefit from.

Unidentified Male - A little quick on the 84. Just go ahead and read it out honestly, take your drop and read it out on the way back.

Schaap - Vick has a lot to learn.

How big is the playbook?

Vick - Oh it's very big, it's about this thick. If we were going to play (Unintelligible) it was about this big.

Unidentified Male - Make sure your voice is strong today at the line of scrimmage, now, OK? Real strong voice.

Schaap - Give me a sample play you have to call.

Vick - King left trip, wing save, B-235 quarterback pass, wing gate Y-6.

Schaap - That's one play?

Vick - One play.

Schaap - And what would be a typical play at Virginia Tech?

Vick - R-a-gun, bronco stop.

Schaap - That's it?

Vick - That's it.

Schaap - How much has Chris helped you already?

Vick - A lot. He comes and tells me what he's seen and what he did, and what made him do what he did. You know, so you just respect a person like that so much. You just feel blessed to have somebody like that on your side.

Schaap - He's been generous?

Vick - Yes, real generous.

Schaap - He's sharing his knowledge?

Vick - Yes, he is.

Schaap - But you guys are competing for the same job.

Vick - I wouldn't say we're competing for the same job, because he is the starting quarterback. You know, he is the No. 1. The only thing he's doing is helping me out, because maybe he knows I'm the future.

Chandler - And I'm looking at it as a time in my career where I'm really enjoying it. And to bring Michael along is something I've never really had to do before. And it is something that I honestly want to do.

Reeves - You know, he can be a mentor for Mike, and he can help him along that learning curve a lot faster, move that faster along, than he could if he didn't have him helping him.

Schaap - But how fast is fast enough? On the one hand, the Falcons are hoping the apprenticeship of Michael Vick can proceed at a leisurely pace. But Chandler is injury prone, and there will be pressure to play the $62 million man.

Chandler - You know, in three or four years I probably won't be playing anymore. And when that's over, I'd like to say I helped Michael Vick become a good football player.

Schaap - What's your timetable?

Vick - A year or so, I guess, hopefully.

Schaap - What if Chris Chandler, a year from now, isn't ready to give up the job? What if he's still playing well?

Vick - That's just something that I'll have to deal with along the road. You know, I can't sit on the sidelines forever. They don't pay me that amount of money.

Schaap - For Outside The Lines, I'm Jeremy Schaap.

Ley - And joining us this morning - Boomer Esiason, he quarterbacked 14 seasons in the National Football League for three teams, leading the Bengals to Superbowl XXIII. He also quarterbacked his hometown team, the New York Jets. He broadcasts the NFL for Westwood 1 Radio, and will be joining Fox Sportsnet this week. He joins us in Garden City Long Island, New York.

Jerry Rhome played in the National Football League as a quarterback, and coached 23 seasons for nine different teams, often working as a coordinator or directly with the quarterbacks. And Jerry joins us this morning from Buford, Georgia.

Jerry, good morning. Let me begin with you. You were in Houston in '95 when it had just come to pass that McNair had been drafted. And a month earlier, Chandler had signed that contract. How bad did that all scar Chris Chandler?

Jerry Rhome, coached Chris Chandler and Steve McNair at Houston - Well I think the Houston thing was a totally different situation than the Atlanta Falcons with Vick.

When Chris signed with the Oilers, I don't think he was aware at all that they were going to draft Steve McNair. And they drafted him, and that was fine. But Steve was -- didn't come into training camp until very, very late. And when he did come into camp, it was kind of like, well now our quarterback is here. We've got our quarterback for the Superbowl, you know, for down the line and all this. And I don't think Chris took this very well. And I think it could have been handled a lot better on both sides.

Ley - At that point, it was his seventh team in nine seasons. Here was a guy who had bounced around a great deal at that point.

Rhome - Yes, you know, now he's older, he's a veteran, he's been to the Superbowl. He's got the confidence. And I think, with Houston, he was a little bit fragile in that situation as far as his confidence, and what his future was going to be. And then here comes Steve. And it is sort of wasn't anything that Steve did, or anything that the Oilers did. It just was a tough situation for everybody.

Ley - But Boomer, still that situation now in Atlanta, where he has to teach the young phenom, the top pick in the draft. And you've heard the question about the timeline. Vick says, well in a year or two. And Chandler says he'll be out of the league in three or four years. So no matter what you do, you've got different perspectives on how quickly this curve is going to advance.

Esiason - Well Bob, it's really going to be interesting to see what happens over the next six months. You know, back in '95, when the Oilers did draft Steve McNair, basically Chris Chandler was still in the middle of his career. And he was trying to make a team, and hopefully lead a team to the Superbowl. Now, in the twilight of his career, he's being asked to do a different thing.

But the dynamic here is that, as you said, Michael Vick is making over $60 million. It's going to be really interesting next year, when Dan Reeves and his coaching staff decides, OK, Michael Vick is ready. And they go to Chris Chandler and say, you know because of the salary cap and you're not our starter any more, we want you to slash your contract even further. And maybe we'll just give you $500,000 for you to stay here and mentor.

I can't imagine Chris Chandler accepting that. You know, he is a damn fine football player. The only problem that he's had over his years is that he has been injured. And what they are asking him to do now, is to kind of help a young kid along, and still lead the football team. And the other thing that is happening on the Atlanta Falcons right now, that I would find very disturbing if I were the quarterback, as you listen to some of the other players' talk about Michael Vick and his athleticism, I mean, they rave about how great this kid is going to be. So how difficult that must be for Chris Chandler right now, to try to lead this team as the season begins.

Ley - And in fact, Jerry, they are putting in special offensive packages this year in the Falcon gamebook just for Vick. Does that send a message to the team, that this young man is going to be here sooner than maybe we're saying?

Rhome - No, I think that's a typical thing. When I had Steve McNair with the Oilers, we had a package for him. And a different package for Chris. It's just common sense that, you know, you cut it down for the rookie. But let me throw a little something in here. I have to throw Joe Theismann into this because I was with the Redskins in the last years that Joe was playing. And Jay Schroeder came on the scene. And, you know, Jay was hanging around Joe, and wanting a little help. And Joe really wasn't wanting to coach him. You know, I said something to Joe, and he goes, hey Jerry, you coach him. You know, you're the quarterback coach.

So, I think we're missing something here that maybe there is too much responsibility put on the veteran quarterback to coach the young quarterback. I mean, that's what the quarterback coach, offensive coordinator is hired to do. And I think the rookie, it's his responsibility to watch what the veteran does, watch what happens in practice. And, let's say you are in a game. And the veteran is out there and he is playing, he throws a touchdown pass, when the veteran comes off the sidelines - I mean comes onto the sidelines - he's not going to sit down with the rookie and say, well let me tell you how I did this.

Ley - Yeah, but, exactly what does happen, Jerry? Take me through just a typical day in pre-season camp. How much interaction can you reasonably expect an established starting quarterback to have with the kid who's been anointed as the quarterback of the future?

Rhome - Well, I think the rookie would like, stand there and kind of listen in on what, for example, let's say Dan Reeves is talking to Chris Chandler. And certainly, Michael should be sitting right in there listening to, and picking up as much as he can pick up. But, Chris is the guy that is being talked to at the time. So, I don't think they turn around and repeat the same thing to Michael Vick.

So, I think when something happens in a ball game, and it is not a good thing, I don't think the quarterback is going to come off to the sidelines and say, well you know, come here young man and let me tell you what I did wrong here. So, I think the rookie's responsibility is to hang in there and pick up as much as he possibly can. Ask questions to everybody he can ask questions to, especially his coach. And at the same time, he can certainly get some feedback from the veteran quarterback.

Ley - Right, so much of this comes down to human nature, and of course the responsibility of the rookie. We'll pick up there, because when Boomer came into the league, he was learning from a Superbowl quarterback as well, from the Bengals. We'll continue in just a moment on the topic of how to mentor a young NFL quarterback.

Elvis Grbac remembers what he learned and how he learned from Steve Young.

Elvis Grbac, Ravens quarterback - He was the guy that, if I had questions, he was open. And he trusted me, and I trusted him in the sense that it was my opportunity to really kind of show what I could do in the league. And I don't think he sensed a real threat, just because he was really in the prime of his years and doing some great things. And he was much more open, probably than when Joe was there.

Sharpe - You can't let your ego get in the way. And sometimes I think that's a lot of times, you know, guys like, they brought this guy in to replace me. But, they want me to train him and teach him everything that I know in order that he can be a better player. But in the same breath, he's trying to take my job. We all have egos, but sometimes you just have to be willing to put it aside for the good of the team.

Ley - And we continue with Booker Esiason and Jerry Rhome, our topic - "Hearing Footsteps, Mentoring Young NFL quarterbacks."

Boomer, take me back to '84. Kenny Anderson, who had taken the team to a Superbowl, and would do that six years later. A rookie, as Jerry mentioned earlier, has the responsibility in his own right to come in and not try to be the big man on campus.

Esiason - Well you know, it was really hard for me. I mean, you heard Shannon Sharpe say you had to check your ego at the door; a very unique person for that type of theory.

I will say this, that I was very fortunate that I had Kenny Anderson as my mentor. He was a 14-year player at that time. Also remember, our head coach, Sam Wyche, it was his first year, he was a quarterback in the NFL. The backup quarterback at that time was Turk Schonert, who is now the quarterback coach for the Carolina Panthers, and the Offensive Coordinator was Bruce Coslet. So I stepped right into a very, very good situation.

Ley - And you were starting within six weeks, right, because of injury?

Esiason - Well, I started four games my rookie year. And I had no clue as to what was going on. And as we heard earlier, from Michael Vick, he talks about the playbooks being about this thick. I mean, we had at least a 500-page playbook. And the things that young quarterbacks don't understand is that the amount of personnel changes, the amount of formation changes, the things that the defense do to you, and the amount of study that goes into it. So now I think that Chris Chandler will be a great role model for Michael Vick, much like Kenny Anderson was for me because they teach you how to do things. And I was fortunate because Kenny knew that he was in the twilight of his career, and he felt like maybe I was the future.

But even more importantly at that time was backup quarterback Turk Schonert, because he was the guy that I spent the most time with on the sideline and in the meeting rooms. Kenny was trying to get the team ready to play. And how difficult it must have been for Turk, knowing that he was right in the middle of his career. So, you know, it also happened to me in '92, Bob, when they drafted David Klingler.

And I'll never forget getting out on the practice field the first time with David Klingler, and watching him run 40-yard dashes, shuttle runs, and throwing the ball 90 yards in the air, from a knee I think it was. And I was saying to myself, my God, what is coming out of college now.

But the real thing about quarterbacks in the NFL, it all starts with your brain and whether or not you can handle all the things that are going on around you. And that is why, maybe one out of every five quarterbacks that is drafted in the first round, truly makes it. And in the last few years, you could see - Achillie Smith, Cabe McNown and Ryan Leaf all just struggling mightily.

Ley - Well you mentioned those guys - Cade McNown -- Tony Banks let go recently by Dallas. Not necessarily very young quarterbacks, but unproven. And the story behind their personnel moves, basically one of attitude. And Jerry, let me get your input on this. Exactly, the way you approach your job effects that relationship between the one and two quarterbacks.

Rhome - Well there's no doubt about that. And I was just listening to what Boomer was saying. And I think that one thing that came into my mind was that the standard that the starter or the veteran needs to set. And I think that, that's where the rookie can really watch what he does, and the veteran, in other words, leads by example. And one of the things that I've always told, you know, the veteran when I always had -- and it seems like everywhere I was, there was always a young quarterback and a veteran quarterback.

And I'd always tell the veteran, I'd say, you know, people are watching you. And what you do is an example to the younger guys. And I think that's where the young rookie can really take advantage of what, how the veteran handles the thing, the different situations that happen in games, and the type of pressures that the veteran has to go through.

Ley - You were in Dallas...

Esiason - I think Bob...

Ley - Go ahead, Boomer.

Esiason - I was going to say, Bob, but the reality now -- especially now a days with the money that's being given to these first round draft choices -- is that look, they're going to play sooner or later. And I think Chris Chandler, somewhere in his mind, has got to come to grips with that. If they get off to a bad start down at Atlanta, you can imagine the Atlanta fans down there clamoring for Michael Vick, and booing Chris Chandler off the field.

I hope that doesn't happen for Chris, because he's a great guy. And he is a damn fine quarterback. But I think the reality states that, if you are going to be paying me $60 million, sooner or later I've got to get on the field and show that I can either play or I can't. And you know, the Atlanta Falcons, who had trouble selling tickets the last few years, certainly are looking for a shot in the arm at the ticket box. Maybe Michael Vick affords that to them.

But I think Dan Reeves probably learned a little bit of a lesson back in 1983, when he got John Elway as a rookie, and saw John Elway struggle mightily through his rookie season. So, there's some other dynamics that are going on. But the reality states, in this business now of the NFL, you make the money, you're going to play sooner or later. And the guy, regardless of how good he has been as a mentor, is going to either be asked to take a pay cut, or is going to be traded to another team.

Ley - Jerry, you were in Dallas in 1990. You had a rookie by the name of Aikman, and he was in there right away, and he learned with the school of hard knocks.

Rhome - There was, there was no one else though. We had two rookies, and they were -- one of them was going to start. So I think that was just a different kind of situation. There wasn't the 10, 12-year veteran around, you know? So that was a little bit different situation. And that was tough on Troy, because, you know, he said later on that he had wished that he had had someone -- and he did have a seven or eight year veteran, Babe Laufenberg that really helped him on the side, as far as giving him knowledge.

But it really comes down to, in my opinion, is the veteran saying, well you know, I've got to protect myself to a degree. I'll help him as much as I can, but I'm not going to take him home and have supper with him. And say, hey kid, you know, this is how to do it. He's going to say, you know, listen to your coach. That's the way I learned.

Ley - Well, we'll be watching in Atlanta and around the league. Gentlemen, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us on this Sunday morning. Thanks to Boomer Esiason and to Jerry Rhome; thanks guys.

Rhome - You're welcome Bob.

Ley - In a moment, where did Bill Veeck get the idea of putting Eddie Gaedel up at bat? A look back at last week's show, and take a look at where the idea came from.

Ley - Last Sunday's program on the 50th anniversary of Eddie Gaedel's at-bat in the Major Leagues, the stunt masterminded by St. Louis owner Bill Veeck, was the story of an outrageous promotion and the bittersweet life of a little person.

And among the e-mails to our inbox, a viewer from Columbus, Ohio who says - "While the stunt was pure Veeck, the idea was pure Thurber. Your otherwise excellent piece on midget pinch hitter Eddie Gaedel omitted the fact that the inspiration for Veeck's ploy was the short story "You Could Look It Up" by the humorist James Thurber in the `Saturday Evening Post' 10 years earlier. The key elements of Veeck's ploy -- and the presence of an official contract, getting a uniformed midget on the field for entertainment purposes, and the strong admonition not to swing the bat are all traceable to Thurber's whimsical tale."

All of that may be true, but Bill Veeck maintained until he passed away 15 years ago that the Eddie Gaedel stunt was not borrowed from James Thurber, but from his own firsthand knowledge of the little person who worked for the legendary New York Giant manager John McGraw in the clubhouse at the Polo Grounds.

If you missed that program on Eddie Gaedel or any Sunday morning Outside The Lines - our interactive site; streaming video, transcripts are all on file. And our inbox for your comments

Ley - And if you missed any portion this morning of the program, we'll be re-airing at 10 a.m. Pacific, 1 p.m. Eastern over on ESPN2.

Tonight at 8 p.m. Eastern after "Baseball Tonight" - Barry Bonds sitting on 55 against the Mets.

I'm Bob Ley; we'll see you next Sunday morning.

Next - A near-brawl in a Major League game over an earring; the Red Sox play until 3 a.m.; and a great catch in the Little League World Series. Suzy and Mike are set now with "SportsCenter."

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 ESPN's Bob Ley examines a veteran QB's task of tutoring his replacement.
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