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saint5221 12-10-2003 06:58 AM

Peter Finney QB's good outdone by bad

QB's good outdone by bad
Wednesday December 10, 2003
Peter Finney

"It's madness."

In the movie, "The Bridge on the River Kwai," a British soldier spoke these words as Alec Guinness, battling heatstroke, was coming unglued in the final reel of a World War II epic.

You had an idea Jim Haslett could have said the same thing after watching Sunday's football game in the Superdome, one the Saints lost to Tampa Bay in a less-than-two-minutes stretch just before halftime.

Joe Horn drops a touchdown pass in the end zone that would have put his team ahead 14-0. Aaron Brooks cocks his arm to pass, the ball comes loose, the Bucs recover, the Bucs score. The Bucs block a punt, the Bucs score again.

Instead of 14-0 New Orleans, it's 14-7 Tampa Bay, which is the way it ended.

And that's only part of the story.

From one half to the other, Brooks went from a Johnny Unitas to a Johnny One Note. He goes from a 12-for-15 passer in the opening 28 minutes to someone who overthrows three open receivers, two for possible touchdowns, in the final 32 minutes, this along with losing three of four fumbles.

Go ahead and say it, Coach Haslett: "It's madness."

The football slipping out of Brooks' passing hand has happened three times this season to a quarterback who has fumbled 13 times in 13 games and lost 10. He's doing it for a team that has fumbled 30 times and lost 18.

What's going on?

I decided to dial Billy Kilmer, the first quarterback to take a snap for the Saints back in '67. I mentioned Brooks saying part of his problem was a "slick" football.

"That's interesting," said Kilmer, who follows the NFL at the home of a friend with six TVs. "A while ago, I checked around and was told the league has glossed the ball up. I'm watching Sunday, and sure enough, the ball comes flying out of Brett Favre's hand. When I was playing, we used our own footballs at home, and the first thing I did was have our trainer get the gloss off. I don't know, but I guess you can't do that today.

"I do remember, for night games, we used a ball with white stripes around the edges. The paint made them slippery in spots, which was a problem until we rubbed some of the paint away. It comes down to this: If you're a quarterback, you find a way, you do what it takes, to handle the ball."

To Kilmer, the Saints are a "mystery" team.

And Brooks remains a mystery quarterback.

While Brooks has thrown only eight interceptions, lowest among NFC quarterbacks, you toss in 10 lost fumbles, and you're talking disaster area.

"All I can tell you about playing quarterback is you become a leader by making plays," said Kilmer, who came to the Saints in the expansion draft, then beat out Gary Cuozzo, a quarterback who cost the Saints two No. 1 picks, for the starting job.

"If a quarterback makes a bad play, he has to come back and make a good one. And another. And another. I never got on a receiver for a drop. I threw so many knuckleballs, I couldn't blame anyone for dropping one. Drops happen. But if someone missed an audible or ran a wrong route, he heard about it. I don't know if Brooks has lost any confidence. I don't know why he should. He was impressive when he came in and got the opportunity. He proved right away he could play in this league. The trick is you gotta keep on proving it. You gotta keep making plays. Favre (who has 19 interceptions) is making his share of bad plays. But he's still finding ways to make good ones."

After being traded to Washington for a fourth-round and a sixth-round draft choice, Kilmer made enough good plays to help steer the Redskins into Super Bowl VII, where they lost to the unbeaten Dolphins.

It so happened, on the day the Saints were losing to the Bucs, the Redskins were handing the 4-9 Giants their fifth straight loss and possibly sidelining quarterback Kerry Collins for Sunday night's game in the Superdome.

"If Saints fans are angry," said Kilmer, "think about Giants fans. Two years ago, with a team quarterbacked by another ex-Saint, the Giants were in the Super Bowl. Now it looks like the coach (Jim Fassel) is on the way out. Along with many players. It keeps reminding you what a short trip it is from the penthouse to the outhouse."

Peter Finney can be reached at or (504) 826-3802.

WhoDat 12-10-2003 10:24 AM

Peter Finney QB's good outdone by bad
What do you guys think of Fassel as a candidate for the Aints job?

Danno 12-10-2003 10:29 AM

Peter Finney QB's good outdone by bad

What do you guys think of Fassel as a candidate for the Aints job?
I like him. But we\'re tied to Haz for a couple more years.
If it wasn\'t for a bad kicker/snapper, and an admittedly blown call in favor of the niners (gee that never happens) he\'d have been in the title game.

2003 Saints with Jim Fassel = 11-5 Minimum

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