by | Oct 24, 1994 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

“I’m not sure. How’d it look?”

— Scott Mitchell, joking about his performance Sunday

They both had their jobs when the game was over. This they had in common. Neither would be benched. Neither would be cut.

Otherwise, trying to tell the winning quarterback from the losing quarterback in Sunday’s Bears-Lions game was a little like trying to tell who had a rougher night last night, Mick or Keith.

I mean, neither one was a pretty sight.

Try this test: The man who completed 29 of 48 passes, including a 76-yard touchdown bomb, and a clutch touchdown just before halftime, is . . .

a) The winning quarterback.

b) The losing quarterback.

c) Too good to be playing in a Bears-Lions game.

The answer is b) the losing quarterback, Erik Kramer. That’s right. On his return to the Silverdome, he made enough good plays to win, but had three interceptions, several bad drops, and wound up defeated, on crutches, with an ice bag around his ankle.

“You played good, they just won,” said Ken Dallafior, the former Lions lineman, who visited Kramer in the Bears’ locker room after the game.

“Yeah, I guess,” Kramer said.

“So how’s everything else going?”

“Oh, everything’s real good. We got a new townhouse, my son’s doing fine
. . .”

This is the loser?

Question 2: Who said this: “I didn’t even feel like I was in the game.”

a) The winning quarterback.

b) The losing quarterback.

c) Scott Hastings.

The answer is a) the winning quarterback, Scott Mitchell. Wait. Aren’t you supposed to be happy after you win? Well, normally. Then again, Mitchell — who has great talent — won’t be pasting Sunday’s stats in the family scrapbook.

The good news is he completed passes to six different receivers. The bad news is he completed only one pass to each of them.

Six completions? Eleven incompletions? Several that didn’t come close? And they won?

Somebody get me a compass. I must be facing the wrong direction. The ghost of quarterbacks past

This was Shop-And-Compare day for Lions quarterback fans. Kramer and Mitchell. Bring back the old, hold up the new. Kind of like divorcees running into each other at dinner with new mates.

“Hmmph, he was better off with me.”

“Hmmph, she left me for that?”

Kramer, of course, was the Lions quarterback — actually, one of three — for the last century (well, that’s what it felt like). He bolted to Chicago last spring when the Lions didn’t want him.

The Lions, of course spent their money on Mitchell, who was supposed to be all the things Kramer-Peete-Ware were not.

But who got the better of the deals? That depends on where you look — numbers or victories. Kramer is posting wonderful stats. He has one of the NFL’s best quarterback ratings. But in games he’s started, the Bears have won once.

Mitchell, meanwhile, is like a kid who’d prefer an oral exam to a written one. He has three wins, but the numbers are ugly. He is completing fewer than half his passes, his interceptions are close to his touchdowns, and his rating — however they figure that thing — is like an “American Bandstand” record you can’t dance to.

“I’m learning what it’s like to be the full-time starter,” he said. “And part of what I’m learning is painful. But I’m very comfortable in my ability to be a starter in the NFL.”

And now and then, he shows you why — like his scrambling, six-yard TD pass to Brett Perriman, which he directed like Spielberg.

Still, just as often, he seems tentative. “Personally, I think we play a little conservative,” Mitchell said. “I’d rather throw every down. I think we can get to that one day.”

Uh, sure, the day Barry Sanders says, “Here’s my shoes.” Until then, No. 20 is the gas that makes this team go, and it’s no accident he had 167 yards Sunday.

By the way, I should mention that on Barry’s 84-yard burst up the sidelines Sunday, Perriman was pretty much with Sanders stride-for-stride.

“I started behind him, I had to make two blocks, and I was still even with him at the end.” Perriman shook his head. “He oughta be ashamed of himself.”

We’ll tell him. And now for final Jeopardy . . .

As for Kramer, it was nice to see him on a team that doesn’t jerk him like a Vegas slot machine. When I suggested that at least he doesn’t have to worry about starting next week, he laughed. “Yeah, I have that going for me.”

The fact is if you build a system around Kramer, he’s a good enough quarterback to make plays — although he can still make the big mistake.

As for Sunday’s ending, which keeps the Lions season still breathing, albeit heavily?

“Typical,” Kramer said. “The Lions come back from the dead. I just didn’t want to be the one to help them do it.”

Final question: The quarterback who threw two touchdowns, went 12-18, and is in first place is . . .

a) Joe Montana

b) Jim Kelly

c) Rodney Peete.

Answer is c) Rodney Peete.

This was really a weird day.


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