There is no quarterback controversy on the New York Giants, got
that? Absolutely none. Dave Brown took a shot in the back on the
Giants' second series against Arizona on Sunday and was through
for the day. Danny Kanell, the rookie from Florida State whose
NFL game duties had consisted of kneeling down three times at
the end of a blowout, took over and beat the Cardinals 16-8 at
the Meadowlands. Or let's put it this way: The Giants beat the
Cardinals while Kanell was playing quarterback.
He was shaky in the first half, good in the second, especially
on the two throws that doomed Arizona. But in a town that loves
controversy, particularly of the quarterback variety, this
performance will not trigger one, no it won't, because that's
what everyone on the Giants told me. Brown is the starter,
Kanell's the backup, see?
"A quarterback controversy? Oh, sure, let's have one," coach Dan
Reeves said, laughing. "Just what we need."
Seven weeks ago, when the Giants were 0-3, there was a
quarterback controversy: Brown versus Brown. Is he or ain't he?
Can we build a future around him or not? No other party was
mentioned because there wasn't one. Tommy Maddox, brought in by
Reeves in '95 to challenge for the job, was gone. Cut in August.
Stan White, the third-year pro, was and is a perennial backup.
Kanell was the green, fourth-round draft choice.
Brown responded by winning three out of five. But on Sunday the
22-year-old Kanell stepped in and made a couple of terrific
throws. Aeneas Williams had him nailed in the third quarter on a
cornerback blitz, but Kanell stood tall, took the wallop and
completed a 12-yard toss to Thomas Lewis, setting up a 32-yard
field goal to make it 6-0. In the final period Kanell was
scrambling when he laid a pass in the hands of Lewis, who was
racing across the field, for a 24-yard TD. That made the lead
13-0 and put the game out of reach. It's not out of reach at
13-0, you say? Then you've never seen Boomer Esiason throw on a
windy day at the Meadowlands. Believe me, it was out of reach.
Does this kind of performance by Kanell generate an
honest-to-goodness controversy? "You know New York," said left
guard Lance Smith. "They're going to create one even if it's not
"You should have heard them in the stands," said Mary Ann
Rooney, the wife of the Giants' pro personnel director, Tim
Rooney. "All they were yelling was 'Dan-nee! Dan-nee!'"
I can't remember ever hearing the fans yelling, "Dave! Dave!"
but sometimes fans get confused, right?
Brown, a likable chap, looked surprised when someone mentioned a
controversy. "I don't know why there would be one," he said.
"I've proved myself all year."
"Oh, there might be if Dave hadn't been playing well in the last
few games," said cornerback Jason Sehorn. "But Danny did some
nice things out there, didn't he?"
What he did was open a window. Maybe not now, maybe not even
this season, but sooner or later the Giants are going to have to
take a long look at Kanell. His numbers were respectable, not
eye-catching--14 completions in 27 attempts for 128 yards--but
he didn't turn the ball over in the nasty winds, and he handled
himself with something close to a swagger.
"We were taking bets on what his first play would be," Sehorn
said. "It was even money on draw or screen. Then he threw a
fade--and got a 19-yard interference call out of it. Look at him
over there, answering all those questions. You're looking at a
"Tough place to play," someone said to Kanell in the locker room
after the game, referring to the biting wind.
"Nah, New York is the best," he said. "Just look at the Yankees."
"They never had to play in this wind," someone else said.
Well, let's put this thing in perspective. Kanell took minimal
snaps during the week, came in cold and delivered. But he was
facing a defense that didn't make much of an effort, except for
Williams and linebacker Seth Joyner. And Brown should be back
this Sunday night at Carolina.
Still, the kid came through. There is no quarterback controversy
on the Giants. Not now, anyway.
COLOR PHOTO: LOUIS CAPOZZOLA A rookie from Florida State, Kanell completed 14 of 27 passes. [Danny Kanell in game]