Mcpherson's Time Has Gone

Posted: August 09, 1988

Unless something dramatic and dizzying occurs between now and the next Eagles exhibition season, Don McPherson probably will not see more sustained playing time in the near future than he saw Saturday night.

It's not that he isn't in the Eagles' plans; no, McPherson assuredly is. It's that there are two quarterbacks firmly ensconced ahead of him right now, and they need their preseason work, too.

So as the exhibition procession beats on, McPherson will get less and less time to play, and Randall Cunningham and Matt Cavanaugh will get more. And if Cunningham should happen to miss any time during the regular season, it is Cavanaugh who will step in.

McPherson is part of the future, Cunningham and Cavanaugh are the present. That's life in the big leagues for rookie No. 3 quarterbacks.

But what did McPherson do in his rare full half of play last Saturday against the Jets? All he did was make the most of it, and give Buddy Ryan an intriguing look-see before he begins riding the sideline.

"McPherson played well," Ryan said yesterday. "We made a hero out of him. I love that."

In his half of play, McPherson, against some of the Jets' first-team defenders, completed four of 10 passes for 74 yards, and fashioned a 52-yard drive that ended with him sneaking over for a third-quarter touchdown.

And, transcending the numbers, and most importantly for the coaching staff, McPherson had an air of calm about him throughout his stint. He looked like someone who can lead an offense.

When he scrambled, he was not out of control, and he often found open receivers as he ran. Indeed, he and rookie receiver Todd White hooked up on three big receptions during the touchdown drive, mostly on improvisation.

"I felt comfortable out there," McPherson said. "This is what you play the game for, to get an opportunity like that. I just wanted to make the most of it."

Said Ryan: "He did what I thought he would do. There's no question in my mind that he'll make our squad, but I wanted to take a look to be sure.

"I thought he did well in the game. He made some things happen, and you know, made some mistakes, too.

"But he's playing better than a lot of rookie quarterbacks, most of them, I'd say. He's a gamer. He likes to play, and he's a winner. I think he's a good quarterback, and I always will."

What still rankles McPherson a bit is the position most of the other teams took on him when they evaluated him for the draft coming out of Syracuse. More than a few scouts told him he did not have either the arm, the size or the poise to be an NFL quarterback.

Ryan, bucking that consensus opinion, took McPherson in the sixth round, as the second pure quarterback taken in the draft. And he made it clear that McPherson was there to be a quarterback, not a running back or wide receiver.

Was McPherson thinking about the doubters when he led his squad up the field Saturday?

"I wasn't thinking about those people at all," McPherson said. "That's their problem. When they said those things last spring, I said the same thing. That's their opinion, and they can have it.

"If they don't think I can play the position, that's fine. This team thinks I can, and I'll stay here if I can continue to be successful."

And now he has one NFL game - albeit an exhibition game - under his belt.

"This was one of the good opportunities for him to get a real, real look," offensive coordinator Ted Plumb said, "an opportunity where we say, 'It's your half, it's your baby.' That might not happen again for a while.

"More than anything, we felt all along that he had good poise and was really a game player. I just wanted to make sure in evaluating him he showed the same qualities we saw in college. I think we saw that he had."

It was the little things that the coaches liked.

"There were a couple of instances late in the game when we had 12 men on the field and he had the poise to call timeout and realize it," Plumb said.

"And the next play there was a sprintout, and instead of running out of bounds or throwing an incomplete pass, he got a couple of yards, slid feet first, didn't take the hit and kept the clock running.

"Those two kinds of things, although they're not big plays with the fans, show that he's a heady ballplayer. I was impressed with that, and I thought he threw pretty well."

Going into the game, McPherson himself conceded that he wasn't burning up the league with his passing technique in practices. His arm, never his strong point, seemed to be falling short of NFL muster. Until Saturday night.

"It wasn't noticeable, the kind of thing where you said, 'Wow, Don's really awful,' " Plumb said. "It wasn't like that. Sometimes his throws are a little high and just not as accurate as you'd like all the time.

"But in the game, I thought he threw the ball well and very accurately."

It was one full half in an exhibition game, but Don McPherson gave Eagles fans a glimmer of his talents. Keep the memory safe inside, because you might not have much more of him to remember this season.

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