Ty Proving He's A Late Bloomer

Posted: November 21, 1996

This was late April 1992. The second day of the NFL draft. They were into the ninth round of the then-12-round selection process and there was a run on quarterbacks.

The Houston Oilers started by taking Bucky Richardson, of Texas A & M, late in the eighth round with the 220th overall pick. Tampa Bay followed by grabbing Mike Pawlaski, of California, with the 222nd. Minnesota selected Florida State's Brad Johnson at 227 and the Los Angeles Rams grabbed T.J. Rubley, of Tulsa, with the 228th pick.

After Arizona took a nose tackle out of Central Arkansas named David Henson with the 229th pick, the Green Bay Packers were on the clock.

In all, 15 quarterbacks already had been taken, and none of them was named Ty Detmer. Matt Blundin went in the second round. So did Tony Sacca. Will Furrer and Chris Hakel went in the fourth. Somebody named Ricky Jones went early in the eighth round.

But Detmer, the Heisman Trophy winner from Brigham Young who had set 59 NCAA records in college, still was unclaimed.

You've heard the reasons a thousand times. Too short. Didn't have a big-league arm. Not durable enough.

But the Packers, who two months earlier had traded their first-round pick to Atlanta for a strong-armed quarterback by the name of Brett Favre, gobbled Detmer up with the 230th pick.

``Mike Holmgren had a special feeling for him,'' general manager Ron Wolf said of the Packers coach. ``When Mike starts talking about quarterbacks, it's kind of like E.F. Hutton. You listen. He's done a marvelous job of developing quarterbacks.

``Mike picked Ty based on his feel that he would fit the [West Coast] system, know the system, understand the system that we have. We took a flier on him and it worked. All those things bore out.''

The West Coast offense fits Detmer like a spandex bathing suit fits Pamela Anderson Lee. He's proving that this season with the Eagles. The too-short, too-noodle-armed, too-breakable quarterback currently is ranked second in the NFC in passing behind his former teammate, Favre.

He has completed 60 percent of his passes, is averaging an NFC-high 7.43 yards per attempt and has thrown just five interceptions in 230 attempts.

``Ty knows the [West Coast] system as well as anybody knows the system,'' said Wolf, who lost Detmer to free agency last spring. ``That's why he made our team to begin with. Because of his knowledge of the system. Our coaching staff, Mike in particular, knew you could put this kid in a game and he wouldn't lose the game for you.''

Holmgren and Wolf have proved to be pretty good judges of quarterback flesh since arriving in Green Bay in '92. A year after trading for Favre and drafting Detmer, they spent a fifth-round pick on a lefthanded quarterback out of the University of Washington named Mark Brunell.

Brunell, who was traded to Jacksonville in April '95, leads the NFL in passing yards with 3,080.

``We had the three of them for two years [1993 and 1994],'' Wolf said. ``The most critical position in the National Football League, and we were covered. Then suddenly, we were faced with an entirely new system that eliminated that coverage. If not for free agency, we would've been set for a long time.

``By the same token, if Ty and Brunell were still with us, no one would know how good they are, because they'd still be sitting on the bench backing up Brett.''

Brunell was the first to leave. Wolf, realizing he would soon lose him to free agency, traded Brunell to the Jaguars in exchange for third- and fifth-round draft choices.

The Packers had hoped to hang on to Detmer. But when the Eagles dangled an opportunity to compete for a starting job in front of him last spring, Detmer jumped at it.

``We offered him an inordinate amount of money to stay here as our backup quarterback,'' Wolf said. ``But he wanted to go somewhere and get an opportunity to play. You certainly can't fault anybody for that.''

Detmer threw just 21 regular-season passes in his four years in Green Bay. But Wolf and Holmgren never doubted he could cut it as a starting quarterback in the NFL. Especially in the West Coast offense.

``He's a lot better than people thought he was,'' Wolf said. ``The people who said he couldn't play in this league are the same idiots who said how stupid we were to trade a No. 1 pick for Brett Favre.

``They said [Detmer] was too short. Everybody said he was only 5-11. We brought him in here before the draft in '92 and measured him at 6-0 1/4. We determined, bleep, that's plenty tall enough.

``He didn't do all of those [record-breaking] things at Brigham Young because he's a horsebleep passer. The only thing that hurt Ty here is people comparing his throws to Brett's throws. Brett's got one of the strongest arms in the league . . .

``But Ty's arm is more than adequate. And he's always had an ability to lead a team when he had the opportunity and not screw it up.''

The Eagles are 4-2 since Detmer replaced Rodney Peete as the starting quarterback. Two more completions and they'd be 6-0. Talk to people around the league and they'll tell you the Eagles are a better team today with Detmer at quarterback than they were with Peete.

``It's very encouraging when you see a young man who's given an opportunity take the bull by the horns and play as well as he's played,'' Wolf said. ``It's a great credit to him and his toughness and dedication and belief in himself.

``The thing you could never dispel about Ty was that he was a fierce competitor. You heard all the things, you heard all the knocks against him. But then you looked at his peers, looked at a lot of the other people starting in the National Football League, and you shrugged your shoulders and said, `So?' ''

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