One player never makes a team

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 22, 1999

As we enter the seventh week of the NFL&160;season, one thing is perfectly clear. One player does not make a team.

The Denver Broncos have faced that reality with the retirement of John Elway. Elway’s cannon-arm may have weakened during his years as a quarterback but his leadership abilities were the secret to the Broncos.

Elway’s laid back approach to the game kept his team loose. Elway still struck fear in the hearts of defensive players too. He still could pull the miracle comeback and the Broncos would ride his passing ability down the field.

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Terrell Davis tried to carry the load. It is hard for one man to run against an eight-man defensive line. Such a mismatch doesn’t end up in success for the offense.

Davis’ season-ending injury has left Bronco fans wondering if they will even make the playoffs let alone defend two straight Super Bowl titles.

Another team that is learning this valuable lesson is the New Orleans Saints. The Saints should have learned this years ago.

The Saints wasted the career of Archie Manning by surrounding him with nobodies for most of his tenure at New Orleans.

Manning was a great quarterback. Given any other team, Manning would still be the standard for which quarterbacks are judged. Unfortunately for Manning, his lot in life was to suffer through inglorious seasons with the Saints.

The best the Saints could muster with Manning at the helm was two 8-8 seasons.

Mike Ditka mortgaged the Saints farm to get Heisman winner Ricky Williams.

Granted, Williams has been injured for the whole season and Saints fans will have to wait until next year to see everything he really do.

Even if Williams was healthy, his success this year would have been tenuous at best.

NFL defenses will not let the best player beat them. It is only the true greats who can overcome the defensive strategy against them.

Williams was destined to face hostile defenses stacked up against him. So far, the defenses have not let Williams down. Most defenses place eight players in the box and dare the Saints to throw the ball.

This brings us to the heart of the Saints problem. The Saints need a quarterback that defenses would respect or even fear.

Billy Joe Hobert is the only quarterback of the bunch who has a hope of achieving this. Unfortunately, Hobert seems unable to complete a full season without a serious injury.

The Saints have improved the running back and wide receivers positions. Getting Eddie Kennison to compliment Keith Poole was a good move. Cam Cleeland is an excellent choice at tight end. The one missing ingredient is a quarterback who scares defenses with his arm and accuracy and leadership skills.

The games Hobert has played show he is a good quarterback. The Saints are a different team when he isn’t in the line up.

The next issue would be play calling. Obviously the Saints are having problems in this area. Ditka wants to use Williams and offensive coordinator Danny Abramowitz prefers to distribute the ball throughout the offense.

Something will have to give after this season. If the Saints have another loosing record, look for Abramowitz to be given his walking papers.

Ditka’s playoff dreams will have to wait until the Saints can get them a proven quarterback who can lead them back to the playoffs.

Tim Isbell is creative director at The Democrat.

He can be reached at 446-5172 ext. 233 or by e-mail at