Slash may be history, but Stewart worthy of shot
June 1, 2005
By Clark Judge
CBS SportsLine.com Senior Writer
Kordell Stewart, where are you?
Four years ago he was an MVP candidate. Two years ago he was a free-agent millionaire. And today he is ... well, today he is unsigned and unwanted.
Kordell Stewart's dismal 'Chicago experience' is scaring teams away. (Getty Images)
"I don't understand it," said Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Fassel.
Neither do I. Sure, I'm aware of the guy's limitations, and, yes, I know it has been almost 18 months since he has thrown a pass that counts. But let's be real here: Are you going to tell me that he can't make it somewhere, anywhere, as a backup quarterback?
I mean, New England just signed Doug Flutie to carry Tom Brady's clipboard, and Flutie turns 43 in the fall. Chad Hutchinson's the backup in Chicago, and he's 3-11 as a starter. Stewart turns 33 this year, is 48-34 as a regular-season starter and quarterbacked Pittsburgh to two AFC title games.
What's not to like? His arm? OK, fine, tell me how accurate the Cowboys' Tony Romo and Drew Henson are. His ability to make big plays? Tell me how many big ones Cleveland backup Josh Harris made? His age? You know about Flutie. Minnesota backup Brad Johnson turns 37 in September.
"He hasn't played well in his last two opportunities," said an AFC general manager. "Obviously, the Chicago experience is still weighing on everybody's minds."
Ah, yes, the Chicago experience. Stewart was 2-5 in 2003, barely completed 50 percent of his passes, threw five more interceptions (12) than touchdown passes (seven) and had an abysmal 56.8 passer rating. He also ran for 290 yards and scored three times, including the only touchdown in a 19-10 upset of Denver.
Peyton Manning he was not. But if you're going to judge a career by a half year in Chicago, where the Bears run through quarterbacks the way Buffalo goes through snow, then guys like Jim Miller, Shane Matthews and Chris Chandler -- all Bears alums -- wouldn't get second chances. And that's what this is all about
: Another chance.
Look, I don't envision Stewart as the savior of the next franchise looking for a quarterback, but I do consider him worthy of a shot as a No. 2. If a starter were injured, which is what happened to Pittsburgh's Tommy Maddox after he replaced Stewart in 2002, I'd be confident that Stewart could step in and win.
In fact, Stewart did just that, beating Cincinnati and Jacksonville before Maddox returned.
Now, let's look at the last time he played a complete season. That was 2001. Stewart threw for 14 touchdowns, ran for five more and led the Steelers to an AFC-best 13-3 season -- including an 8-1 record down the stretch.
"The problem," said an AFC scout, "is that he's not 'Slash' anymore. He can't run like he once did. What made him attractive in 2001 was his ability to improvise and escape, and that's not longer there. He doesn't scare anyone anymore when the ball is in his hands. And he certainly doesn't scare them when it's in the air.
"That said, I find it hard to believe he's not somewhere as a backup. Someone will sign him, and they'll probably do it in training camp after a quarterback goes down."
Maybe. But that would be a shame, too, because by then it's too late for Stewart -- or anyone, for that matter -- to absorb a new system and be of much help.
"People evaluate him as a guy who has to have the pieces around him to succeed," said an AFC pro personnel director, "and he has to be put in situations where he makes certain throws. People who want athletic quarterbacks are going to look at younger guys like (Buffalo's J.P.) Losman or (Washington's Jason) Campbell rather than trying to resume Kordell's career."
But Losman is the starter in Buffalo. And Campbell one day will be the starter in Washington. Stewart's been there, done that, and now he's strictly a backup looking for a chance. I don't know if there is interest. Stewart's agent, David Dunn, didn't return a phone call. But I know there should be.
"I liked our time together," said Fassel. "He has an overall feel for the game, he's a hard worker and we got along well. I've just got to believe that when it's all said and done somebody will sign him."
Baltimore might have been interested except that backup Anthony Wright is healthy, and the club used its sixth-round draft choice this year on Oregon State's Derek Anderson. Now there's no certainty when or if Stewart finds another home.
"Hey, Randall Cunningham was an MVP, and he was on the streets a year later," said an AFC general manager. "It all about
: What have you done for me lately?"
I'm just kidding.