By ERNEST HOOPER
© St. Petersburg Times, published September 3, 2000
FOXBORO, Mass. -- It's been 26 years since an Ivy League quarterback started a season opener, and 17 years since someone other than Dan Marino was under center for the Miami Dolphins, but Jay Fiedler is convinced he can rewrite history in a positive way.
"Hopefully I'm remembered in a good way 10 years from now," Fiedler said. "It's another starting quarterback job in the NFL. I don't look at it right now that I'm following Dan Marino even though everyone here makes that comparison. I'm just a starting quarterback trying to win games."
Dave Wannstedt's decision to go with Fiedler has raised eyebrows. Even Marino said Damon Huard was the better choice. Huard started three preseason games and was 5-1 as a replacement for Marino last season.
Fiedler, who sustained a hip injury, missed most of the preseason and didn't play until the final game against New Orleans. The performance was a mixed bag: 10-for-14, 109 yards but three interceptions in five series.
The most notable statistic: He guided the first-team offense to a touchdown, converting second and 31 along the way. Huard didn't accomplish that in three preseason games.
Wannstedt said the biggest factor was Fiedler's overall performance from March to August.
"You don't want to get into specifics about who is faster or who has a better arm," Wannstedt said. "You can beat those things to death. It just comes down to the bottom line that a decision has to be made, and we feel he has the best feel for what we're trying to do, for the whole offense, than what Damon has right now."
MONEY WELL SPENT?: How much is Deion Sanders worth? The Cowboys are going to find out after declining to pay Sanders a $8-million signing bonus.
In an attempt to replace the quality that departed at cornerback, the Cowboys signed Ryan McNeil and Phillippi Sparks as free agents, drafted Dwayne Goodrich, Kareem Larrimore and Mario Edwards and re-signed Charlie Williams. McNeil and Sparks received $1.55-million signing bonuses, Goodrich $1-million, Larrimore $280,000 and Edwards $60,000. McNeil and Sparks also receive $450,000 apiece in salary this season, Williams $440,000, Goodrich $250,000 and Larrimore and Edwards $193,000 apiece.
Add it up and it comes to $6.3-million. Sanders wouldn't have been that much more expensive and Dallas wouldn't be struggling to find a corner. The three rookies have been disappointments, so the team signed Sparks after friend and former Arizona State teammate Darren Woodson talked him into coming out of retirement.
TALENT SEARCH: If the Falcons have a subpar season, one reason will be Dan Reeves' ongoing struggles acquiring talent. When Atlanta traded O.J. Santiago to Dallas last week, the Falcons became the only team with no players drafted in the first round of the 1997 draft.
The draft record "means that we haven't been doing a good job," Reeves said. "We've got to do a better job."
Reeves suggested the team should focus more on selecting the "best player available" rather than for need. NEW PERSPECTIVE: One reason the Giants' passing game may be more prolific is third receiver Joe Jurevicius has a new outlook.
Jurevicius arrived at camp in shock about an incident July 1, when he was among the volunteers who helped victims of a terrace collapse on Lake Erie that killed one and injured dozens. He was near the person who died.
"It kind of woke you up," Jurevicius said. "You're here one second and gone the next."
ET CETERA: Falcons running back Jamal Anderson: "We don't have the Big Three (like the Colts) -- all we have is the Little Me." ... Buffalo kicker Steve Christie bruised his right knee in the final preseason game. He is okay, but said he could kick with his left foot. In fact, he once kicked a 55-yard field goal in training camp left-footed. ... Since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, not one quarterback drafted with the No. 1 pick has won his first game as a starter in Kansas City -- Troy Aikman, Jeff George, Drew Bledsoe, Vinny Testaverde, John Elway, Jim Plunkett and Terry Bradshaw lost. That does not bode well for Peyton Manning. ... Dolphins middle linebacker Zach Thomas and defensive ends Jason Taylor and Trace Armstrong will donate $100 per tackle and $1,000 per sack to the Buoniconti Fund to Cure Paralysis. ... None of the Jets' record four first-round picks will start today, although defensive end Shaun Ellis and linebacker John Abraham should see plenty of action. ... Emmitt Smith on the Redskins' off-season acquisitions: "The Redskins have been loading up all year for us. It's going to be unfortunate when they lose." The Cowboys have won the past five meetings with the Redskins. Only 30 of 53 players return from last season's NFC East championship team. Six -- cornerback Darrell Green, tight end James Jenkins, running back Stephen Davis, receiver Michael Westbrook, center Cory Raymer and guard Tre Johnson -- remain from the 1996 opener. ... The Redskins and running back Stephen Davis agreed to a multiyear contract extension, the team said. The Washington Post reported Davis had agreed to a contract worth about $65-million for seven seasons, including a signing bonus of more than $6-million.
- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.