THE BLITZ: Is Maddox the next Kurt Warner?

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David Moore

David Moore has been the senior football writer for FOX Sports since Aug. 2005. He appears weekly on the FSN Baseball Report and MLB on FOX. One more line lorem ipsum dolor sit amet e pluribus unum.

Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher isn¿t looking for the next . He¿s simply looking for some consistency at quarterback with his decision to start . But according to the man who¿s coached both Warner and Maddox on the professional level, there isn¿t much difference between the two. ¿Tommy and Kurt are so similar it¿s almost scary,¿¿ said Al Luginbill, the head coach for the Detroit Fury of the Arena Football League. ¿Tommy is taller. Kurt has a stronger arm to the edge. But the ability to put the ball into a receiver on time and the pocket awareness are almost identical. ¿I do put them in the same context.¿¿ Wednesday¿s move leaves out of context. The quarterback spent most of last season laying his erratic reputation to rest. He threw just five interceptions in his first 14 games — there were 11 games where he threw none at all — and was a driving force behind Pittsburgh¿s rise to the AFC Championship game -- a loss to New England. Stewart reverted to form in that game with three interceptions and two fumbled snaps. The opened this season against the , and Stewart responded by throwing two interceptions in his first three attempts. He threw two more picks against Oakland and fumbled on first-and-goal from the 3-yard line in a loss to the . Stewart struggled again in Sunday¿s game against Cleveland. He did move his team down to the 22-yard line early in the fourth quarter, only to squander the possession by throwing an interception in the end zone. It was his 15th interception in the last seven games. It may be the last one he throws for a while. Maddox completed 11-of-13 passes for 121 yards and one touchdown to lead the to a come-from-behind victory over Cleveland. Cowher said after the game that he was leaning toward keeping Stewart as the starter. Once he looked at the numbers — Stewart¿s quarterback rating of 65.7 ranks 29th in the league — he began to lean the other way. Maddox will start Sunday on the road at New Orleans. It can be argued Maddox didn¿t earn the job; Stewart lost it. But this league is about opportunity and being in the right place at the right time. Warner might never have emerged as one of the NFL¿s top quarterbacks in St. Louis if hadn¿t gone down with an injury before the start of the 1999 season. Luginbill coached Warner in NFL Europe with the Amsterdam Admirals in ¿98. He was the coach of the Los Angeles Xtreme three years later when Maddox led the team to the XFL Championship. Kevin Colbert, Pittsburgh¿s director of football operations, had a long talk with Luginbill about Maddox before the went to training camp last season. The club decided to give him a shot. ¿The tangibles are his quick release and his accuracy,¿¿ Luginbill said of Maddox. ¿The intangibles are he is very bright and very tough, mentally and physically. He doesn¿t come off that way (tough), but he is. ¿His ability to throw the ball down the middle of the field with tight coverage. His ability to put the ball where it¿s supposed to be, where his guys can catch it. Those stand out.¿¿ So does his ability to avoid the rush. Maddox was sacked just 12 times in his 12 games with the Xtreme. ¿That¿s a testament to him because we did not have a great offensive line,¿¿ Luginbill said. ¿We were decent there. But his ability to get rid of the football was a key to that. ¿At least half of the teams in the NFL, he could start for. I think he will be successful.¿¿ Football has turned out to be quite an odyssey for Maddox. The former first-round pick of the Denver — is there anything worse than being selected by a team that already had John Elway? — has played for seven teams in three leagues in the last 10 years. He took a one-year hiatus from the sport to sell insurance. Now, he must sell his teammates on the fact that he¿s the quarterback to get Pittsburgh¿s flailing offense back on track. ¿I don¿t know where this is going to lead,¿¿ Luginbill said. ¿But I wish him the best of luck. ¿I think it¿s a perfect fit. They have a good running game and a great defense. Those are things Tommy can thrive on.¿¿

Quarterback jeopardy

I¿ll take football nonsense for $100, Alex. Answer: This team has three quarterbacks, and the only one who hasn¿t started a game this season was declared the outright winner of the job Wednesday. Question: Who are the ? That is correct. We also would have accepted, "What in the world is head coach Dick LeBeau thinking?" or "What can this franchise screw up next?" Twenty-four hours after said the had created a monster with their indecisive approach to the position, LeBeau announced that Kitna would start against Indianapolis and this game of musical quarterback would end. LeBeau told the players and the media the would, ¿sink or swim¿¿ with Kitna as their quarterback. Bet on sink. Cincinnati is off to a terrible start even by Cincinnati¿s standards. The have managed just one touchdown in their first four games and were outscored 119-23 in September. ¿We¿re 0-4 and haven¿t done a thing,¿¿ said Kitna, who stood on the sidelines while and failed. ¿Everybody knows that. It¿s as ugly as I¿ve seen in my seven years in the league. ¿That¿s the reality of it.¿¿ The reality is Kitna is unlikely to make it through the remainder of the season as the starter. The indicated that Wednesday and he¿s as good as any of the options. But when asked point blank if Kitna would be the starter for the remainder of the season, LeBeau talked about the importance of stabilizing the position and how he told Kitna to get ready to play and not look over his shoulder. Translation: Kitna will be the quarterback until the season is hopelessly lost, then look for the to go back to Smith to determine if he has a role in their future or if it¿s time to end their relationship. LeBeau, by the way, said he hasn¿t decided who will be the No. 2 quarterback.

Fourth and short

  • The have dealt with more than the Maddox or Stewart question in their preparation for Sunday¿s game against the . Club officials discussed moving practice to San Antonio if Hurricane Lili threatened New Orleans. The hurricane moved west of the city and the were able to stay at their facility. Still, the club had a contingency plan in place that would allow members of the organization and their families to stay in local hotels or hotels in Mobile, Alabama if anyone wanted to move to higher ground.
  • Denver has been fined $1 million and stripped of a third-round pick in the 2003 draft for a violation over how it handled deferred compensation for former stars John Elway and . That¿s too soft. If the NFL office really wanted to penalize the , they should have made a tape of Denver¿s special teams play in Monday night¿s loss to Baltimore and distributed those to every player in the league.
  • At least , the only unsigned pick from the first round of the April draft, is staying busy. The offensive tackle made an appearance at Miami¿s Children¿s Hospital on Wednesday to promote a charitable cause. Now, if only the Minnesota were a little more charitable in what they were offering.
  • The final word¿ ¿comes from coach Mike Tice about all that has befallen his team in this 0-4 season. ¿We¿ve had a lot of things happen in succession. At some point, I¿d like to take a breath.¿¿ Senior writer David Moore can be reached at his e-mail address,
  • Tagged: Bengals, Browns, Broncos, Chiefs, Rams, Vikings, Saints, Steelers, Jon Kitna, Akili Smith, Gus Frerotte, Kurt Warner, Kordell Stewart, Bryant McKinnie, Tommy Maddox

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