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Selfish Quarterback Turns Tough Call Into Easy Audible

Wed., Nov. 8, 1995

For a newspaperman to suggest someone keep his mouth shut is either hypocrisy or a death wish, or both.

If too many people do, we’re out of business.

But reason would tell you that had Chad Davis dummied up, he wouldn’t be setting his watch on Elba Standard Time this morning.

This is not necessarily a reasonable situation. Washington State football coach Mike Price acknowledged as much in making Davis quarterback non grata for the remainder of the 1995 season - and possibly beyond.

No one has filed papers yet. But like Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie, this has the smell of a marriage without legs.

The ramifications of Price benching his starting quarterback for what amounts to a combination plate of insubordination and subversion are both immediate and long term.

Maybe not so good for now - what with Ryan Leaf and Shawn Deeds left to steer a rather deflated liferaft - but inevitable and necessary for later.

For this much became evident almost from the minute Chad Davis threw himself into the quarterback mix at WSU two years ago: So secure is he in his regard for his ability that if the day ever came that the job wasn’t his, he wouldn’t be going quietly.

That day came Saturday.

The weird thing is, it was only temporary. Price yanked Davis for the second quarter against Cal, watched the precocious Leaf slip on a banana peel and then handed the reins back to Davis, presumably for the rest of the season. Some harm - 24 unanswered Cal points - no foul.

Until Davis called one.

The non-playing quarterbacks stand with Price to signal in plays from the sideline. Davis removed himself to the opposite end of the team area, where he pouted and complained to teammates and others. Reportedly, there was even an exchange with another player who had voiced encouragement to Leaf, and then to Davis when he returned.

“A negative and non-supportive attitude to his teammates and coaches,” is what Price called it.

Davis’ subsequent soliloquy to the press was almost irrelevant. If you don’t think so, consider how many times Chad Eaton, the Dennis-the-Menace defensive tackle of recent years, popped off about what aspects of Cougar football he’d overhaul if he were Price for a day - the feelings of teammates and coaches be damned.

Then consider how many times Eaton was benched. Try zero.

Price has a doghouse. Running back Frank Madu has been in it, mostly for putting his football career on hold to run track in the spring. Eventually, he worked his way out.

“Coach Price and I had our problems,” Madu said. “We resolved it. It wasn’t something that couldn’t be worked out. Coach Price is a good man. I’m not saying Chad isn’t a good person, either. But Coach Price is willing to work with you - if you’re willing to work with him.”

If you’re a player, you have to be a pretty rank hombre to get on Price’s bad side. Davis has managed. Price will not dredge up details, but he said it was “a disturbing pattern of behavior.

“It wasn’t a one-incident, one-game situation,” he insisted. “We’re not talking about that.”

What are we talking about?

A 22-year-old who spells “team” t-I-e-m.

Not to belabor the Eaton analogy, but remember his comical demand for more nickel defense last year? In making it, this loosest of cannons added the qualifier, “If it means taking me out on passing downs and putting in another DB, do it.”

Davis, meanwhile, cannot fathom a circumstance where his removal from the lineup might have any benefit - nevermind that Wazzu’s offense has been DOA for some time. Virtually all the other parts have been tinkered with. Receivers shuttle in and out. Madu, the No. 3 rusher in the Pac-10 this season, didn’t start until the seventh game. The quarterback is somehow untouchable?

Still, Davis will watch from the sideline these next two games and, should the Cougars lose in part because of shaky quarterback play, see it as vindication.

“It obviously wasn’t the right thing to do Saturday,” Davis said of Price’s decision to change quarterbacks.

Blame only falls squarely on the quarterback’s shoulders if it isn’t Chad Davis.

True, Leaf was a flop in his big chance. Anyone remember Davis’ debut last season against Illinois? He was only slightly less awful, had the advantage of three full weeks of preparation and was not given a surprise call a quarter into the game.

And that’s the heart of Davis’ snit - that he wasn’t told Leaf would get a shot. Nevermind that Leaf wasn’t told, either.

Fact is, it shouldn’t have been a surprise to Davis - and it wasn’t. Though he claimed otherwise after the Cal game, Davis has been looking over his shoulder for some time, with good reason.

“Chad earned everything he got in the off-season,” Price said Wednesday. “He outworked (Leaf) and widened the gap between them. That gap closed this last month. Ryan has gotten better. There was a big difference going into the season. There isn’t as big a difference now.”

But we’ve strayed here. In the end, Davis’ behavior showed up his coach and his team and left Price little choice but to do what he did Monday, though he did it with regret.

“It was really unnecessary,” Price said. “It didn’t need to happen.”

It would have happened sometime - next spring or next fall. Chad Davis is not all that ails WSU’s offense, but in the long run, Ryan Leaf is a more likely cure.

Leaf should have had to prove it. Davis saved him the bother.

You can contact John Blanchette by voice mail at 459-5577, extension 5509.

, DataTimes

Tags: football

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