The TV cameras were set up in the young quarterback’s living room, the best to catch the certain feeling of elation and exultation when his name would inevitably be called over the loudspeakers in New York City. And the one-eyed monsters didn’t miss a trick; the NFL commissioner made the announcement, and the gunslinging QB from the gunslinging state of Texas — the University of Houston, to be specific — raised his arms in triumph.
“Yes! Run-and-shoot baby!”, he cried.
Andre Ware was grinning from ear-to-ear.
Somewhere under the Silverdome’s circus tent, Lions coach Wayne Fontes’s moon face was lighting up, too.
Ware, the hotshot quarterback from Houston, who had obliterated school records while running the college version of the run-and-shoot, was headed to Detroit, where Fontes was trying to shoe horn the pro version into the woeful Lions offensive schemes.
It was April, 1990, and the Lions had a superstar running back, Barry Sanders, and a boat load of receivers. Some were able to properly catch a football; others were there because the Lions favored quantity over quality. All they needed was a QB familiar with the frantic run-and-shoot — the offense where the ball is snapped, and a quartet of receivers scatter all over the field, with the theory being that the more of them that are out there, the QB is sure to find one man open. The Houston Oilers were running a rather successful version in the gunslinging state. Though their quarterback and receivers were lower on quantity and higher on quality.
Long story short: Andre Ware, on the surface, seemed to possess the physical qualities of a prototypical stud NFL QB: he was tall, athletic, and young. But it turned out that he lacked one key ingredient: the ability to throw the football anywhere near a potential receiver.
Ah, but it is still my contention, some 18 years later, that had Ware not missed all of training camp due to a contract dispute in his rookie year, things may have turned out differently for him and the Lions. Guess we’ll never know for sure.
Andre Ware today, still showing his face despite his draft bust
They’re holding another of those draft circuses this weekend, and the Lions are still ones to err on the side of quantity than quality. They love to stockpile draft picks, never minding that they rarely know how to use them wisely. This year they have the 15th player off the board, a departure from the norm, where the Lions are usually possessors of something in the top five. And because of their lower-than-usual pick, the mocksters with their pretend drafts have the Lions selecting any one of five or six different players. History says it may not even matter.
But it’s still exciting, the draft. It’s kind of like spring training in baseball; every team feels a jolt of optimism over the players they’ve selected. All things seem possible in April — the reality of December be damned.
Today, Andre Ware is an analyst for college football games on network TV. He’s had to wear the label of “draft bust” ever since 1992 or so, and the reality is that he’ll never shake it. But he’s not hiding; being on network TV is no way to do that, even if you are commentating on the less stellar matchups every Saturday.
I wonder what goes through Ware’s mind every year around this time.