Blake Reaches New Heights as Bengal Quarterback


Jeff Blake’s flirtation with fame has lasted nearly two months--far more than the customary 15 minutes.

Why spoil it all by asking about his height?

“I still don’t understand what height has to do with playing quarterback,” said Blake, the former third stringer now starting at quarterback for the Cincinnati Bengals.

At 6 foot, Blake is the shortest quarterback on an NFL roster. Most are in the 6-3 to 6-5 range, though some, such as the Kansas City Chiefs’ Joe Montana (listed at 6-2) are taller in the media guide.


Many statuesque quarterbacks, though, would like to know how the air is down there, considering Blake’s performance in six starts. The Bengals were 0-7 when injuries to starter David Klingler and backup Don Hollas forced coach David Shula to play Blake, who was cut by the Jets in training camp, against the Cowboys Oct. 30.

Blake passed for 243 yards and two touchdowns as the 15-point underdog Bengals, who had a 14-0 lead, lost, 23-20. A week later, he passed for 377 as the Bengals beat the Seattle Seahawks in overtime, 20-17. Then he passed for 348 in a 34-31 victory over the Houston Oilers Nov. 13. Things have cooled the past three weeks, but in losses to the Indianapolis Colts (17-13), Denver Broncos (15-13) and Pittsburgh Steelers (38-15, a close game late in the third quarter), the Bengals (2-11), who play the New York Giants (6-7) at Giants Stadium Sunday, have been decidedly more competitive.

Klingler, a 6-2, first-round draft choice making $1.1 million, has recovered from his sprained knee -- but not regained his job.

“With the injuries, we had no choice but to play Jeff,” Shula said. “He was so productive, he deserves the chance to continue to play. It was a natural decision. Our offensive production has risen significantly, and the level of play of people like (wide receiver) Carl Pickens has also risen.”

Blake, who turns 24 Dec. 24, has completed 112 of 199 for 1,566 yards and nine touchdowns with five interceptions. His 86.4 rating is third in the American Football Conference behind the Miami Dolphins’ Dan Marino (88) and Denver’s John Elway (87).

“The important thing is everybody is having fun,” Blake said. “I couldn’t believe the way the city reacted. After one game, they made me feel like a first-round draft pick. I guess they haven’t had much excitement here.”


The Bengals averaged 259 total yards in the first seven games, 347 since Blake became the starter.

“Blake has made a big difference,” Giants Coach Dan Reeves said. “He has made some big-time throws and given them confidence they can compete. They have a couple of dangerous receivers in Darnay Scott (39 receptions, 776 yards) and Pickens (50, 874), but that all came about since Blake has been in there.”