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Archer hits World League target, and now NFL teams are looking


SACRAMENTO -- A funny thing has happened to David Archer's descending NFL stock. It has suddenly seemed to be stuck between floors.

"We're following him very closely," says Zeke Bratkowski, the Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback coach. "He looks like he's playing with a lot of confidence, and he's got that veteran poise.

"We've got to have him back in camp."

It was only December that the Eagles released Archer, having signed him in Week 15 as a desperation backup to Brad Goebel, an elevated third-stringer. But now their tone may be changing, and so, too, may that of other NFL clubs.

As he continues to flake off the rust at the expense of World League secondaries, Archer is making a whole new case for himself in the NFL job market. At age 30, he finds himself in the literal spring of his career, and his performance for the Sacramento Surge may yet guarantee another summer and fall.

"I think it's gotten me back out in front of [NFL] people who watch personnel," Archer says. "Every NFL team has people out everywhere. If a guy's out playing, and playing at a good level, it'll turn some heads."

In Archer's case, you can almost hear the swivels on NFL necks. Six years after his last gig as a regular starter, with the Falcons in 1986, he is running away with the World League's passing title. And his hand is growing hotter by the week.

Sunday's 376-yard, five-touchdown outing in Montreal was the fourth straight superlative showing for Archer, a seven-year NFL veteran. He has thrown for 1,307 yards, 12 touchdowns and just two interceptions in that span in completing 65 percent of his passes.

Of the top five passing performances in the league this year, Archer owns three of them -- including the top two.

"The main thing about the World League is, it's breathed life back into my career," Archer said last week. "It's breathed life back into me."

Whether all this translates into a headlining NFL job is up for conjecture, but interest is assuredly picking up. If Stan Gelbaugh can turn his London Monarchs resume into a starting role with the Cardinals, as he did last fall, then Archer's accomplishments -- against a vastly improved World League -- presume to carry the same weight.

"I think Stan Gelbaugh's success spurred some other people to play this year," Archer said. "I think it had a definite impact on me, in that he was able to go right from this league to the NFL."

Now, while former Maryland star Gelbaugh struggles against the World League's improved secondaries, Archer leads the league in yardage (1,928), touchdown passes (16) and overall quarterback rating (110.4). Among league regulars, he is tied for fewest interceptions (four) and is second in completion percentage (61.5).

"It's worked out very well for him," Bratkowski said. "We don't even think of it as, 'How much of a chance does he have?' We know that he's a quality football player. There's a lot of room in this league for a quarterback of his quality."

Easy to say now. Until the Surge's season opener on March 21, however, Archer hadn't played a single down in a regular-season game since 1989 in San Diego.

The Chargers cut him in August 1990, and he remained inactive the rest of the season. The Eagles cut him in training camp a year later, and even when they re-signed him in December, he never saw game action.

And now the Eagles are talking about how badly they want him back. Randall Cunningham, rehabilitated from his season-ending knee injury, will be in camp, as will Jim McMahon, who was exposed to Plan B but didn't budge; Goebel, who's working as the San Antonio Riders' second-stringer this spring behind Mike Johnson; and Casey Weldon, Philadelphia's fourth-round draft pick out of Florida State.

"Certainly, I want to be involved in some kind of quarterback race where I can compete," Archer said. "If it's not in Philadelphia, I hope it's somewhere else."

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