Gary Cuozzo

Minnesota Vikings



Gary Cuozzo in many ways is the opposite of his predecessor at Minnesota, Joe Kapp. Off the field, Cuozzo is a quiet, scholarly type. On the field, he's not an exciting figure, but a smooth operator with a strong grasp of the situation.

Bounced about as a back-up quarterback at Baltimore and New Orleans, the 29-year-old 8-year veteran finally found himself in the right place at the right time in 70. Kapp left the Vikings in a contract dispute, and Cuozzo at last had an opportunity to prove himself over the long haul.

His own background was not without its spectacular moments. At Baltimore in '65, he replaced injured Johnny Unitas against the Vikings, of all people, and threw five touchdown passes. The next day Minnesota coach Norm Van Brocklin said he was quitting.

Cuozzo was a Phi Beta Kappa at Virginia and later ranked No. 1 in his graduating class at the University of Tennessee dental school. Since becoming the Vikings' No. 1 quarterback, he's proved he's smart enough to capitalize on a good situation when he sees one.

"Cuozzo is an accurate passer and very smart," a scout said. "His intelligence and accuracy are going to get him by. He doesn't have the greatest talent as far as throwing the ball but he's aware of what he can do best. He avoids taking a chance on something where he doesn't like his chances of succeeding. He's like Len Dawson in that respect. He's a great believer in doing his thing."

A veteran corner back noted, "Cuozzo is cool as far as running the team and taking charge. He's a good passer but he doesn't pass that much. Minnesota has such a good ground game that he doesn't have to put the ball in the air a lot. He's a smart guy who stays within his capabilities. He's not spectacular, but he won't spoil his chances either."

Another defender noted, "Cuozzo has the ability to really pick a defense. You realize it once you get across the line from him."

At 6-1 and 195, Cuozzo isn't the lusty physical specimen that Kapp is. He won't dazzle you often, but he'll rarely disappoint you either.

"He is a good field general," a scout said. "He will use what is going for him. If his running game is going well, he will continue to rely on it, along with his percentage passes. His theory is ball control.

"Cuozzo is very accurate on his throws and he throws the soft pass, one that is very easy to catch. He can throw long and has a good touch on his long passes. He will throw all types of passes: pocket, roll-out, bootleg. He has the ability to be very high in completion percentage, but he will not attempt as many passes as most quarterbacks."

Cuozzo is smart enough to know that he doesn't need to as long as things are going right with the Vikings.