SUWANEE, Ga. - Dan Reeves didn't win 141 games by being a poor judge of talent, so the Atlanta Falcons boss probably deserves some benefit of the doubt on his assessment of quarterback Tommy Maddox.
But the statistics sure do say otherwise.
Although Maddox has been roundly outplayed by Billy Joe Tolliver in the preseason, Reeves said Tuesday the competition for the No. 2 quarterback job is still very close going into Saturday's third preseason game against Washington in the Georgia Dome.
Maddox is competing for the No. 2 job with Billy Joe Tolliver, who finished last season as the Falcons' No. 3 quarterback. Each player received extended playing time behind Chris Chandler in a preseason game, and Tolliver enjoyed a much better performance. Or so it seems.
"That's probably a perception on guys' parts that don't look at film," Reeve said. "But they're awful close, and we want to get another look at both of them under the same circumstances, where they're playing with the same groups."
Tolliver played about three quarters in a 20-17 loss at Detroit Aug. 1 and completed 13 of 26 passes for 228 yards and a touchdown. He had the Falcons in position to tie the game in the waning seconds, but Paschall Davis botched the snap on a 42-yard field goal attempt.
Maddox got his opportunity last Saturday, entering the Tampa Bay game with about two minutes left in the first half. After taking the Falcons from their 20 to the Tampa Bay 45 in a two-minute drill, Maddox failed to generate any offense in the second half.
His dismal totals: five for 15 for 35 yards with one interception. Another pass was nearly intercepted, and Maddox was booed in the fourth quarter after a string of incompletions.
After the game, Reeves noted that Maddox "missed some open throws" and that "you've got to hit those whether there's pressure in your face or not."
But on Tuesday, the coach would only say that the battle for the No. 2 job is "still up in the air."
Reeves drafted Maddox 25th overall in 1992 while at Denver, and, despite the fact the quarterback has been a major disappointment, the coach seems intent on proving that the former UCLA star can play. Maddox followed Reeves to New York and was cut in training camp last year, and now he is trying to earn a berth with the Falcons.
Chandler will play about a half against the Redskins, and a coin flip will decide whether Tolliver plays the third quarter and Maddox the fourth or vice versa. The order will be reversed for the preseason finale Aug. 22 at Jacksonville.
Tony Graziani, a seventh-round pick out of Oregon, remains the favorite to win the No. 3 job. It's also possible Graziani could be placed on the practice squad and Maddox and Tolliver could both be retained.
Graziani nearly cost the Falcons the Tampa Bay game with a late interception that gave the Bucs possession at the Atlanta 17. The Falcons pulled out the victory only after stopping the Bucs eight consecutive times from inside the 3-yard line.
"He went out there with instructions to use the clock and so forth," said Reeves, who was visibly perturbed about the interception during the game. "The last thing in the world you want to do in that situation is throw an interception. But we're not going to judge the kid on that one play. He's done an awful lot of good things, and I think he's a good prospect."