The Washington Times - August 18, 2008, 04:27PM

There’s an old saying in Tennessee-I know it’s in Texas, probably in Tennessee-that says, fool me once, shame on-shame on you. Fool me-you can’t get fooled again. – G.W. Bush

No matter what anyone believes now, there was really no way to predict exactly how Maryland’s quarterbacks would perform in games last year.

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No. Way. At. All.

So when Jordan Steffy struggled at times last September and Chris Turner produced a couple memorable moments (and a clunker or two with the remnants of his offensive line, to be completely fair), those were things no one really could have seen coming.

But with enough of a look at both guys in games, there’s no blaming the quarterback if Maryland’s season slips away from it before the calendar turns to October.

Dubya’s saying works in Texas, in Tennessee and, amazingly enough, in Maryland. And in this case, it means the onus is on Ralph Friedgen (and, to a lesser extent, James Franklin) if Terrapins fans have an incredible case of deja vu this season. In short, Ralph better hope he didn’t get fooled again.

The big fella didn’t face the most difficult of questioning today; for example, no one stood up and asked if he remembered the 2007 season. Given that he’s pretty much acknowledged all three of them will probably play, it looks like he knows this isn’t the last word on the subject.

But he defended himself without much prodding, and anyone who thinks he isn’t aware of how many fans view Steffy is wrong. It didn’t take long to ask for “everyone” – whoever “everyone” constitutes – to rally behind his choice.

Friedgen still has some political capital to use in College Park. It isn’t nearly as plentiful as the amount he’d horded away with three straight 10-win seasons, and that is the price of four years of mediocrity (though 25-23 and two bowl berths in that span is still better than the dark time of the 1990s).

The question remains whether he’ll have any of that capital remaining if choosing the proven practice star backfires in the long run. Friedgen fretted about his credibility if he talked about a competition and then didn’t give the job to the guy who fared the best.

It’s a nasty spot for him to be in, especially since the visual evidence from last year pointed to Turner. No, the junior wasn’t the second coming of Joe Montana and Johnny Unitas wrapped into a neat package with a bow. But he did show the ability to throw downfield with some consistency, something Steffy did not manage to do in 4 1/2 games.

But that’s Friedgen’s cross to bear. As he frequently reminds reporters, his “job is to win football games.”

And if he doesn’t this season because of an inert offense, he’s going to have some very cranky customers. It will mainly stem from the fact he would have been fooled again, and that’s something even one of the least notable wordsmiths of our time knows you simply cannot do.

Patrick Stevens