- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 5, 2003

Some will say the return of Danny Wuerffel suggests the Redskins are down on backup quarterback Rob Johnson. There’s some truth to this, no doubt. Johnson hasn’t exactly taken to the Fun ‘n’ Gun like a (former) Buc to water.

But Wuerffel Redux might have as much to do with Patrick Ramsey’s training camp performance as with Johnson’s. Ramsey’s play in Ashburn has been very uneven — some hits here, some misses there — and his bosses may feel he could use the counsel and companionship of Wuerffel, his surrogate Big Brother last season.

As Steve Spurrier said yesterday, “After Patrick came off the field [last season] — and the coaches had given him some advice — he’d go talk to Danny. They were good friends last season.”

And there are few things a young quarterback needs more than friends, especially friends who are more knowledgeable about the offense than he is. Wuerffel, the ex-Florida Gator, was a veritable coach on the field for Ramsey, generously sharing his insights with the rookie and, in many cases, serving as his translator.

“We’d talk about anything from the personnel on the field to adjustments to X’s and O’s to just [giving him] encouragement,” said Wuerffel. … “When I was a young player [in New Orleans], Billy Joe Tolliver helped me so much as a quarterback. If I can do that for anybody, I’d be happy to.”

What Ramsey has been going through in camp is no great cause for alarm. We’re talking about a quarterback, after all, who has started only five games in his career. Nobody expects him to be Brett Favre just yet.

On the other hand, the first six weeks of the schedule are a killer — the Jets, followed by the Falcons, Giants, Patriots, Eagles and Buccaneers. The Redskins need Ramsey to be playing at a high level when the bell rings Sept.4. Anything less and they’re going to have trouble beating playoff-caliber teams (or even, perhaps, the hated Cowboys).

It’s probably asking too much for Patrick to keep up with the Donovan McNabbs and Brad Johnsons at such an early stage, but this is the situation the Redskins find themselves in — having to rely on a largely unproven QB. And to their credit, they’ve done what they can to make the world around him as comfortable as possible, to create the environment to be successful.

Most of their major moves since late last season have been with this in mind. First they re-signed Jon Jansen, at the cost of many millions, to protect Ramsey’s right flank. Then they spent more millions on a pair of free agent guards, Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore. Then they spent even more millions on speedy receivers Laveranues Coles and Taylor Jacobs, who will enable the offense to take better advantage of Patrick’s powerful arm.

And now they’re bringing back Wuerffel — to be his personal trainer, sounding board, best friend, chauffeur, whatever. This is another wise decision (and much less expensive than the others). Danny is absolutely no threat to Ramsey; he’s merely a facilitator. And if his presence makes Patrick a better quarterback — much as Don Strock’s tutelage aided young Dan Marino — he won’t have to throw a single pass to justify his spot on the roster.

That’s not to say he’ll spend the entire season clutching a clipboard. Johnson is No.2 on the depth chart for now, but it’s hardly written in stone. After playing under four head coaches — and in four different systems — the past four years, Rob may well be dealing with Information Overload. At any rate, he hasn’t been the quick study many in the organization hoped he’d be. And the opener against the Jets, as previously stated, is drawing near.

“Danny was out there audiblizing today,” Spurrier said after the morning workout. “I don’t know how many quarterbacks can come in and do that on the first day.”

Only one who knows the offense like his center’s rump. You get the feeling that if the season began today and Ramsey had to come out of the game for any reason, Wuerffel is the man the Ballcoach would want in there.

Which doesn’t mean anything has changed with Danny, that he isn’t still the Tim Wakefield of quarterbacks. Spurrier watched him float a few passes yesterday and found himself barking, “You need to zip the ball, dadgummit.” But Wuerffel is what he is. And right now he’s Bagger Vance — or perhaps the Horse Whisperer: When he talks, the Quarterback of the Future listens. And just as importantly, when the Quarterback of the Future talks, he listens.

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