- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 17, 2000

As we near the halfway point of the schedule, it's looking more and more like the Redskins' best offseason move wasn't hiring Ray Rhodes or bringing in Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Mark Carrier. It was signing Jeff George and keeping him away from other teams with Super Bowl potential.

How much better would the Bucs be with George at quarterback? How about the Ravens? Or the Dolphins? Answer: A lot better than they are with Shaun King, Tony Banks and Jay Fiedler, that's for darn sure. All those clubs have dynamite defenses, but they're probably not going to be playing in Tampa on Jan. 28 because of questionable quarterbacking.

I'd hate to be the general manager in Tampa Bay, Baltimore or Miami when the season is over. How do you explain to the fans why you didn't go after George or go harder after George when all the Redskins had to offer him was a backup job? How do you say, "The Redskins wanted him more as a No. 2 guy than we did as a starter"? That just doesn't make any sense (especially if you've ever seen King, Banks and Fiedler throw the ball).

As Norv Turner said yesterday, "It's evident and obvious to people who watched us in training camp that Jeff's one of the best quarterbacks in the league."

He was last season, anyway, when he threw 24 touchdown passes for the Vikings and had a 94.2 passer rating. He wasn't too shabby in '97 (29 TD passes for the Raiders), '95 (24 for the Falcons) or '94 (23), either. I don't think of George as a long-term solution his baggage makes him too much of a gamble but I'd certainly sign him if I had a Super Bowl defense and a quarterback named King, Banks or Fiedler. It would be sheer negligence not to.

You wonder sometimes what's going through these GMs' heads. Yes, George has some leadership issues, but they didn't prevent the Vikes from making the playoffs last year or the Falcons from making them in '95. And at 32 (he'll be 33 in December), he only has a few more seasons left to really do something in the league (assuming the train hasn't already left the station). Translation: It's in his best interest to be on his best behavior.

And yet we have King starting for the 3-3 Bucs and Banks starting for the 5-2 Ravens and Fiedler starting for the 5-1 Dolphins while George stands with his arms folded next to Norv, wearing a Redskins cap. Crazy.

"I'm sure Jeff appreciates what Brad Johnson is doing [for the Redskins and doesn't feel slighted]," Turner said. "But I think, deep down, he looks out there and says, 'Shoot, I could help some of these teams in a big way.' "

But he'll never get the chance. At least not this year. And this might be the best shot Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Miami have at reaching the Super Bowl. There's no telling what the future holds for these clubs. Players get hurt. Breaks go against you. Stuff happens.

George isn't the only backup quarterback who could help the Bucs, Ravens and Dolphins. Randall Cunningham, flawed as he is, would be an improvement over King, Banks or Fiedler. So would Neil O'Donnell. And Trent Green. And Doug Flutie. (Flutie will fill in for injured Rob Johnson the next couple of weeks, but then he'll be back on the sideline.)

Heck, I'm not sure Gus Frerotte wouldn't give you better quarterbacking than the Quarterback-Less Three are getting. But Gus, like Cunningham and O'Donnell, wasn't in great demand after last season, even though he had completed nearly 61 percent of his passes for the Lions and beaten three of the NFC's six playoff teams (Rams, Vikings, Redskins). So he settled for a position as Brian Griese's understudy in Denver, a role he should probably get used to. (Gus Frerotte, this is your life. The System has turned you into Don Strock.)

In the days before scholarship limits, colleges would recruit players and sit them on the bench just so they wouldn't be able to play for rival schools. It's hard to do that in the NFL these days, though especially with quarterbacks because of the salary cap. One starting-quality QB is expensive enough for most clubs; two usually break the bank. That's why you have to admire the creativity that has enabled the Redskins to sign George and the Rams, Titans and Bills to hang onto Green, O'Donnell and Flutie. They're the best-built teams in the league because they have a second quarterback to fall back on.

The Bucs, meanwhile, don't have any quarterbacks to fall back on unless you consider King and Eric Zeier quarterbacks. The same goes for the Ravens (Banks, Trent Dilfer) and Dolphins (Fiedler, Damon Huard). When none of those clubs reaches the Super Bowl, it will be painfully obvious why.

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