- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 7, 2001

CARLISLE, Pa. — The MRI on quarterback Jeff George's sore right shoulder did not reveal any structural damage, according to Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer. Nor did it show significant inflammation, Schottenheimer said.

However, there's a rumor spreading around the streets of Carlisle that if you looked real close at the MRI, you could faintly see these words:

Quarterback controversy.

We've got one cooking here, baby. OK, maybe simmering, but with the right ingredients, it can come to a boil.

And it's not just any simple controversy, nothing as basic as Sonny vs. Billy. We're talking plots and subplots. You may need to construct one of those FBI Tony Soprano family hierarchy charts to follow it all.

First, let's start with the Redskins' starting quarterback for their first preseason game on Sunday, when Schottenheimer returns to Kansas City Todd Husak.

Husak could start the next two preseason games, depending on how much rest George's arm needs. Schottenheimer said yesterday he believes all George needs is to rest the arm, but he won't say for how long. "I don't like to play doctor," he said. (Of course, it depends who you're playing doctor with.)

"I don't think you can ever predict how long it might take," Schottenheimer said.

What if Husak does well? By well, I mean run the typical Schottenheimer ball control offense, protect the ball and basically not mess things up. I mean, let's face it, no one is really rooting for Jeff George except for Mrs. George, his three kids and Michael Westbrook, right?

This is Husak's type of offense. "We ran a similar type of offense, West Coast, if you want to call it that, in college," he said. "I do have some experience running it, and we had a lot of success with it at Stanford."

He threw for more than 300 yards nine times at Stanford, twice going over 400 yards. He completed 465 passes in 872 attempts for 6,564 yards and 41 touchdowns at Stanford. As a senior, he was the first Stanford quarterback to be first-team All-Pac 10 since John Elway in 1982. He had a lot of success with it at Stanford.

But this ain't Stanford, baby. This is the NFL (actually, preseason football is the illusion of the NFL), but Husak believes he is ready. He said he has been preparing for a chance to start throughout the offseason and has been waiting for it ever since he was a boy watching his favorite quarterback, Phil Simms, play for the New York Giants. "This is what kids, myself, included, grew up dreaming about," Husak said about his start Sunday. "It's going to be a lot of fun, but at the same time, I've got a job to do, and hopefully I can go out and get it done."

But what if he doesn't get it done? After all, this is a sixth-round draft pick in just his second NFL season. He has seemed better suited as one of the long-term project quarterbacks than as one who could run an NFL team after just one year. He will be going against first-team players, and if he flops, there is a good chance that Todd Husak will be out of a job. If he can't show Schottenheimer that he can be relied upon to be George's backup in game situations, there is no more third string for Husak.

Which brings Sage Rosenfels, the quarterback picked by Washington in the fourth round of this year's draft and who likely will play the second half on Sunday, into the mix.

Husak was a Norv Turner pick. Rosenfels is a Schottenheimer pick. He's not going to be the second-string quarterback, and he's not going anywhere. So what it boils down to is that Husak has to prove that he is good enough to be an NFL starting quarterback because that's what a backup quarterback has to be when the starter goes down. And if he does prove that, then who do you think the fans will be calling for the first time George has one of those 15 of 27 games with no touchdowns and two interceptions like he did in his last start against Pittsburgh last season?

Todd Husak? Or maybe Trent Dilfer? He's mixed up in all this, and he's not even here which is a brewing controversy in itself.

Schottenheimer has left himself open to questions for going into camp with such an unproven backup like Husak and not signing Dilfer last year's Super Bowl quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens who just signed with the Seattle Seahawks. He has been adamant about sticking with the passers he inherited in large part because he was strapped by salary cap problems and yesterday said he has no intention of bringing a veteran quarterback into camp now to compete for the backup job.

But that could change near the end of preseason, when final NFL cuts are made, and some veteran quarterbacks may become available. Like who? How about Gus Frerotte?

Yes, the only quarterback in Redskins history who injured himself head-butting a wall could wind up on the open market if he becomes the loser in the battle with Steve Beuerlein to back up Brian Griese in Denver.

Then we could have Jeff vs. Gus.

Of course, we could have the simplest outcome from all this. Jeff George's tendinitis lessens enough for him to play, and he plays. People play with tendinitis, Schottenheimer said. "Rich Gannon had it while he was here and played," he said.

Gannon threw three touchdowns and seven interceptions in his brief Redskins career in 1993.

Stir gently for now.

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