- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 29, 2001

The final two games aren't meaningless to Washington Redskins quarterback Tony Banks. They could determine whether he returns next season.
Although the Redskins (6-8) are out of the playoffs, coach Marty Schottenheimer declined to change quarterbacks in order to evaluate rookie Sage Rosenfels or backup Kent Graham. The fact that he is starting against New Orleans tomorrow night means Banks has received a tentative endorsement from Schottenheimer. The coach wants the player to make the offseason decision whether to retain him easier with a good finish.
Banks understands front office politics. He was released after last season by Baltimore for a prominent free agent and by Dallas in training camp for a rookie. Redskins owner Dan Snyder wants a marquee quarterback and even scouted two college prospects. Schottenheimer would rather keep Banks than spend big money on a prominent free agent or a first-round pick.
Banks is an unrestricted free agent, but the market doesn't promise to be better than last year, when he signed a modest deal with Dallas. Banks would like to stay with the Redskins despite taunts from fans' that recently made his wife cry following a loss.
"Wins and losses are what we're judged on, but who knows how management will feel about me here. There's so many intangibles," Banks said. "I don't think [the last two games are] any more important that the last 14 weeks. I've been judged every time I've been in the locker room, on the practice field, every snap I've taken on Sundays. It's the nature of the position and the sense of doubt when I came here. You get cut by Dallas for a rookie who needs a little work and guys here can't help but wonder what's wrong with you. I had a good five- to six-week stretch and now a not so good two-week stretch. It's all about consistency."
Certainly, Banks' play has been good and bad. The five-game winning streak included five touchdowns passes in three games his best marks of the season. However, he threw no touchdown passes in the past two critical losses and only two in the last six games.
While predecessor Jeff George often departed Redskin Park by a side door to avoid reporters, Banks readily admits his shortcoming without degrading himself.
"When we made the [winning streak], I felt I was a big part," he said. "Now that we're running the other way, I'm part of that, too. I'm as physically gifted as any quarterback out there. For me, expectations were as high as if I was there the whole time, but I don't think anybody expected us to do the things we did midway through the season."
His arrival as late as August gives the Redskins and Banks an excuse for the team's lowest-scoring offense since the NFL went to 16 games in 1980. Both Schottenheimer and Banks said the latter's Aug. 16 arrival with one week remaining in camp left him unprepared to grasp an offense George spent the entire offseason learning. The Redskins have burned one or two timeouts weekly because plays were misunderstood in the huddle.
"Being in the system a little longer allows you to operate more second nature," Banks said. "You're not able to get to your second and third options as fast. Something has progressed every day, but not to the point I'd like."
Said Schottenheimer: "The difficult thing for us and Tony is, he's the only starting quarterback in the National Football League that wasn't with the team in May. That's why you have minicamp so he gets all the subtle little things. There's 90 days that we can't make up. Unless it's second nature to you, it doesn't hit your brain immediately, and all of a sudden the pace slows down and the anxiety builds."
Among other things, Banks was not accustomed to tall receivers like Michael Westbrook and Rod Gardner who rely more on size than speed. Banks was forced to be more disciplined than simply throwing the ball ahead of a separating receiver. It wasn't always a comfortable fit for him.
"I'm not [Green Bay quarterback] Brett Favre," Banks said. "I can't dictate what type of offense I want to run. I just have to do what they tell me."


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