- The Washington Times - Monday, November 5, 2001

It used to be kickers who had to fail a time or two before they established themselves in the NFL. Now, it seems, it's quarterbacks. Just last year we had a Super Bowl pitting two-time washout Kerry Collins and former Tampa Bay bust Trent Dilfer. (Hand-me-down Rich Gannon, meanwhile, took the Raiders to the AFC Championship Game.)
And this year, well, just look around the league. You've got Doug Flutie ex-Bear, ex-Patriot, ex-CFLer, ex-Bill leading the Chargers back to respectability. You've got Jeff Garcia, whose career also took a Canadian turn, working similar magic with the 49ers. You've got Jim Miller, who has bounced around a bit, putting the Monster back in the Monsters of the Midway.
And you've got the same kind of story being played out here in Washington. Tony Banks definitely fits the mold of Collins, Dilfer, Gannon et al. He wasn't offered tenure in either St. Louis or Baltimore, didn't make it out of training camp in Dallas and finally wound up on the doorstep of the Redskins, who were so desperate for a veteran backup that they took him in.
In the past few weeks, however, an interesting transformation has taken place. Banks has gone from being the Same Old Tony a nothing-special quarterback with serious turnover tendencies to the very model of efficiency, Marty Schottenheimer-style. Yesterday's 27-14 victory over Seattle makes it three games in a row now Banks has done more good than harm. And not coincidentally, the Redskins have won each of those games to climb from the pit of 0-5 to the precipice of mediocrity.
It's kind of funny, too, because Banks doesn't exactly fit the Schottenheimer mold. He's not the kind of guy who's going to throw the ball through a swinging tire; he's more the bombs-away type. But the coach has adjusted, and the quarterback has adjusted, and the result has been, if not spectacular, certainly good enough.
Schottenheimer has won a bunch of games with quarterbacks who were simply good enough Steve DeBerg, Steve Bono, Elvis Grbac, Gannon. And he may have found another one in Banks. Tony didn't put up big numbers yesterday, but he did complete 15 of 23 for 152 yards and two touchdowns. Better still, he had only one interception, and it came with less than seven minutes left and the Redskins comfortably ahead. Just a case of a QB getting a little greedy and going for one last score before the offense shut down for the night.
The thing you had to like most about Banks' performance was the way he got the ball to everybody but Bubba Tyer. In the first half alone he went to eight different receivers. It's hard to defense an offense like that.
"If I was a defensive coordinator looking at what we do," Banks said, "I'd be trying to take away the deep ball and make us check down [to receivers running underneath routes]. That's why I told our guys before the game, `Be ready to catch the ball, even when you're not used to getting it on certain plays.' It happened to Rob [Gardner] one time, and it happened to a couple of other guys."
When nobody was open, Banks didn't hesitate to take off and run. In fact, he did it twice in three plays at the outset of the second half, scrambling for 17 yards on third-and-five and 15 on second-and-11 to set up a TD pass to Michael Westbrook that made it 27-7. It was all over but the woofing after that.
Tony is no latter-day Tarkenton, though, merely a quarterback with decent enough wheels to take advantage of certain opportunities. "It's not something I look forward to doing not like I used to," he said. "I don't have the speed I did when I first came into the league. But against [the Seahawks], with the scheme they played, I knew I'd have to make a few plays with my feet, and I was glad I could."
The Redskins don't even seem like they're running the same offense they were a month ago, when the yards came so painfully. Part of that is the re-emergence of Stephen Davis, of course, but the other part is offensive coordinator Jimmy Raye's increasing willingness to let it all hang out. In the early going yesterday, Raye called a fake reverse, a flea flicker, a shovel pass and a deep ball. He also used Davis, who hasn't exactly been a central figure in the passing game, twice as a receiver and gained nice yardage both times.
(According to Schottenheimer, the Redskins had another play "in the gadget bag" but didn't get to it. Wonder if it was that little piece of trickery the Seahawks ran in the second half, the one in which the quarterback throws a pass, has it batted back to him and then tries to run for the first down.)
When Banks first took over at quarterback, three games into the season, he sensed "some anxiety among the coaches," some reluctance to open the offense up. "I think it was all the newness," he said. "We had a lot of new guys who had been through minicamp and training camp but hadn't really picked up the offense. Then you throw a new quarterback into the mix, and …"
And it's hard not to assume the fetal position. But the Redskins are past that now. They've got a three-game winning streak, they've got a bye week to rest their aching bones and they've got a quarterback who, in his fourth place of employment, might finally be starting to figure some things out.

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