- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 31, 2001

Finally, seven weeks into the 2001 season, the Washington Redskins appear to have found their quarterback.
Tony Banks, who supplanted Jeff George in Week 3, has come on strong the past two games, the first wins of the year for the Redskins (2-5). He has completed 28 of 49 passes for 536 yards, three touchdowns and one interception, raising his quarterback rating from an abysmal 54.5 to a reasonable 73.1.
The recent production contrasts greatly with what Washington got from the quarterback position in Weeks 1 and 2, when George started, and in Weeks 3-5, when Banks struggled to execute the offense.
Signed Aug. 16 after being released as the Dallas Cowboys starter in training camp, Banks appears to be growing comfortable.
Helping his adjustment are Redskins coaches, who altered the ball-control offense to utilize some of his ability to throw the deep ball and move around outside the pocket. Over the past two weeks Banks has touchdown passes of 85 and 76 yards, and on Sunday he worked with rolling pockets to evade the New York Giants' pass rush.
Banks' offensive teammates are perhaps providing the key ingredient to his success. They did not give up after an 0-5 start in which they ranked not only last in the league but more than 70 yards per game behind the next-to-last team, and in which they were on pace to break the 16-game record for fewest points.
"Being fearless kind of sums it up," Banks said this week of the unit. "We just never give up out there. Maybe it's because we're young and we don't know when to give up."
Banks singled out offensive tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen for staying strong when the team lost its fifth straight game, and for providing enthusiasm and leadership despite their ages (24 and 25, respectively).
And in Banks, who is just 28 despite having been a key figure now on four NFL teams, the Redskins might have found production and leadership from yet another young player on this evolving squad.
Coach Marty Schottenheimer has said Banks is the top option for quarterback of the future. The opinion stemmed from his confidence in Banks as well as the limited market in the upcoming offseason for free agent passers and those who could be obtained through trade.
Owner Dan Snyder is interested in drafting a quarterback in the first round next spring, but that is unlikely as long as Schottenheimer remains in charge of football decisions. The team selected Sage Rosenfels in the fourth round last spring, and now Banks is giving Schottenheimer reason to believe he can be a successful starter.
"He's made great strides. He's very bright. He works hard at it," Schottenheimer said. "One of the things that I have to caution him about is he gets frustrated when he doesn't do it perfect. … [I say] 'Don't beat yourself up over it. You've got another play to play, and let's go do it.'"
That sort of determination was supposed to be what Banks was lacking when he arrived from Dallas. Criticized in past stops at St. Louis (1996-98) and Baltimore (1999-2000) for acting nonchalant about success and failure, Banks didn't win any praise for blowing off workouts in the Cowboys' offseason program to train alone.
Banks acknowledged this week that he was embittered after leaving Baltimore and having to accept Dallas' one-year, $500,000 offer (just above the league minimum and unheard of for a starting quarterback).
"The deal they gave me was basically for them," Banks said. "So I said, 'Obviously this year is all about me personally.' … And physically that's how I approached the whole offseason. It was all about me … getting physically to where I hadn't been the last couple of years. I didn't necessarily take that into their offseason program."
He eventually was cut to allow rookie Quincy Carter to start. Schottenheimer, who had just reasoned young Todd Husak was too inexperienced to be his backup, quickly moved to sign Banks.
Schottenheimer then decided George had no future in the system following a Week 2 blowout loss at Green Bay. The coach released George and installed Banks. The offense, already conservative with George at the helm, grew more simplistic to compensate for Banks' limited exposure.
Now the unit finally has expanded and is producing, though it remains ranked last in the league. Banks, for his part, is enjoying the success but not looking past his one-year, $477,000 contract (the league minimum).
"I'm not going to let myself get too comfortable, because I've been comfortable in the past before," Banks said. "I'm just going to do my job that I've got to do here, and let the chips fall where they may."
In that manner, Banks remains a bit guarded.
"My career has caused me to be bitter in some areas," he explained. "I used to be close with all of my head coaches and my offensive coordinators. I'm just a people person, I guess. I've kind of tried to pull myself away a little more, because it tends to hurt more when you're close to the people in an organization and when you've got to find another job."
Nonetheless, the bond is starting to develop. Several Redskins offensive players said this week that they feel the quarterback position finally is settled. And there is a growing sense of confidence and trust on the unit, a belief that it can get its job done Sunday when Washington plays the Seattle Seahawks (3-3).
"Tony's playing great," Samuels said. "I was excited when we got him. He's stepped up and he's playing a big role in our offense now."
Note The Redskins released rookie linebacker Anthony Sessions from injured reserve. The move does not create a roster spot.

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