- The Washington Times - Monday, September 10, 2001

SAN DIEGO — Faster than you can say quarterback controversy, the Washington Redskins have one.
The Marty Schottenheimer era opened for the Redskins with an ugly 30-3 loss to the San Diego Chargers at Qualcomm Stadium yesterday, a defeat in which starting quarterback Jeff George was benched for Tony Banks late in the third quarter.
"We were down 20-0," Schottenheimer said. "It wasn't all Jeff's fault. But we had three first downs. I made a judgment based on what I thought would give us an opportunity to try and challenge and win the game. I will do that every time because that's what this business is about. I just felt that the way it was going, it was time to take a shot.
"I told Jeff, 'It may not work, but this is what I believe at this moment is the right thing to do.' I'm making no decisions at this point out of fairness to this team and both of the players. Jeff and I need to sit down and talk about it. I'm sure right now Jeff is uncertain about where I stand. Before I talk about it publicly, I intend to talk to Jeff."
Team sources said that Schottenheimer is leaning toward naming George the starter again for Sunday's home opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
George appeared to have a heated exchange with Schottenheimer on the sideline during the game and declined to comment afterward. George, 33, missed most of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder and struggled in the final two preseason games. Yesterday, he completed eight of 18 passes for 66 yards, threw two interceptions and fumbled twice.
Banks, who was cut by the Dallas Cowboys last month, completed seven of 14 passes for 53 yards and was charged with a fumble on a rolling snap by center Cory Raymer.
"Tony's still feeling his way," Schottenheimer said of Banks, who didn't join the Redskins until Aug. 16.
Banks started for most of his first five seasons with the St. Louis Rams and Baltimore Ravens.
"I consider myself a starter in this league but this is Jeff's team, and it's going to stay that way until someone tells me otherwise," Banks said.
No matter who was under center, the Redskins' offense was ineffectual. The quarterbacks fumbled three times, George threw two interceptions, and Pro Bowl halfback Stephen Davis fumbled three times — once at the goal line — and managed just 35 yards on 14 carries. No receiver gained more than 37 yards. The offense totaled eight first downs and 161 yards.
"We turned the ball over too many times," Schottenheimer said of the four giveaways. "I'm not going to stand for turning the ball over."
The seven fumbles — Michael Bates also lost the handle on a kickoff return, but the Redskins recovered — were exasperating enough for Schottenheimer. But the coach was livid about a punt the Chargers' Tim Dwight returned 84 yards for a touchdown.
"The worst thing in the world that you can do is go on the road and let happen what happened on the initial punt return," said Schottenheimer, who led the Cleveland Browns and Kansas City Chiefs to the playoffs in 11 of his 14 previous full seasons.
The Chargers and new offensive coordinator Norv Turner, the Redskins' coach from 1994 to 2000, matched their victory total of last season, but the Redskins' performance made their disappointing 8-8 record of 2000 seem too lofty a goal for this fall.

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