- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2001

Washington Redskins quarterback Jeff George lost the confidence of coach Marty Schottenheimer after two record-setting losses. Yesterday he lost his job.

George became the first NFL starting quarterback to be released during the season since 1996, when he was cut by the Atlanta Falcons. Schottenheimer decided George wasn't even worth keeping as a backup and signed former Pittsburgh quarterback Kent Graham. Tony Banks will start against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at FedEx Field, with rookie Sage Rosenfels as backup.

The move had been rumored around Redskin Park for the past week, but Schottenheimer delayed his decision until after Monday night's 37-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers, the team's worst defeat since 1954. Schottenheimer told Graham on Tuesday night to report and informed George of his release during a short meeting at 7:15 a.m. yesterday.

"I did not believe the Washington Redskins could win with Jeff George as the starting quarterback," Schottenheimer said. "We don't bat 1,000 percent. Nobody in this business does. But as long as you keep the criteria simple … you just go ahead and make the decision. You know you're not always going to be right, but don't look back."

George quickly left and couldn't be reached the comment. However, he told WRC-TV that he was stunned by the move.

"I'm shocked. I'm speechless. I don't know what to say. I don't know what's the right thing to say," George said. "You do what you're told. The opportunities came up short. I've always had confidence in myself. We were struggling. You feel bad for the defense because you want to produce more. I take a lot of pride in it."

The move wasn't a total shocker given the uneasy relationship between George and Schottenheimer, according to team sources. The Redskins were expected to sign a free agent quarterback during the coming offseason anyway.

George and Schottenheimer clashed during a closed-door meeting, with George objecting to the team's new West Coast offense and having to spend much of the offseason in classroom sessions. George could be seen shaking his head approaching the line of scrimmage during games, indicating disagreement with the call. Several teammates said George often questioned the play's potential in the huddle.

Schottenheimer conceded that the team's lack of salary cap room had prevented a move in recent months. Ironically, the Redskins renegotiated George's contract Feb. 28, guaranteeing most of his $3.75 million salary. That means he still gets his money, even if he signs elsewhere, and costs the Redskins $3.2 million against the 2002 salary cap. Washington has $10.8 million in "dead money" for players no longer with the team.

"I was steadfastly hoping this thing would work with Jeff," Schottenheimer said. "Obviously, had it worked we probably wouldn't be 0-2. I was of the mindset that as a teacher that I could teach [the offense] and he could understand. I didn't do a good enough job of teaching it."

George had been 1-5 as the Redskins starter since signing last year, dropping his career mark to 46-68. Although a favorite of owner Dan Snyder, George's nickname among NFL coaches was "Coach Killer" because of his infamous sideline row with Atlanta coach June Jones in 1995. Former Redskins coach Norv Turner adamantly opposed George's signing, and team sources said it was the key breakdown in Turner's relationship with Snyder.

The NFL's lowest-rated passer at 34.6, George threw three interceptions and had three fumbles after missing much of the preseason with shoulder tendinitis. George claimed his shoulder was completely healed and blamed himself for poor play. However, he rarely threw the ball farther than 20 yards and took only one deep shot against Green Bay. The Redskins didn't have a touchdown in the first two games for the first time in the franchise's 69-year history while being outscored 67-3.

George also was benched in the season finale last year after an argument with interim coach Terry Robiskie, who said the passer blew off seven plays that were called. Team sources said George told Robiskie he would have the latter fired during an argument.

Teammates largely supported George in the past weeks, especially when he ended a 10-day media silence Sept. 20. George was trying to overcome an image of being aloof with teammates forged during his 11-year career with five teams after being taken first overall by Indianapolis in the 1990 NFL Draft.

"I don't think anything we do on the football field is 100 percent anybody's blame," center Cory Raymer said. "Unfortunately, with a quarterback that's where it all lies."

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