- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2002

Being the first pick in the NFL draft has its advantages, particularly on the financial end. The flip side is that you usually have to play on a godawful team the first year or two and sometimes longer than that.
Yesterday at FedEx Field, David Carr had the dubious distinction of being sacked for the 73rd time this season, breaking the NFL record. It's just one of the indignities that go with being the quarterback of an expansion club, in this case the Houston Texans. When he wasn't being knocked down, chased and otherwise harassed by Marvin Lewis' marauders, Carr completed 12 of 31 passes for 112 yards, with one interception not nearly enough to prevent his club from falling to 4-11 with a 26-10 loss to the Redskins.
When Dom Capers was asked to assess his rookie's performance, as he is every week, the first word out of his mouth was "Uhhhhhh." The Texans coach was searching for something positive to say, something to give the fans back home hope, but his search proved fruitless. "I'll have to look at the tape to give you an assessment of that," he went on. "I think he played about the way he's been playing."
At least Carr has the gift of gallows humor, which might explain why he hasn't gone cuckoo by now. "I was trying to break some NFL records when I came into the league," he said, "but hopefully not that one. I guess it was destined to happen, though, after we had some high-sack games early in the season."
The other rookie quarterback in the game Patrick Ramsey, the 32nd pick in the draft had a much better time of it. But then, his right side was protected by Jon Jansen, one of the best tackles in the NFC, not by a guy with the same name as a Virginia suburb (Houston's Jimmy Herndon). Besides, the Redskins ran the ball so well on the Texans that Ramsey's contributions (14 of 32 for 190 yards and two touchdowns) seemed almost incidental.
"I didn't get sacked," he said. "We had about 250 yards rushing [247 to be exact]. It took a lot of weight off me. I didn't have to worry about getting hit, and I'm handing the ball to these guys [Ladell Betts and Kenny Watson] and they're getting 10-yard chunks."
As much as anything, yesterday's game was a tale of two quarterbacks and the radically different experiences they're going through in their first season in the NFL. The offense Carr is trying to run has 10 players who didn't start in the league last year, including six rookies. The wide receivers are nondescript, the leading running back, Jonathan Wells, is averaging 2.9 yards a carry it's a mess. And to top it all off, Capers doesn't believe in using the shotgun, which would at least buy his young QB some time.
"We never get into a rhythm on offense," Carr said. "We might make a couple of plays and look like we're doing OK, but then something will happen where we'll go backward. Obviously, we need to get better in the offseason."
Houston is half a football team right now, and Carr, alas, plays for the wrong half. The Texans' defense is respectable enough; it hasn't allowed more than 26 points in its last seven games. But the offense is so limited that the "D" almost has to score for the club to have a chance to win. Yesterday the special teams chipped in seven points by blocking a punt and recovering it for a touchdown, but it wasn't nearly enough.
"The Redskins would have had to make mistakes to lose the game, and they didn't make them," said former Redskins general manager Charley Casserly, now functioning in that capacity for Houston. "We got our hands on some [possible] interceptions, but we didn't catch them."
Ramsey made a point of saying hi to Carr before the game one quarterback-in-training offering support to another. "It's a tough situation [for him]," he said. "I told him, 'I'm just glad you're safe, you're healthy and you're learning.' David's a great guy. I'm going to try to hang out with him some in the offseason."
Afterward, he sympathized with Carr sympathized, but didn't volunteer to change places with him. He knows he's lucky to have an offensive line that, most of the time, affords him adequate protection. "A luxury," was how he termed it. He also knows he was fortunate not to be thrown right into the fire, as Carr was (and to be given a respite after his first couple of starts didn't exactly go as planned).
You need to be more than strong-armed to play quarterback in the NFL. You need to be strong-minded, too. Carr and Ramsey are being tested in both ways this season and will continue to be as their careers in pro football progress. Some quarterbacks, though, are tested more than others; for David Carr, it's just the price of being the No.1 pick.

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