- The Washington Times - Monday, November 25, 2002

Steve Spurrier tried his best to say it with a straight face, to react as though he had been oblivious to the second-guessing that accompanied his latest change at quarterback this week.
But even the Ball Coach couldn't help from smirking yesterday after being asked if Danny Wuerffel's performance in the Redskins' 20-17 win over the St. Louis Rams left him vindicated.
"Vindicated? I don't know what you mean by that," the Washington coach said as he broke into a smile. "You mean a lot of people didn't agree with that choice?"
Not if you spent any time last week listening to irate callers on local talk shows, who couldn't understand why Spurrier, in his fourth starting quarterback change of the season, gave the ball to career underachiever Wuerffel instead of rookie Patrick Ramsey.
After watching the former Heisman Trophy winner complete 16 of 23 passes for 235 yards while leading a surprisingly effective Redskins offense all afternoon, the only second-guessing that might be going on is why Spurrier didn't turn to Wuerffel sooner.
Stephen Davis, who scored all three of Washington's touchdowns, might have received the glory for the upset victory. But make no mistake, it wouldn't have been possible if not for Wuerffel's calm, cool and collected effort in a game the Redskins had to win to keep any slim hopes of a playoff berth alive.
"Danny's a smart quarterback," left tackle Chris Samuels said. "He did the right thing at the right time out there. He didn't hurt us in any kind of way."
Wuerffel, who earned his first win as a starting quarterback since he was a New Orleans Saint in 1998, wasn't about to gloat.
"I'm just very thankful for this opportunity," he said. "I know I say that all the time, but I've been around a lot, I've been on a lot of teams and I haven't had a lot of opportunities to play."
Indeed, this was only Wuerffel's eighth career start in six NFL seasons and his first since an abbreviated, six-play stint in Week 4 at Tennessee. It would be fair to say that few knew what to expect out of the former University of Florida star when he took the field yesterday against the Rams and their seventh-ranked defense.
What the fans at FedEx Field saw was an unspectacular, but highly effective performance from a quarterback who looked like he was relishing this rare opportunity.
"It was just a phenomenal week," Wuerffel said. "It was exciting, it was fun. And then to get in there and play and win … it was great."
The Redskins' game plan against the high-flying Rams clearly called for ball control, a stark contrast from their previous two games both losses in which Spurrier tried to win with his Fun 'n' Gun passing attack.
This time, Washington ran the ball 39 times to 24 pass attempts. And when Wuerffel was given the chance to throw, he made high-percentage tosses, lofting the ball downfield just twice (both underthrown incompletions).
That resulted in a clean, mistake-free performance from Wuerffel, who didn't throw any touchdowns, but also didn't throw any interceptions and wound up with a solid 102.6 quarterback rating.
"I've seen him play just like he did today," said Spurrier, who coached Wuerffel for four seasons at Florida. "His demeanor, his presence, whatever you want to call it … this kid won the state high school championship at the highest division in Florida, four SEC [titles] and a national [championship]. He didn't do it without a pretty good brain."
And he didn't do it without some thick skin too. Wuerffel has spent the last six years taking all kinds of shots from critics who have pronounced him a great college quarterback but a professional bust.
So during a week in which it seemed everyone had an opinion on the state of the Redskins' quarterback situation, perhaps the only man who managed to stay above the fray was the one right in the center of the controversy.
"I try not to pay a lot of attention," Wuerffel said. "I've spent half my life having people tell me I was better than I was. I've spent the other half of my life having people tell me I'm worse than I am. I just try to keep doing what I do and see what happens."


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