- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 15, 2002

If you're going to start a rookie quarterback, you have to make the world around him as safe as possible. Otherwise he might not live physically or spiritually to be a second-year quarterback. It's part of the compact that exists between the QB and his coach. The rookie agrees to run the plays that are called, and the coach agrees to provide him with enough protection to execute those plays, even if it means scaling back the offense.
Two games into the Patrick Ramsey era, I'm not quite sure Steve Spurrier understands this. He says his objective is winning and only winning but it seems more important to him to win his way. And that means five-receiver sets and running backs running pass routes and quarterbacks, much of the time, having to chuck and duck.
This isn't what you'd call an ideal environment in which to raise a young QB. Young QBs need care and feeding and, most of all, time time to learn, time to grow and, most crucial, time to look over the defense and decide what the heck to do with the ball.
When they were apprenticing, Jay Schroeder, Mark Rypien and Stan Humphries usually had that time thanks to the Hogs, of course, but also thanks to a coach who never let his ego get in the way of sheltering his quarterback. How many times, even in Rypien's all-world season of '91, did we see Joe Gibbs send out three receivers and keep seven guys in to block? Granted, the receivers Gibbs was sending out were Art Monk, Gary Clark and Ricky Sanders (or maybe Earnest Byner), but that's almost beside the point. What Gibbs realized, to an extent many of his coaching brethren never did, is that it doesn't matter how excellent your X's are or how outstanding your O's if your QB can't get the darn pass off.
Patrick Ramsey got sacked seven times Sunday in the 43-27 loss to New Orleans and those were just the hits that showed up on the stat sheet. It was probably the worst beating a Redskins quarterback has taken since the Bears mauled Joe Theismann in the '84 playoffs. (Joe T. was so discombobulated after that one that he couldn't remember the name of his center. He referred to Rick Donnalley as "Donaldson.")
But those were Da Bears, one of the great pass rushing teams of all time. The Saints, on the other hand, don't have a single Pro Bowl player on their defense. And yet they hounded Ramsey mercilessly, rushed him into four interceptions (and it could have been six). Clearly, Spurrier has to make some adjustments if Ramsey is going to survive the Packers this week and the Giants (twice) and Eagles down the road.
There isn't much he can do on the personnel front at this stage. He's essentially stuck with the offensive linemen he's got. And most of them even Chris Samuels, who was practically perfect a year ago are struggling. "I've just got to do better," Samuels says.
But Spurriercan keep his tight ends, running backs and, yes, wideouts in to protect the quarterback more. He can also lighten Ramsey's load by making Stephen Davis a bigger part of the offense. Only once Sunday did Davis carry the ball twice in a row; that doesn't suggest much of a commitment to the running game.
The Saints, who were much more committed, kept handing off to Deuce McAllister, even though he lost yardage five times in the first quarter alone. This bought his quarterback, Aaron Brooks, enough time to kill the Redskins with a succession of third-and-long completions.
A year ago, you may recall, the Redskins pressured Brooks to distraction. He threw three interceptions, passed for just 127 yards and looked thoroughly befuddled in a 40-10 loss at the Superdome. Not wanting a repeat of that Sunday, coach Jim Haslett relied more heavily on McAllister (29 carries, 121 yards) and limited Brooks to only 23 throws. The results speak for themselves.
This isn't college football. You can't just pass your problems away in the NFL. (The Rams tried it a couple of years back and barely made the playoffs, where they were eliminated by New Orleans). When your quarterback is a rookie, moreover, you have to make allowances for it and modify your offense accordingly unless you look at him as Just Another Replaceable Part.
But is Spurrier willing to do that? It doesn't appear so. Ask him if there's more he can do, protection-wise, to make life easier for Ramsey, and he says, "Actually, our best protection [Sunday] was when we didn't leave people in and let the tight end go out. Sometimes [the offensive line] just got beat one-on-one. [Also,] Patrick needs to learn when to run and try to get some yards when guys are covered."
I'm sure Ramsey needs to learn a lot of things, Steve. But he's never going to get the chance if he has many more days like Sunday. In fact this just occurred to me you had a number of days like that when you quarterbacked the expansion Bucs in '76, and do you remember what you did?
You retired.


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