- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 22, 2002

Am I imagining things, or is Steve Spurrier starting to repeat himself? After the Redskins' 30-9 loss to the Packers on Sunday, I distinctly heard him say that Patrick Ramsey, his dazed and confused rookie quarterback, perhaps "needs a little bit of rest." Hmmm. Wasn't it just four weeks ago, following a 20-10 defeat in San Francisco, that Spurrier announced: "We're going to let Shane rest awhile"?

(Indeed it was. I just checked my notes.)

I ask you: What kind of offense takes such a toll on its quarterbacks that they need a vacation every month or so? Or does the fault lie not in the offense but in the QBs themselves?

Either way, the Superior One doesn't come across looking too good. It is, after all, his offense, and they are, after all, his quarterbacks. At least, I think, they're his quarterbacks. In the locker room in Green Bay, he seemed to be distancing himself from them, as if they were something the cat or VP of football ops Joe Mendes had dragged in. Asked about the desirability of changing QBs so often, the Redskins coach replied, "Give me an All-Pro quarterback, and I won't have to fiddle around."

Now there's a statement deserving of closer examination. When he was hired, you may recall, Spurrier was heralded as a maker of quarterbacks, a guy who could turn Alex Van Pelt into Norm Van Brocklin. Didn't he help Danny Wuerffel clearly a modest talent, NFL-wise win the Heisman Trophy? That's what great offensive coaches do; they take a journeyman like Doug Williams and go to the Super Bowl with him.

But it's been slower going for Spurrier at the pro level. And if that seems a tad premature or impatient, well, I'm just following the coach's lead. I'm just treating him the way he treats his quarterbacks. Let's review the Ball Coach's handling of the Most Important Position on the Field:

Game 1 Matthews starts and goes the distance.

Games 2 and 3 Matthews starts, but Wuerffel replaces him in the second half.

Game 4 Wuerffel starts, is injured in the first series, and Ramsey is summoned from the bullpen.

Games 5 and 6 Ramsey starts and finishes.

Game 7 Matthews, presumably well rested, is reinstalled as the No.1 QB.

Funny, I thought bye weeks were for rest. I thought the offseason was for rest. The last few years, the Redskins have even been able to squeeze in some R and R during the playoffs. If your quarterbacks constantly need rest during the season, maybe they aren't getting enough sleep. Or maybe they're being knocked for a loop by opposing defenses thanks to an offensive line that seems to delay rushers more than it actually blocks them.

Matthews, Wuerffel, Ramsey, Matthews and then who? You know the quarterback carousel isn't going to stop there, even though Spurrier says, "We're going to give [Shane] the opportunity to take us however far we're going to go this year." Heck, I wouldn't be surprised if we saw Wuerffel again at some point, with Spurrier arguing that Danny, injured in the first series of the Tennessee game, "deserves a fair shot." Then in December, when the playoffs are out of the picture and thoughts turn more to next year, Ramsey could well return. Unless, of course, Spurrier decides he wants another look at Dameyune Craig.

(When you stop and think about it, Spurrier goes through quarterbacks like Dan Snyder goes through coaches. In that respect, at least, they're the perfect match. Steve keeps looking for his All-Pro, and Dan the Man keeps looking for the next Joe Gibbs.)

No successful team has ever operated this way, of course. The Rams won a title rotating Van Brocklin and Bob Waterfield in the '50s, but both of those guys are in Canton. Going back and forth between quarterbacks just doesn't work for well-known reasons (e.g. it erodes the QBs' confidence and can divide the team).

You have to wonder who the leader of the Washington offense is right now. Certainly not Matthews, who could be benched again at any time. Certainly not Stephen Davis, who some weeks gets left out of the game plan. Certainly not Chris Samuels, who's been playing well below his standards on a bum ankle all season. And certainly not Rod Gardner, who didn't even start against the Packers.

That leaves, uh, Derrius Thompson, the receiving and running terror.

Watching Brett Favre move the Packers downfield, time and again, was probably what made Spurrier long for an All-Pro quarterback. Life sure is easier for a coach when his QB starts 164 straight games and throws 30 touchdown passes a year. But Spurrier brought all this on himself. He was the one who insisted the Redskins could win with Matthews and Wuerffel rather than lobbying to bring in a proven veteran. He was the one who stood by while Mendes drafted Ramsey, a QB the team looked into trading when his contract negotiations dragged on.

Nearly halfway through Spurrier's first season, the quarterback situation remains unresolved. You would have thought that would be his first order of business, but Steve, as we've discovered, is full of surprises. Like when he said yesterday, "Our quarterbacks are not bad. They're pretty good. In two of our six games, our guys have played well."

If two well-played games out of six is "pretty good" in the coach's mind, then that earlier crack about Dameyune Craig may not be so farfetched.

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