- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

Washington Redskins quarterback Shane Matthews isn't exactly surprised to find himself starting again in Sunday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts. He doesn't think he should have been benched in the first place after the team's 1-2 start.

"I haven't been happy since I lost my job, because I wasn't playing poorly," Matthews said yesterday. "Can I play better? Yeah, everybody can play better. There's only a handful of guys that can say, 'Jump on my shoulders I'm going to win the game for you.' [Brett] Favre, [Donovan] McNabb and a couple other guys, and at times they try to do too much and cost their team games. I'm not one of those quarterbacks. I don't think we have anybody on our roster that can do that. You just have to play within the system. Do little things that people on the outside don't see."

Ironically, dump-off passes once cost Matthews his job, but now such maneuvers seem the lesser evil after successors Danny Wuerffel and Patrick Ramsey produced five interceptions, four fumbles and 14 sacks over three games. Suddenly, Matthews' effective 82.4 rating towers over those of Ramsey (67.4) and Wuerffel (34.5).

Matthews seemingly was the scapegoat for successive losses to Philadelphia and San Francisco. However, Washington didn't even score a touchdown in last Sunday's 30-9 loss to Green Bay and has managed an NFL-low nine first-quarter points this season with the three quarterbacks.

Coach Steve Spurrier was upset that Matthews didn't pursue downfield chances, but Ramsey seemingly waited too long and was smothered by pass rushers 13 times in the last two games. Matthews was collared only twice in two games because of flipping the ball away. He viewed incompletions as better than negative yardage while Spurrier seemingly saw only missed opportunities. Matthews conceded there were times he could have waited a little longer, but he felt avoiding mistakes was as important as making plays.

"If you have to throw the ball 10 rows into the stands, that's not a bad thing," he said. "Just try not to get sacked, fumble or give the other team big plays."

Will the fourth quarterback move this season finally revive the 23rd-ranked Fun'n'Gun offense that ranks 20th both rushing and passing? Teammates seem numb to the constant changing of passers that included different starters in three successive games for the first time in 12 years.

"I can't worry who's at quarterback," running back Stephen Davis said. "The thing is, the guy that's in there has to do a good job. I think Shane has the capability, but we have to protect him and the ball."

Said receiver Chris Doering: "I never thought Shane played badly at all. The thing he was criticized the most for was not taking more shots down the field, and that comes from him having played in other systems where you're taught to take the underneath stuff. He made very few mistakes."

Matthews felt changes have made it difficult for the offense to jell, with Spurrier also having switched guards and receivers. Former star Joe Theismann, who played 163 straight games before suffering a career-ending injury in 1985, said players at other positions are bothered most by changes at quarterback.

"It's detrimental to the other guys on the team," Theismann said. "Every football team seeks to find a leader, and a quarterback position has to lead. You have no choice there. If you don't have a quarterback who can lead a football team, you're not going to win many games."

Certainly, Matthews conceded being "frustrated" over watching over the past three games that included one as the No.3 emergency quarterback. However, he dismissed questions of whether the time off was beneficial.

"I've been sitting on the sidelines for 10 years, so I haven't seen anything different those last few games," he said.

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