- The Washington Times - Monday, October 28, 2002

If Washington Redskins quarterback Patrick Ramsey requires balm for his battered body and confidence at this painful point of his rookie season, a real estate man in Naples, Fla., stands ready and willing to provide it.
His name is Norm Snead, and 41 years ago he endured the same sort of pounding as a Redskins rookie that Ramsey did in his unfortunate starts against New Orleans and Green Bay before being benched.
Snead's 6-foot-4, 215-pound frame absorbed maulings all around the NFL as a pathetic Redskins team finished 1-12-1 in 1961, avoiding a winless season only by using halfback Dick James' four touchdowns to defeat the second-year Dallas Cowboys 34-24 in its final game.
But you know what? Snead shook off that ignominious debut by having a fine 16-year NFL career. He spent three seasons with the Redskins, was traded to Philadelphia for Sonny Jurgensen on April Fool's Day 1964, then enjoyed seven good years with the Eagles before bouncing to Minnesota, the New York Giants, San Francisco and the Giants again.
Snead's career wasn't strong enough to get him into Canton, although he completed 52.3 percent of his passes for 30,797 yards and 196 touchdowns, but he stands tall among trivia buffs as the answer to this question: Who is the only man ever traded for two Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterbacks? (Jurgensen, of course, and Fran Tarkenton when Norm went from the Vikings to the Giants in '72.)
"There's no question that Ramsey has been going through the same kind of thing I did all rookie quarterbacks do," Snead said last week. "I'm impressed by what I've seen of Patrick. If you could put him with the Hogs, he'd be a great player. But you have to give him time. All those sacks [13 in the two losses] are because he has so much to learn."
In his own trial by fire, Snead didn't have to deal with being benched, because backup George Izo was only a second-year man himself in '61. Surprisingly, though, Snead thinks his own difficult start might have helped him become a better quarterback in subsequent seasons.
"I didn't know my [posterior] from a hole in the ground," recalled Snead, who became the Redskins' first draft choice that year after starring at Warwick High School in Newport News, Va., and Wake Forest. "We had seven rookies starting [after a 1-9-2 season in 60], and head coach Bill McPeak and [assistants] Ted Marchibroda and Abe Gibron were very patient with all of us. People said I took a battering all year, but I didn't know it was a battering. The problem was that we didn't win, so the season was discouraging from that point of view.
"I'll tell you what, though that season actually gave me confidence that I could play in the league. My feeling was that we were going to be pretty good when we got more experience."
Not in '61. The Redskins scored just 174 points, an average of 12.4. They were shut out three times, including 53-0 by the Giants, and scored in single digits five times. Take away the 62 points yielded by the baby Cowboys in two games and Washington averaged 9.3.
Considering his lack of help from the offensive linemen and other backs save James, Snead didn't fare too badly. Without a deep threat, he completed 172 of 375 passes for 2,337 yards and 11 touchdowns. True, there were 22 interceptions, but that resulted, Snead said, "from not knowing when to throw the ball away, picking up my second and third receivers, things you only gain with experience."
Most painful was a 24-21 loss to the Giants on Oct.1 in the first game at D.C. (now RFK) Stadium. Snead looked like "a reincarnation of a famous passer named S[ammy] Baugh," The Washington Post reported, in throwing touchdown passes of 29 yards to James and 4 yards to fullback Don Bosseler. Those, plus a 48-yard interception return, gave the Redskins a 21-7 first-period lead against the powerful Giants before "a hopeful, almost prayerful [and then sellout] gathering of 36,767." But New York completely dominated the second half, scoring the decisive points on a quarterback sneak by Y.A. Tittle with 3:51 to play.
Somehow Snead survived that first season. And when he reported to Occidental College in Los Angeles for the start of training camp the following July, he found the answer to his prayers waiting for him. The Redskins had traded the draft rights for Syracuse star Ernie Davis to the Cleveland Browns for All-Pro halfback Bobby Mitchell, and McPeak had turned Mitchell into a wide receiver. Now the Redskins had somebody who could get downfield fast enough to catch Snead's deep throws.
"Bobby and I clicked right away because he turned bad plays into good ones," Snead recalled. They clicked so well that the Redskins started the season 4-0-2 before losing a 49-34 shootout with the dratted Giants and skidding to only one victory in their last eight games as a hamstring injury hamstrung Mitchell. Nonetheless, he led the league in receiving with 72 catches for 1,384 yards, both team records, and 11 touchdowns. All told, Snead showed remarkable statistical improvement, completing 52 percent for 2,926 yards and 22 TDs.
"When I got to training camp, McPeak told me he didn't have much of a line but he had a quarterback who threw well, and he asked me if I wanted to play outside," said Mitchell, now the Redskins' assistant general manager. "When he told me that, I knew I wanted to play outside.
"Norm and I knew nothing about each other, and we were horrible in training camp. He had a great arm on the deep stuff, though he wasn't great on short passes. But during the last preseason game, we hooked up pretty good, and then we connected in the opener against Cleveland. After that, we caught fire."
The following year, however, Snead failed to equal his 1962 performance in several numerical departments as the Redskins slipped from 5-7-2 to 3-11 and the boos increased. Then came the trade for Jurgensen, one remembered fondly by older fans here because of Sonny's subsequent status as a Washington icon.
"I wasn't surprised by the trade, because I knew football was a business," Snead said. He went on to have several outstanding years, making the Pro Bowl in 1963 and 1965 with Philly and in 1972 with the Giants.
After coaching for 10 seasons with Division III Newport News Apprentice, Snead now is out of football at age 63. Yet his ability to hang tough after a tough beginning should remain an inspiration to Ramsey and other struggling young athletes.
And what do you get for hanging tough? Well, Ramsey reportedly is earning $345,000 this season (after collecting a $3.1million signing bonus) to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous linebackers as an inviting rookie target.
Snead earned $15,000.
In a word, ouch!

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