- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 8, 2002

You wonder if Patrick Ramsey has any idea what he's getting into. He's said to be a smart kid, originally pre-med at Tulane, but he's only 23, and he had a rather low-profile college career. You wonder if he realizes, truly realizes, what being the quarterback of the Redskins entails.

Perhaps I should take this opportunity to tell him. And perhaps I should begin by saying: Patrick, my boy, you can't imagine what your life is going to be like now. The three most scrutinized individuals in Washington are the president, the coach of the Redskins and the quarterback of the Redskins not necessarily in that order.

People are going to take note of the clothes you wear, the car you drive and how much you tip the waiter at the Palm. They're going to want your autograph, they're going to want to have their picture taken with you, they're going to want you to speak to their civic group. And you can forget about slipping out for a quiet meal with your bride, Ginny. You've had your last quiet meal, pal. By the end of the week, your face will be as well known as Brad Pitt's if it isn't already.

Don't blame the fans. They can't help it. The Redskins rule this town, the Town That Baseball Forgot, and their quarterbacks have tended to attract a lot of attention. The first was "Slingin'" Sammy Baugh. You've heard of him, haven't you? Hall of Famer. One of the greatest pure passers in football history. In 1945, at a time when most quarterbacks were happy to complete 50 percent of their throws, Sammy completed 70 percent. If he didn't invent the position, he came close.

The QB who followed him was Eddie LeBaron. Eddie was 5-foot-7, smaller than Doug Flutie, but what a magician! Faking first to this back, then to that one, he could make a football disappear. After LeBaron came Sonny Jurgensen another Hall of Famer, another pure passer. Heck, Sonny could throw the ball better behind his back than some guys could front ways.

Then there was Billy Kilmer, tougher than grub steak, and Joe Theismann, chattier than a parrot, and Doug Williams, creakier than the Tin Man. All three of them took the Redskins to the Super Bowl as did Mark Rypien, one wondrous season in '91.

So you see, Patrick, there's a history here. There's a tradition. The bar has been set very high for Redskins quarterbacks. This isn't Atlanta, where you're being measured against Steve Bartkowski and Chris Chandler. This is Washington, where you're following in the footsteps of some of the legends of the game. In the last 20 years, five different Redskins QBs have played in the Pro Bowl. Try to remember that.

I understand you're inclined to be hard on yourself (and to set ridiculously high goals). Knock it off. Not to sound like a self-help book or something, but if you're going to play quarterback for the Redskins, you need to be your own best friend. You've got the whole world critiquing your performance coaches, fans, newspaper columnists, radio types. Why pile on?

The job is tough enough, especially for someone as young as you. Jurgensen was an established veteran when he became the QB in Washington. So were Kilmer, Williams and Brad Johnson. Theismann had sat around for a couple of years, learning. Rypien and Jay Schroeder had their indoctrination periods, too.

You aren't so lucky. You're being asked to lead the offense as a rookie, after missing more than two weeks of camp while your contract was being worked out. The same fate befell Heath Shuler and, well, has anyone heard from him lately? So roll with the late hits and keep in mind: People don't expect you to rewrite the record book just yet. What they're looking for is progress not week-to-week (there are too many ups and downs) but season-to-season. What they're looking for, as much as anything, is hope. The Redskins have been wallowing in mediocrity, and worse, for more than a decade now. The fans are ready to win again.

I liked the way you shared the credit with your teammates Sunday, made it sound like you were just a cog in a machine. Keep it up. They'll play harder for you. Gus Frerotte used to get the guys together at a restaurant once a week, just to foster solidarity. You might want to think about something like that somewhere down the line. Also, and this is very important, when you're out with a group of players, the quarterback always buys the beer. (At least, that's what Bobby Layne said.)

Finally, here are two don'ts: Don't whine, and don't sulk (see Schroeder). There, that about covers it. If you do well, Patrick, Washington will be your oyster. And if you don't do well, there is life after the Redskins. Stan Humphries went to the Super Bowl with the Chargers, and Schroeder made it to the AFC title game with the Raiders. Frerotte, meanwhile, has quarterbacked both the Lions and the Broncos in the playoffs.

They landed on their feet. They found a certain happiness elsewhere. But they never had it better than when they were quarterbacking the Redskins.


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