- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO The Washington Redskins' second straight week of offensive futility has forced coach Steve Spurrier to strongly consider rookie Patrick Ramsey if he shows significant enough progress in practice to start at quarterback when the Redskins face the Tennessee Titans on Oct.6.
Starter Shane Matthews was replaced in the fourth quarter of yesterday's loss to the San Francisco 49ers by Danny Wuerffel not because of injury, but because of ineffectiveness. Wuerffel was sacked once and threw an interception in his first four plays, leaving the Redskins' offense with 10 points in the last eight quarters. The play of Matthews and Wuerffel in the last two weeks a far cry from Matthews' brilliant effort in a Week 1 defeat of Arizona leaves turning to Ramsey a real possibility.
"We're going to coach Patrick up, and if we think he can play, he will play," Spurrier said. " If we think he can play as well or better, we're going to go with that."
Ramsey said he was taken aback that Spurrier would turn to him this soon, but "if my number's called, then I've got to feel comfortable" with the offense, he said.
"I'm going to go out and continue to work on everything in the film room and on the field and if I earn that shot, I'm sure [Spurrier] will give it to me," Ramsey said. " I think it's just surprising they have turned to me as early as they have."
Few would have thought Spurrier would consider pressing Ramsey into service so soon. The Redskins scored often in preseason, and Matthews threw for 327 yards against Arizona and moved the team in the first half yesterday, completing 14 of 19 attempts for 150 yards,
But when the Redskins' first four drives of the second half produced no points, including three three-plays-and-punt series, Matthews got the hook in favor of Wuerffel. Matthews said he didn't think he played poorly enough to get replaced, and he has a point he was 17-for-28 for 169 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions before he was lifted. Clearly though, he understands the ground rules with Spurrier play well consistently or risk getting yanked.
"I was a little surprised he wanted to make a change," Matthews said. "He's the head coach. What can I do?"
Said Spurrier: "I thought we'd just change something up. I thought we did have a chance. [Matthews] could have finished up. I just thought we could have a little spark. We had four [second-half] possessions and didn't get much."
Matthews took a direct shot on his left arm and shoulder on the Redskins' fourth possession of the second half when Andre Carter drilled him after he released a pass. The play brought a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty. Matthews left the Philadelphia game with a left shoulder injury, but he said it didn't bother him yesterday.
On his first snap from center, Wuerffel was sacked by Chike Okeafor. Wuerffel's second attempt was pitiful, a wounded duck apparently intended for Rod Gardner that safety Zack Bronson intercepted. Wuerffel was trying to go for a home-run ball but it only amounted to a punt, not what the Redskins needed when they're down 10 points.
"I had a split second to make a decision, and I made a bad decision," Wuerffel said. "Coach just said, 'Let Danny try.'"
Spurrier pointed out that the entire offense was failing, not just the quarterbacks, but it's Matthews he is considering replacing and not Stephen Davis or Chris Samuels.
Starting Ramsey is made more complicated because he's had to play catch-up after a 16-day contract holdout during the preseason. That eliminated his chances of getting into camp on time and learning the complex offensive system.
"[Getting to camp on time] wasn't the situation I was presented with, unfortunately," Ramsey said. "At this point, all I can do is move from here."
Ramsey said he's comfortable with everything the Redskins are doing in terms of how protections are designed to where receivers should be to where he is supposed to go with the ball. What remains to be seen, Ramsey said, is how quickly and efficiently he can make decisions.
"It will be a big week. I think I'm going to be watched more closely than I have in the last couple weeks," Ramsey said. " I think it will be a big week for my progress.
"In the last two weeks, it's come along so much better for me that it's kind of surprised me. And apparently it's encouraged our coaches. I don't think I foresaw it happening this early, but it wasn't because I didn't think they wanted me. I wasn't comfortable enough two weeks ago to say, 'Yes, in three weeks, I'll be ready.' The learning process accelerated itself in the last couple weeks."
Making Ramsey the starter will probably gain support among Redskins fans over the next two weeks, but Matthews isn't ready to concede the job just yet.
"I didn't play very bad," Matthews said. "Patrick's the future of this organization. I'm very supportive of whatever the decision is. But I'm confident I can take this team where it wants to go."


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