- The Washington Times - Monday, November 24, 2003

MIAMI.

Good things seem to happen when somebody named Taylor knocks a Redskins quarterback out of a game. Lawrence Taylor helped snap Joe Theismann’s leg in 1985 — and Jay Schroeder rode memorably to the rescue for Washington. Last night it was the Dolphins’ Jason Taylor knocking Patrick Ramsey woozy — and Tim Hasselbeck trotting on to give Your Heroes hope.

(Maybe, in the final game of the season, the Eagles’ Bobby Taylor will come free on a corner blitz — and Gibran Hamdan will get his chance to shine. Hey, the way the season’s going …)

Only the most incurable optimist could have imagined the Redskins losing their QB, plugging in a replacement who’s still familiarizing himself with the playbook and pushing the Dolphins to the brink — on the road, no less — before going under, 24-23. Hasselbeck’s effectiveness in such trying circumstances, and against one of the NFL’s most formidable defenses, makes you wonder just how discombobulated Ramsey is after 11 weeks of incessant pounding.

It certainly suggests that perhaps the Redskins’ Kid Quarterback should take some time off — a mental health week or two to regain his bearings — and let Hasselbeck drive the car for awhile. The shakiness of Ramsey’s recent play, and the surprising assuredness of Hasselbeck’s, would seem to demand it. Besides, Steve Spurrier has never been shy about changing QBs, and now he has a perfectly legitimate reason to do it: It would make sense.

Ramsey of late has resembled a punch-drunk fighter — willing, but not always able. He also seems to have developed a kind of tunnel vision, the result of defenses hurrying him to distraction. When pass rushers are routinely blindsiding you, it’s hard to stand back there and calmly go through your reads.

Hasselbeck at least has a clear head, having watched most of the last few games from the safety of the sideline. And he really isn’t half-bad. He’s decisive, quick on his feet and completes the passes you’re supposed to complete — the kind Ramsey has been missing with increasingly frequency. Indeed, he plays a lot like his older brother, the Seahawks’ Matt. (And he’s considerably less expensive.)

“I commended him on how he came in and took control of the huddle,” Trung Canidate said. “Usually a guy comes in all wide-eyed, but he came in and … did a great job.”

NFL history, of course, is filled with quarterbacks who were one-game wonders. Remember Clint Longley against the Redskins one Thanksgiving Day? For that reason, there would be no great expectations for Hasselbeck, no quarterback-of-the-future type pressure, if he replaced Ramsey for a spell. He’s merely the healthiest, most functional QB the team has at the moment.

The last month or so, the offense has specialized in three-and-outs. But with Hasselbeck doing the pitchin’ last night, the Redskins managed to hang onto the ball, driving first 43 yards, then 61 and then 80 for scores. His 37-yard touchdown throw to Laveranues Coles on a post pattern was a beauty — Coles got a step on Patrick Surtain, and Hasselbeck made sure Surtain paid for it.

Let’s also give some credit to Spurrier, who reclaimed the playcalling duties from Hue Jackson and had one of his better games. The Ball Coach has come in for some hard knocks in This Space, but against the Dolphins — OK, I’ll admit it — he mixed things up nicely and, most importantly, didn’t ask Hasselbeck to do too much. With the exception of the TD, Tim hardly threw downfield until the Redskins were forced to play catch up in the late going.

If nothing else last night, the Redskins showed they still had a pulse — and weren’t quite ready to call it a season. The defense got after Brian Griese pretty good, so good that Dave Wannstedt felt compelled to go to Jay Fiedler late in the third quarter. Fiedler gave Miami an immediate lift, much as Hasselbeck had invigorated the Redskins, and marched the Dolphins to two touchdowns in his first two series, the latter the game-winner.

For a long while, it appeared the Redskins might keep the postseason dream alive another week. But now it’s … wait ‘til next year. Even if they run the table — beat the Saints, Giants, Cowboys, Bears and Eagles in succession — a 9-7 record might not be enough to get them a wild card. Yup, another season down the drain, folks.

Champ Bailey spoke for many in the Washington locker room, no doubt, when he said, “We need to learn how to finish. … It’s been like this for years now, since I’ve been here. We had the game right in the palm of our hands, but we looked like an elementary school team in the fourth quarter.”

On the plus side, the Redskins might have found another quarterback prospect last night, a guy who could be worth a longer look. Tim Hasselbeck didn’t pull a Jay Schroeder against the Dolphins, but he came close. Unfortunately for the Redskins, they’ve had a habit of losing the close ones.


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