- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 26, 2004

It’s easy to pile on Patrick Ramsey these days. He’s 25 years young, hasn’t won a blessed thing as an NFL quarterback, and yet he’s balking at being the backup to Mark Brunell, a three-time Pro Bowler who’s been to two AFC title games. His agent has even requested a trade, though the Redskins don’t seem inclined to accommodate him.

Worse, Ramsey looks like a twit. I mean, what quarterback wouldn’t want to play for Joe Gibbs, the Isaac Newton of the passing game? Gibbs has turned every one of his starting quarterbacks with the Redskins into a star. And yet Patrick wants to work someplace else? The man can’t be thinking clearly. All those hits must have bruised his brain.

But let’s try to look at this from his perspective, which is clearly different from yours and mine. Ramsey’s first two seasons, in case you’d forgotten, weren’t exactly the smoothest ride. Indeed, he almost got traded before he’d ever taken a snap because he held out and missed two weeks of training camp (irking then-coach Steve Spurrier). Then Spurrier subjected him to a fearful beating by sending everybody but the waterboy out for passes — and leaving his young QB at the mercy of blitzers.

The Ball Coach’s inability to protect Ramsey last year led to the hiring of an offensive line consultant, current Gibbs assistant Joe Bugel, which only contributed to the circus-like atmosphere surrounding the team. Then, after weeks of sacks and knockdowns, Patrick was finally driven to the sideline by an injury and didn’t play the last five games.

And now the Redskins have decided to bring in Brunell, who almost certainly will be the starter next season — and perhaps beyond. Not only will this put Ramsey’s career on hold, it will take millions of dollars out of his pocket in incentives he would have earned just for being on the field. And you wonder why Patrick is saying, “Enough’s enough”? How many quarterbacks who had gone through what he’s gone through wouldn’t be saying, “Enough’s enough”?

Gibbs has tried to calm Ramsey’s fears by assuring him, “We’re going to play the best players at every position” — not the best-paid ones. Patrick, he claims, has “got a tremendous future with us.” But the QB and his agent remain skeptical. Why, they ask, would you give a $43million contract and an $8.6million signing bonus to Brunell if you didn’t envision him as the No.1 guy?

And they do, admittedly, have a point.

Perhaps it would help Ramsey to know the Redskins gave Desmond Howard a huge contract in 1992 — the last year of Gibbs’ first term — and he almost never got on the field. Gibbs would have liked to play Howard, but the kid never did anything in practice to warrant taking playing time away from Gary Clark, Ricky Sanders or Art Monk. Also, Gerald Riggs, I seem to recall, made a chunk of change to watch the more modestly paid Earnest Byner do the bulk of the ball carrying. So those weren’t just empty words from Coach Joe about playing “the best players.” He’s backed them up in the past.

It might also help Ramsey to remind him that if a quarterback doesn’t like his situation in the NFL, he should just wait 15 minutes — because things tend to change that fast. Quarterbacks get carted off with distressing regularity, and Brunell, let’s not forget, has had a couple of concussions. Even if he starts the season as the Redskins’ QB, there’s no guarantee he’ll finish it. (See Joe Theismann, 1985 — or, for that matter, Patrick Ramsey, 2003.)

What’s hardest for Ramsey, no doubt, is that he’s already had a taste of what it’s like to be a No.1 quarterback in the NFL. At 25, he’s already started 16 games and thrown for 3,705 yards and 23 touchdowns. He wants to keep starting — and who can blame him? He’s shown he can be a creditable QB in the league.

But it’s not like this little bump — if that’s what it turns out to be — is going to derail his career. Mark Rypien was almost 26 before he threw his first NFL pass; Theismann didn’t start a game until he was 27. And their careers turned out OK, didn’t they? Would either have won a Super Bowl if they’d gotten impatient and forced a trade to, say, the Cardinals?

(Heck, Brunell made his first NFL start on his 25th birthday — and now look at him. Joe Gibbs, Hall of Fame coach, is flying on a private jet to Jacksonville to woo him.)

So if I could say anything to Patrick Ramsey, I’d say this: Wait. Just wait.

Unfortunately, in the Maurice Clarett generation, wait is a four-letter word.

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