- The Washington Times - Monday, November 15, 2004

Godot popped into FedEx Field yesterday. After 21/2 long months of defending quarterback Mark Brunell, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs finally succumbed to the inevitable and the pleas of 89,000 fans. Even little old ladies in Section 437 were screaming for Patrick Ramsey.

The result? Another loss, this one to Marvin Lewis’ Cincinnati Bengals. Ramsey looked every bit the rusty kid who’s been taking 10 percent of the snaps since August. Like a drunkard at the state fair, Ramsey tossed wide left, wide right, too high and too low. The only thing he didn’t do was barf on the Tilt-A-Whirl.

The Monday Morning Quarterback should be so lucky. Wincing in anticipation at the upcoming schedule — and not just because his tires are going to get slashed next weekend at the Linc the Quarterback mulls the assorted airballs of a pair of pitiful passers and a season that’s turned bleaker than a December day on the Mall.

Q: Second verse, same as the first. How come Patrick Ramsey was no better than Mark Brunell yesterday?

A: Wouldn’t go that far. Brunell hit rock bottom with his 1-for-8 effort, missing open receivers and leaving Gibbs with no choice. Ramsey mixed a couple nice throws into an erratic afternoon, but he also had little preparation for yesterday. Gibbs’ full commitment to the starter means the backup on this team faces a steep uphill battle.

Q: Not a big fan of mental reps?

A: The idea that a player can get prepared just by being around is bogus. A quarterback, in particular, needs to develop rhythm with other players. In the pocket, he needs a sense of when to stick and when to get out of Dodge. And with Gibbs’ scheme tailored to a left-handed, scrambling passer, it’s clear the plays need to be tweaked for the right-handed, immobile Ramsey. Just take yesterday’s game-ending Hail Mary — Ramsey rolled left.

Q: Did Gibbs wait too long to make the switch? Is it too late to save the season?

A: First Ramsey must prove he’s capable of saving the season — a big unknown. His rating was 52.8 yesterday and it could have been a lot worse if the Bengals defense didn’t get a case of the butterfingers. It would have been nice for the move to have come at the bye week, when the offense could have been tweaked to Ramsey. But ultimately there’s something to be said for commitment to one quarterback.

Q: Will Gibbs show the same commitment to Ramsey?

A: Great question. Based on Gibbs’ actions with Brunell starting, Ramsey should get the second half of the year to show what he can do.

Q: And where does Brunell go now? Acapulco? Disney World? TGI Friday’s to drain his sorrows in a flat Budweiser?

A: Try back to the drawing board. First, Brunell might be able to do some genuine self-evaluation now that he’s not scrambling to save his job. Second, the kid has a history of getting the tar kicked out of him. Corey Simon could snarf down a Ramsey sandwich next weekend and force Brunell back on the field. One thing does bear mentioning: Brunell handled the past month or so like a pro. Few people could have kept their composure so well in the face of such widespread criticism.

Q: What about Marvin Lewis? How bad did he want the win over Washington?

A: Not as bad as he wanted to convince everyone that he wasn’t looking to leave the Redskins in 2002. Don’t buy that one. Lewis was a rent-a-coordinator from late November on, when the Michigan State rumors started flying. Particularly given the NFL’s push for minority hirings that year, it was widely accepted that Lewis was headed out of town. As for yesterday’s win, it was an important step for a young team trying to finish .500 or better. As Washington is about to find out, rallying from 3-6 is a tough task.

Q: Carson Palmer was lights-out in the first half. How does he rank among the NFL’s young quarterbacks?

A: Too early to say whether he’s a better prospect than Houston’s David Carr, Jacksonville’s Byron Leftwich or the Giants’ Eli Manning. Carr probably would be the best choice from that group. Obviously New England’s Tom Brady is a man among boys, and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger might be the NFL’s hottest young prospect. Lewis is doing a smart thing in baptizing Palmer by fire — the dividends will pay off next year when Cincinnati, provided it can land a couple free agents on defense, makes a move toward the playoffs.

Q: What took Gibbs so long to get Darnerien McCants the ball? D-Mac had two big catches.

A: Here’s the trouble: wide receivers who don’t start and don’t play special teams just ain’t gonna get on the 45-man gameday roster. Do the math — 22 spots go to starters, plus three specialists. That leaves 20 extra guys, and there’s eight position groups to back up and special teams to consider. McCants, though, needs to be on the field, especially now that Ramsey is the quarterback. Who should be voted off the island? We’d make a plug for wildly inconsistent Rod Gardner.

Q: OK, how does this season end? Do we even beat Spur-dog’s five wins?

A: The next two weeks — at Philly, at Pittsburgh — are almost guaranteed losses. And that would leave Washington 3-8 and likely struggling to stay unified. The odds of a total collapse don’t seem high, given the character this team has shown to date, but even five wins will be a challenge.

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