- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Leaving no doubt about the organizational shift away from big-money veteran Mark Brunell, Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs yesterday said young quarterback Patrick Ramsey will get an extended chance to prove himself as the starter, beginning Sunday at Philadelphia.

Gibbs announced his decision after reviewing tape of Sunday’s 17-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. Although Ramsey didn’t perform particularly well, hitting less than 50 percent of his throws and tossing two interceptions to just one touchdown, he at least gives the Redskins (3-6) some hope of legitimate offensive production.

Such optimism faded and eventually expired during Brunell’s two-month stint. Gibbs’ hand-picked quarterback — obtained in March for a third-round draft pick and signed to a seven-year, $43million contract — failed to lead Washington to more than 18 points in any of his nine starts. The low point came Sunday with a 1-for-8 effort.

“We’re now going to go with Patrick,” Gibbs said. “Hopefully he’s going to play great. We’re all going to support him.”

Practice, starting tomorrow, will be a radically different experience for Ramsey, who like most NFL backups was taking only about 10 percent of the snaps in recent months.

Now Ramsey will get to work on his timing with receivers, his mastery of Gibbs’ pre-snap movement and “hot” reads, and his general comfort level while taking virtually all the practice reps. The experience, according to the three-year pro, “absolutely” will result in a more intense week.

“You do everything you can to prepare to play each week,” Ramsey explained, “but knowing that you’re going to take that first snap and hopefully the last in the game, I think you’re going to be more aware of everything.”

Gibbs wouldn’t say how long the switch to Ramsey might last, but the coach indicated there are no plans to reinstall Brunell, who becomes the No.2 option. Gibbs added in a reference to his characteristic short-notice decision-making, “We’re going to have to sink or swim with the way I feel about things.”

Brunell declined comment at Redskin Park after expressing a bit of surprise Sunday. Gibbs said the 11-year pro handled yesterday’s decision in the same manner he handled the cascading boos at FedEx Field in recent weeks — with “class.”

“Two real first-class people,” Gibbs said, noting how Ramsey supported Brunell for more than two months and how Brunell apparently said yesterday, “I’m going to help Patrick every way I can.”

Gibbs continued to emphasize that the offense won’t undergo significant adjustment now that Ramsey, who is right-handed and immobile, is playing for Brunell, who is left-handed and makes his best throws on the run. The theory was supported by a variety of players.

“I don’t think it will be a change in philosophy, just a change in personnel,” right tackle Ray Brown said. “We’ll continue to do the things we need to do to win football games.”

But that doesn’t mean Ramsey has a modest challenge. Besides having to get up to speed with Gibbs’ offense, Ramsey takes over just as Washington enters the most difficult portion of its schedule.

After playing the Eagles on Sunday at Lincoln Financial Field, where last year Ramsey got pummeled and the Redskins’ slide from 3-1 to 5-11 began, he plays at Pittsburgh, another of the NFL’s top teams. Washington then returns home to face the New York Giants and Philadelphia again. The Redskins’ season should be effectively over by the end of that stretch.

“To be truthful, if I was him, I wouldn’t want to be in my first start going out against Philly,” Gibbs admitted.

Ramsey’s primary attribute is arm strength, which could be seen on a variety of plays Sunday even though his long completion was just 27 yards. Unlike Brunell, who floated intermediate-length passes and often was way off target on deep throws, Ramsey can rifle the ball 40 yards downfield or into a tight spot.

The trade-off is mobility and game management. Even against a suspect Bengals pass rush, Ramsey took four sacks. And Washington’s last-ditch chance to tie with 1:05 left faded when Ramsey struggled to get the no-huddle offense set up.

Overall, Sunday’s performance didn’t inspire overwhelming confidence, but Gibbs argued that the young quarterback didn’t have much chance. And all involved now acknowledge that there’s no way Ramsey will salvage Washington’s 26th-ranked offense by himself.

“I don’t think in any way that can be the case,” Ramsey said. “I’ll go out there and try to play well, but I know that everyone around me has to play well for us to be successful. … It’s going to be our team playing as a unit, playing well and playing consistently.”

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