- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Another week, another Redskins quarterback. We’ve had 20 years of this now, 20 years of QBs coming and QBs going — and rarely, of course, playing well for any extended period.

It’s hard to believe it’s been that long. It’s even harder to believe the Quarterback Carousel began spinning on Joe Gibbs’ watch — his first watch. But yes, it’s true: The last time the Redskins got, say, three straight years of high-level play out of a QB — not Pro Bowl years, necessarily, just good, solid quarterbacking — was the early ‘80s, when Joe Theismann was calling the signals. From the middle of ‘81 through the end of ‘84, Joe T. was one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

Since then, however, the Redskins haven’t had anything close to that stability, that continuity, at the most important position on the field. What they’ve had instead is a succession of one-season wonders (Jay Schroeder ‘86, Doug Williams ‘87, Mark Rypien ‘91, Trent Green ‘98, Brad Johnson ‘99) who, for a variety of reasons, never became the kind of fixture every team lusts for.

Schroeder began to lose his grip on the job after just 25 starts. Williams — how quickly we forget — never played an uninterrupted season for the club. Rypien’s longest streak of consecutive starts was 48 (and the last 20 weren’t much to brag about). Gus Frerotte’s was 29; Johnson’s was 27.

This, as much as anything, is why the Redskins are where they are right now — still trying to recapture the glory of the first Gibbs Era. The team desperately needs a long-term solution at the quarterback spot, and it hasn’t been able to find one. Not to belabor the point, but Brett Favre has started every game in Green Bay since Sept.27, 1992; during that time, the Redskins have started 16 QBs, the second most in the league. Is it any wonder they’ve made the playoffs only once in the last 11 years (and figure to miss them again this season)?

Maybe the worm is just turning for the Redskins. For decades, after all, they were blessed with wonderfully talented quarterbacks — first Sammy Baugh, then Sonny Jurgensen, then, briefly, the loquacious Theismann. Even Eddie LeBaron, in between Sammy and Sonny, had his moments. But nothing, as they say, is forever (except, perhaps, for Dan Snyder’s ownership). Besides, it’s only fair if down-on-their-luck franchises like New England (Tom Brady), Indianapolis (Peyton Manning) and Philadelphia (Donovan McNabb) get to experience, every now and then, how the other half lives.

If the Redskins want to see the inside of the Super Bowl anytime soon, though, they have to come up with a QB who can give them consistent play over a span of years, a QB they can build around. “I think that’s very important,” Gibbs agreed yesterday. “Obviously, you’d love to have stability at the quarterback position. … You want to kinda find somebody who makes us go.”

Mark Brunell clearly isn’t that somebody. The offense has had trouble generating first downs when he’s been in there, never mind touchdowns. Given the unit’s meager production in the first nine games, it’s slightly miraculous the Redskins managed to win three of them. They could easily be duking it out with the Dolphins and 49ers for the first pick in next year’s draft (and may yet get in the mix).

Patrick Ramsey might not be that somebody, either, but at least he has better long-term prospects. Brunell is 34 — a stopgap at best. Ramsey is 25; you can build something lasting with him. But he’s still in the early stages of his education, and probably dealing with some Spurrier/Gibbs double vision to boot. The old wiring — or is it haywiring? — has to be torn out, and new wiring put in.

That could take awhile. Rypien stood and watched for more than two years before he set foot on the field — and had plenty of ups and downs before he became the unquestioned No.1. Here’s hoping Gibbs exercises similar patience with Ramsey, gives him at least as much rope as he gave Brunell. The kid may need it, especially going against the Eagles (twice) and Steelers in the next month (which could be the equivalent of walking into an airplane propeller).

“Hopefully, there won’t be any need for patience,” Ramsey said. “Hopefully, I can play well early and help this team win.”

“Play well early?” If I were him, I’d settle for “living to tell about it.”

And so the Redskins embark on another quarterback adventure. Coach Joe has shown in the past he doesn’t need Joe Montana to win championships — just a QB with a decent arm and a good head on his shoulders. But the past, we keep being reminded, is very much the past. The present is something else entirely.

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