- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Patrick Ramsey has every right to be seething after being kicked to the curb 26 snaps into the season.

His was not an opportunity to exhibit his wares. His was a mirage, a magic trick. Now you see it. Now you don’t. His anointment merited a Bill Clinton-like exercise in parsing. It all depended on the meaning of starting quarterback.

This should have been Ramsey’s time to demonstrate where he is in the NFL pecking order of quarterbacks.

No one outside of the Redskins thinks theirs is a playoff-destined team. The harm in sticking with Ramsey was negligible. The benefit was obvious. The team might have a quarterback. It might not. Either way, it would have an answer.

We recognize the all-or-nothing element of Ramsey. We know he remains a turnover-in-waiting. We know he holds the ball too long in the pocket. We know he suffers from Vinny Testaverde colorblindness.

We also know he can throw the deep pass and that defenses have to respect the threat. We also know he is capable of the big play, as he showed with the 52-yard pass to Santana Moss against the Bears.

It is hard to say if Ramsey eventually could mature into a playoff quarterback. It is hard to say how he would have performed after starting 10 games this season. He has that unknowable dimension about him. He has been battered physically and mentally in three-plus seasons and never has been placed in a favorable position to succeed.

Joe Gibbs never bought into Ramsey. That was abundantly clear with the acquisition of Mark Brunell last year. Even as Gibbs was proclaiming Ramsey to be his guy after last season, Gibbs used a first-round pick to secure Jason Campbell in the draft. That had to be reassuring to Ramsey. He was the starting quarterback through the gnashed teeth of Gibbs.

And so after all the offseason proclamations and 26 snaps, we are going back to Brunell and an offense that dulls the senses.

Brunell is the master of the 2-yard dink pass, contrary to the recent assertions of Gibbs that Brunell somehow has morphed into Bob Feller at this advanced point in his career.

You saw Brunell’s downfield pop-up against the Bears. It was intercepted and returned for big yardage, only to be nullified by a pass-interference penalty. Brunell no doubt makes far fewer mistakes than Ramsey. But he lacks the capacity to make big plays, too.

In nearly three quarters, Brunell threw for a whopping 70 yards, 35 fewer than Ramsey in his one-plus quarter of action.

Lots has been made of how sharp Brunell looked in the preseason, which is true. Brunell looked awfully good against those second- and third-team defenses stuffed with waiver-wire material. He looked like his 2004 self against the Bears.

Brunell is what he is, an insurance policy in the event of an injury to the starting quarterback.

He is the junk ball pitcher who is able to extend his career because of craftiness. He is a situational player, best deployed in spots. His trajectory is downward, his Pro Bowl seasons behind him.

We do not know what Ramsey is after only 24 NFL starts. We have hints of an upside that only can be measured with playing time. For now, he is liable to throw three touchdowns and three interceptions in a game.

His benching would be more justifiable if his replacement was someone other than Brunell.

The re-emergence of Brunell has the feel of a white flag being raised.

You now can expect defenses to be stacked ever closer to the line of scrimmage, ever ready to crack down on Clinton Portis.

Gibbs knows what the rest of us don’t, as someone who works closely with Ramsey and Brunell in various settings on a daily basis.

From the outside, the hasty switch comes with a groan and a fear: Not that 2004 offense again.

One thing is certain: Ramsey is out of here, and we still don’t know if he is made of NFL’s starter material.

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