- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

A lot has happened in Washington sports since the Monday Morning Quarterback last weighed in on your favorite football team.

The Wizards not only made the playoffs, but they won a series. Baseball returned and the town swooned, at least before the Nationals did.

Hockey’s back, too, but with Potomac’s Jeff Halpern their most proven scorer, the Caps might as well have remained locked out.

Maryland and Navy, the area’s only Division I-A football programs, finally had at it for the first time in 40 years.

And shock of all shocks, despite their deflating 6-10 record in 2004, the Redskins will start the season with the same coach, defensive coordinator and quarterback that they finished the previous year with for the first time since Dubya was a first-term guv in ‘98.

Constant change was supposed to be history when Dan Snyder tossed the Ball Coach overboard and lured the legendary Joe Gibbs back last year. But while Gibbs kept his staff together, the players kept coming and going like babies in a maternity ward.

So after a typically meaningless preseason, it’s September and the Monday Morning Quarterback is more than ready for the real thing. And we’re not talking about Coca-Cola.

Q: OK, Mr. Football. Let’s cut to the chase: What’s the deal with Patrick Ramsey? Is his job safe?

A: Didn’t you mean strafed, not safe? Ramsey rarely seemed comfortable this summer, as if the sacks of the Spurrier era and the slaps of the Gibbs era (trading for Mark Brunell, drafting Jason Campbell) had tattooed a permanent zero on his confidence.

If Ramsey can fix his penchant for making the big mistake, the Redskins can have a good season. If he doesn’t, he’ll be benched before Columbus Day.

Q: LaVar Arrington has showed us that he’s the old LaVar. Warrick Holdman hasn’t shown us anything. Why is LaVar a backup?

A: After missing almost all of the final 14 games last year because of an ailing knee, Arrington didn’t get back on the field until Aug. 15. Besides, despite his big reputation, Arrington hadn’t done much for this coaching staff. So defensive boss Gregg Williams is making Arrington earn back his job.

It says here that Holdman starts in the opener against his old team, the Bears, but that Arrington will be in the lineup in the “Monday Night Football” spotlight Week 2 in Dallas.

Q: Speaking of the Cowboys, it’s about time that we beat those so-and-sos in their place. I can’t remember the last time we did that.

A: Try 1995 when Heath “Call Me Congressman” Shuler prevailed over the about-to-be champs and Troy Aikman. Gibbs actually had a winning record in Texas Stadium (6-5) his first time around, but he’s 1-11 against Bill Parcells since the night LT broke Joey T’s leg on national TV in 1985. You tell me which hurts worse.

Q: You mentioned Joe Theismann. These Redskins could use some of his cockiness: He picked the Redskins to go to the Super Bowl! Ramsey, Santana Moss, David Patten, Chris Samuels, Jon Jansen, Cornelius Griffin, Marcus Washington and Shawn Springs are all too nice, don’t you think?

A: Friendliness wasn’t one of Laveranues Coles’ traits, and the Redskins were just 11-21 with Mr. Lack of Congeniality. And no one has accused Sean Taylor of being too nice. Clinton Portis and Randy Thomas do plenty of yapping, but you’re right that with Fred Smoot gone, the Redskins’ locker room will be quieter. But the Patriots aren’t a bunch of loud braggarts. They make you feel bad by beating you.

Q: How could the Redskins welcome back Taylor this summer like everything was fine after he had dissed his teammates and Gibbs badly, then got busted when he should have been here working out?

A: Williams made Taylor do penance by not starting him for the first two weeks of camp, but Gibbs and Co. aren’t so old-school that they don’t know how special a player he is, especially for a struggling team.

Taylor could be a better athlete than Arrington and Champ Bailey, the two best Redskins draft picks since 1990. Don’t forget that Coach Joe put up with plenty of garbage from Riggo, Dexter and Gary Clark back in the day. As long as they played well.

Q: Portis didn’t look to us to be worth Champ and a No. 2 pick last year. After taking that first handoff to the house against Tampa Bay, he might as well have been Trung Canidate.

A: That’s colder than the Super Bowl in Detroit. Portis wasn’t special last year, but he looked like the real deal this summer. The adjustments in the scheme to accommodate his style, the return of Jansen and the addition of center Casey Rabach have put the quicks back in C.P.’s feet.

Q: Are Moss and Patten going to do better than Coles and Rod Gardner as our top receivers? They’re awfully, uh, vertically challenged.

A: There’s a 50-50 chance. Oh, sorry, that was Gardner’s nickname. Moss and Patten both have great speed and good hands. The question is whether Ramsey will be able to get them the ball.

Q: Hmm. We’ve asked about Ramsey, Portis, the new Smurfs, LaVar and Sean Taylor. Who’s left? Oh, yeah. Can Walt Harris and Lemar Marshall make us forget Smoot and Antonio Pierce?

A: Fred and Antonio who? Seriously, no one expected Pierce to play so well in the middle last year. So while Marshall isn’t the playmaker or leader that Pierce was, he’ll be solid. Harris didn’t have a good preseason, but rookie Carlos Rogers is champing (pun intended) at the bit to take that job. The defense will be fine.

Q: Before Pierce comes back to the Big Ugly in Landover, we get to host reunions with Mike Nolan, Norv and Marty. Are you excited?

A: I think this: We’ll compete in all three phases. Oops. Must have been channeling Norv. Jansen, Arrington and Samuels are the only players still here from Norv’s last team in 2000. Those three and Ethan Albright are the only ones left who got a pep talk from Marty the English Major. And there’s no one remaining from Nolan’s defenses. Those coaches fired by Snyder will be the folks who are fired up.

Q: All right. Enough of the bad old days. We’re Motown-bound this year, right?

A: You’ll have to get your R-E-S-P-E-C-T somewhere else. The Redskins can’t beat the Eagles and just hope to split with the Cowboys and Giants. They can’t score with the Rams. The AFC West games will be grueling. Even if they sweep their five other lackluster foes, that’s just 8-8 and that sweep won’t happen. Looks like 6-10 all over again.

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