- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 7, 2005

When Bill Musgrave meets with the Washington Redskins quarterbacks for his “Saturday Night Stump-ers” this week at the Greenbelt Marriott, he will try his best to trick Patrick Ramsey with a front or coverage the Chicago defense isn’t expected to use.

The test — 10 to 12 questions — serves as a review of the game plan and is Musgrave’s way of keeping Ramsey, Mark Brunell and Jason Campbell on their toes.

“We go over the same things all week and when he makes us focus on things we haven’t, it helps us expand our knowledge of the offense,” Ramsey says.

And even though he’s been exposed to Ramsey for a few months, Musgrave already knows how he’s going to do on the exam.

“Patrick’s sharp,” says Musgrave, the Redskins’ first-year quarterbacks coach. “He has a better grasp for defenses than I expected of a guy who has been in the league for only three years. He’s very knowledgeable about how NFL defenses are structured.”

Ramsey is unquestionably bright — he owns accounting and finance degrees from Tulane — and can detect nuances on film some quarterbacks would miss. But on the cusp of his second opening day start for the Redskins, Ramsey knows it’s time to translate the classroom performance to on-field consistency and get Washington back to .500 for the first time since 2001 and maybe the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Handed the keys by Joe Gibbs after his 3-4 performance as a starter last year, this is likely Ramsey’s last chance to prove he can start for the Redskins. Mark Brunell’s impressive preseason has him back in the picture, and Gibbs gave up next year’s first-round draft pick to select Jason Campbell last spring.

The Brunell and Campbell acquisitions were warnings, but Ramsey remains undeterred. He played the good solider when Brunell was acquired in February 2004, kept his mouth shut publicly when he was made the backup last season, was grateful to get a shot late in the year even with an offense that was impotent and said nothing when Gibbs became infatuated with Campbell.

All of his hasn’t left Patrick Ramsey bitter, just a bit wiser.

And more confident and assertive.

“It’s night and day,” says right tackle Jon Jansen, a close friend of Ramsey. “I don’t think there’s any doubt in anybody’s mind that he’s the guy that will win ballgames for us this year.”

To that end, Gibbs acquired receivers Santana Moss and David Patten to stretch the field, center Casey Rabach to fortify the line and tweaked the offense to make it more formidable. Now it’s up to Ramsey to prove he can keep the job and show that he’s the next Matt Hasselbeck (solid NFL starter) and not the next Ty Detmer (career backup).

More confident with role

In a recent “Family Guy” repeat, Stewie — the talking baby in search of world domination — gave Brian — the talking dog in search of a double martini — a “compliment sandwich.” Something good, something bad, something good. He had trouble thinking of a second good trait.

Ramsey can relate. Whenever commentators say something good about Ramsey (“He has a rocket arm”), they invariably throw something bad in the middle (“He makes poor decisions”) and possibly the end (“He takes unneeded punishment”).

The critics have plenty of ammunition with which to fire. Ramsey has started 23 games and is 9-14 with 33 touchdowns, 25 interceptions and a 74.4 passer rating. Not great, but about the same as the two quarterbacks drafted ahead of him in 2002. Houston’s David Carr is 14-29 as a starter with a 72.5 rating, and Detroit’s Joey Harrington is 14-30 with a 67.2 rating.

The difference is that Carr is the Texans’ current and future starter and Harrington, with challenger Jeff Garcia out for six weeks with a broken leg, is the Lions’ top gun.

Carr has benefited from being in the same offense his entire NFL career. Ramsey is in his second offense and working with his third quarterback coach in four seasons. But teammates say his comfort level with the system and his role as a leader is noticeable.

“His attitude in the huddle is the biggest change,” H-back Chris Cooley says. “He knows he’s the guy, and he’s trying to take over and be the leader. I feel like his confidence is really high. He looks comfortable dropping back, seems like he’s seeing and reading the field really well right now.”

Comparing 2002 and 2004 — his second year in then-coach Steve Spurrier’s offense and his second season in Gibbs’ system — Ramsey says it’s “fairly similar. Any time you have a year to run an offense in live situations and have a full offseason to study it after you’ve run it, you’re going to feel more comfortable.

“I can spit out formations easily and I know exactly what we’re doing. I’m not just repeating what Coach Gibbs tells me, but I’m visually seeing it in my mind.”

The comfort zone expanded during the offseason with the addition of Musgrave, a former NFL quarterback. After he was hired, Musgrave watched all of Ramsey’s throws from last year and previous seasons.

“The first thing you see on film is that he’s physically talented and he has the arm strength to make any throw you can imagine,” Musgrave says. “And his reputation preceded him about being physically tough and getting up time and time again.”

Getting sacked 70 times in three seasons, losing his job and going through a coaching change should have toyed with Ramsey’s psyche, but Musgrave says repairs weren’t required.

“He was ready to roll,” Musgrave said.

Says Jansen: “Like the rest of us, it was a learning process and he definitely has improved and has gotten more confident. There is no doubt he’s going to be a great quarterback for this year.”

He’ll have to be good. The offense’s ineptitude has been well documented — the unit ranked 30th in yards, 29th in passing, 31st in scoring, 28th on third down — and the Redskins simply didn’t scare NFL defenses. Several long completions during the preseason have given opposing coordinators something else to think about besides Clinton Portis’ running skills and Cooley’s effectiveness in the red zone.

There’s no question Ramsey can throw the long and intermediate passes: He zipped a 17-yard pass through two defenders to Patten over the middle and lofted a 28-yard pass to Moss down the sideline against Pittsburgh in the preseason.

But there’s also no question Ramsey has made some shoddy decisions, as well: He’s thrown four interceptions in less than seven quarters of play. Carelessness with the football will cost Ramsey his job because Gibbs despises three things above all else: Turnovers, penalties and the Dallas Cowboys.

“Patrick understands that we can’t turn it over and it diminishes our chances of winning,” Gibbs says. “What you do is explain and work on it. That’s the best way I know to correct things.”

Used to pressure

Ramsey says he has become comfortable playing the most scrutinized position in D.C. professional sports.

“It was maybe more intense than I expected when I first got here, but I’ve grown accustomed to it,” he says. “It’s what you want it to be and what you want to be on any team. I love the passion of our fans.”

How he plays under that microscope early in the season will dictate how long he lasts as the Redskins’ starter. Gibbs waited until second quarter of Game 9 last year to bench Brunell and by that time, Washington was headed to a 3-6 record. It was too late. Don’t expect Coach Joe to be as patient this year.

The first two games are paramount for Ramsey. A 2-0 start and his job is secure going into the bye week. A 1-1 start that includes a bad performance in Dallas or an 0-2 start — which would be classified as a disaster — and his time may be done.

Gibbs constantly was complimentary of Ramsey’s performance during the preseason and is hopeful the offense is on the right track. Still, he issued a warning last weekend.

“All of this is the preseason,” he says. “We’ll find out when we go against Chicago. We’re going to be matched up against a very good group. I have some feelings about [how the offense will perform], and everybody that watched us can draw some conclusions, too.

“But until the bullets start flying, you won’t know. The proof will be how we play in the regular season.”

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