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Joe Gibbs’ announcement that Patrick Ramsey would be benched
and that Mark Brunell would start at quarterback has created quite a stir among
Redskins fans, a development about as predictable as the sun rising. Around the
message boards, the water coolers, in barroom debates and in the talk shows and
the like, there have been two distinct camps that are bickering with each other
and are easily identified. They each have a motto:
In Gibbs We Trust: Whatever Joe Gibbs does is OK with
this bunch. Argue with Gibbs and he can punch you in the mouth with his three
Super Bowl rings. If he thinks that Mark Brunell is best for the team and gives
it be best chance of winning that’s good enough for them. Of course as late a
week ago, many of these same people were wondering if Gibbs had lost his mind
because he hadn’t yanked Ramsey based on his preseason performance.
Gibbs II is a Bust: This crowd says, “Thanks for the
memories, Joe, but you’ve lost it.” According to them, you have to give the guy
that you said was your starter for eight months during the offseason more than
20 minutes of playing time before you yank him. Ramsey is the up and comer,
Brunell is the has-been and if Gibbs can’t see that, well, maybe it’s time to
promote Gregg Williams into Gibbs’ job and put Joe out to pasture.
Here, the position is to keep one foot firmly planted in
each camp. Call it Gibbs, Wait and See We Must. This may disappoint some
of you who come here looking for a firm stand to tell you what to think about
it. Sorry, that’s not going to happen. While I don’t like the move, I have to
give Gibbs the benefit of the doubt.
I didn’t like the move because, while Ramsey was struggling
some with interceptions and fumbles, he was also making enough plays on the
positive side to warrant giving him a chance to work through his problems. And
even though many, present company included, think that Mark Brunell has been
throwing and playing much better than he did last year you can’t overlook the
fact that he could be vastly improved from 2004 and just move from being a
horrible QB to one who is sub-mediocre. On top of that, it seemed to me that
the Redskins have a defense that could minimize the damage from a higher than
average number of turnovers.
On the proverbial other hand, you have to think that Gibbs
had had enough of Ramsey. While I remarked here yesterday that Ramsey got only
18:52 to prove himself; in fact he has had much longer than that. He had the
last seven games of 2004 plus this year’s OTA’s, minicamp, training camp, and
the preseason games to prove himself. In Gibbs’ eyes, he hasn’t done that. This
was not a snap judgment by Gibbs but one based on his observations of Ramsey
ever since his return as coach of the Redskins.
This is speculation—everyone else is trying to get inside
Gibbs’ head, why not me—but I have to think that Gibbs’ patience with Ramsey
grew thin over the past eight months because, although Gibbs and Bill Musgrave
and a number of other coaches have been telling Ramsey the same things over and
over again and they just aren’t sinking in. Implicit in the “you’re the
starting QB” deal is that you listen to what the coaches say and adjust what
you do accordingly.
It’s one thing for a fourth-year quarterback to make
mistakes. It’s another him to repeat the same mistakes. The end zone
interception Ramsey threw against Cincinnati in the preseason wasn’t just
eerily reminiscent of the game-killing pick that Ramsey threw against the
Eagles last year; it was its twin brother down to it being at the same spot on
the FedEx Field turf. In 2005 he has twice looked up to find a linebacker who
had come through on a blitz in his face. Against the Steelers he threw an
interception for a touchdown. Certainly, one would think, the coaches
repeatedly went over with Ramsey what he needs to do in that situation and
practiced it over and over. But the next time it happened, in the second
quarter last Sunday, the result was another turnover (albeit on what appeared
to be a dirty hit).
Gibbs probably looked at Ramsey and his gut told him that it
wasn’t going to get any better that the turnovers would continue at the rate of
one or two a quarter because Ramsey was either unwilling or unable to learn
from his mistakes and adjust. He may be right in that assessment and he may be
One other thing—please don’t talk to me about Ramsey’s
psyche or say that Gibbs lied to him. He has not demanded a trade according to
Jon Jansen and numerous other sources. Sure, it hurts to be demoted, but he’s a
big boy and he’ll get over it. His best bet it to keep his mouth shut, play
when the opportunity comes along (few NFL quarterbacks make it through 16 games
unscathed) and audition for a shot at a starting job here or elsewhere.
All that being said, I still don’t like the move. The
Redskins offense would be more effective and versatile with Ramsey at the helm
and, again, the defense is good enough to minimize the effect of mistakes. With
Brunell, we’re reduced to “Portis left, Betts right, Pass, Punt, Fight, Fight,
Fight!” and waiting for the other team to lose the game.
It’s a strategy that has landed a playoff spot for many
teams. We’ll see if it works for this one.