Quarterback Contraversy in DC?

By: Jeffrey Pontius

It is obvious who ought to take the first snap for the Washington Redskins next fall. The answer is so clear, anybody that thinks otherwise needs to have their brain examined. Maybe new head coach Joe Gibbs should order Patrick Ramsey get a CAT scan before mini-camp takes place.

Mark Brunell should not only be anointed starting quarterback right now, he should not have to compete for the job until at least 2005. Simply put, Brunell is a proven NFL quarterback, and Ramsey is not. Brunell has started for eight seasons (excluding 2003), while Ramsey has yet to start 20 games. Owner Dan Snyder gave Gibbs an unspoken mandate to get to the Super Bowl within the next three seasons. Who is more likely to accomplish this?

There is no legitimate argument that anybody can give for Ramsey to start ahead of a healthy Brunell in 2004. Let’s break down a few of the reasons given why Ramsey should start:

-Ramsey is the quarterback of the future – There is no question Ramsey has the potential to solidify the Redskins’ quarterback situation for years to come. If the organization believes that Ramsey is the guy for years to come, he will have to assume the starting job someday. However, he will have growing pains to endure if or when he does assume the job. Ideally, a third-year quarterback who has started parts of his first two years should be ready to start seasoning his game. In Ramsey’s case, everything he has learned in his first two seasons needs to be discarded. The coaching staff needs to handle Ramsey as if he were a rookie.

This is not an ideal situation to claim a starting quarterback job. With up to a third of the roster changing, the new players need to be transitioned in with a proven quarterback.

-Ramsey has a great upside – If this is a reason to give a quarterback a starting job, then Browning Nagle, Rick Mirer, and Heath Shuler should be starting in this league. Ramsey has potential, but he is hardly sure thing. Although he posted good statistics when he was playing at Tulane, he did it in a pass-friendly offense against mid-major competition. He cannot be fairly evaluated on his first two seasons, because he did not get legitimate NFL coaching and was not in an adequate offensive system. A year from now, after he has been evaluated by an offensive staff with about 70 years of NFL experience, how much upside he actually has will be determined. This determination should be made on the practice field, not FedEx field.

-Ramsey’s toughness earned him the right to lead the team in 2004 – Since when were NFL games won on the ability to take a beating? There is much more to being an NFL quarterback then sitting in the pocket and taking a whipping. While his attitude and competitiveness were excellent in a very bad situation last year, it does not mean he can be an effective NFL quarterback. Ramsey’s toughness endured his teammates to him, but to maintain that respect, he is going to have to produce yardage, points, and wins. He will be in a much better position to produce in 2005 when he has a year under this coaching staff.

What has not been mentioned is how Ramsey’s response to this situation clarifies that he is not ready to lead this team. After the Redskins announced that they were acquiring Brunell, Ramsey’s agent publicly campaigned for a trade, where Ramsey could start. Since he can earn nearly $2 million in incentives, it is understandable why he wants to start somewhere in the league. However, he did agree to the contract when he signed it, and he may not want to risk his image over $2 million when he could make between $30 and $100 million before his career is up. Any dispute should have taken place behind closed doors. The fact he tried to force this publicly calls into question his ability to be a professional. Taking a beating does not make a quarterback a professional. There are thousands of people that would have taken the same physical beating for his base salary last year.

Snyder has been scrutinized for many personnel moves since he has owned the Redskins, and justifiably so. Brunell could be the most expensive backup quarterback in the NFL by next year. At least Ramsey will likely get one year to rest his body and learn how to be an NFL quarterback. Maybe he should learn how to bite his tongue while he is at it. If he is going to be the quarterback people think he can be, it will be a good lesson.

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