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QB Situation: Wait and See

Sep 14, 2005, 2:19 PM EDT

Comments Off on QB Situation: Wait and See

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 wrong.

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.

  1. Anonymous - Sep 14, 2005 at 3:19 PM

    An NFC Personnel Director —

    “Brunell’s going to manage the game for Joe. If they don’t turn it over, they’re pretty much going to win the game because they’ll get to work with a short field with that defense. He can still throw and he looks more comfortable this year — that’s obvious. But the big thing is he doesn’t panic under duress and throw the pick.”

    Couldn’t said it better myself. The book on Ramsey is simple: blitz him and he will make a mistake. In his first pro game, Kyle Orton did a much better job of dealing with the blitz than Ramsey ever has. I like PR and think he’s a class act, but I just don’t think he has the intangibles to be more than a journeyman, if even that. Just watch him in the pocket — he has no poise, no presence, it’s like he’s never played before sometimes. I seriously don’t know how much worse off we would be playing Campbell over Ramsey now. I’m sure he’s just as capable as making a big play for every bad play.

  2. Anonymous - Sep 14, 2005 at 8:15 PM

    ramsey looks uneasy in the pocket and passes to opposing corners too often. Brunell looks more confident. In the absence of big plays, I think Brunell can manage the offense better than Ramsey.

    having said that, I still feel disappointed with the way Ramsey was yanked. I was hoping he had until the bye week to prove himself.

  3. Skins2001 - Sep 15, 2005 at 11:36 PM

    Besides for thinking that this is the wrong choice to make, what upsets me is that Gibbs has been extremely hypocritical. Last year we suffered through 9 weeks of a horrendous Mark Brunell, who, at least at the time, couldn’t make a 7 yard pass. Our offense was horrible, Brunell was worse, and we could do absolutely nothing. Gibbs prided himself on being loyal to his quarterback and giving him a chance to succeed. Finally he realized that a switch had to be made and he made it. However this year, Ramsey wasn’t even given a game to show off what he could do. He looked nervous at the beginning, but recovered to make some nice plays. Right before he got hurt he made a beautiful downfield pass and led the team into the red zone, poised for a score, before he got hurt and fumbled the ball as a result. So why bench him? He was doing well and showed that he can make strong and accurate downfield passes, something that in over a year with Mark Brunell I have not seen at all. Ramsey is still relatively young, especially considering he had to relearn how to actually play quarterback in the NFL after Steve Spurrier left. He deserves at least a few more games at starter for some more experience and to see whether or not he is the guy. Brunell had 9 games and was showed nothing. Ramsey, who has shown talent and skill, should have many more than that. On top of all of that, he is still young enough to be a quarterback of the future, while Brunell is well past his glory days and nearing retirement.

  4. Phil - Sep 16, 2005 at 4:47 AM


    Thanks for this post. I really enjoyed your take. I think part of the issue here is that Gibbs made a gut call that he can’t completely explain. I’m very skeptical, but there is a chance that his gut is right here.

    I react to your post in more detail in Room Q.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.


  5. Marcus Edwards - Sep 16, 2005 at 11:11 AM

    Look how close the Redskins – Cowboys games were last year. The Redskins lost by 3 points in each game. I think Coach may be looking at how close those games were, and how turnovers could be the difference between losing by 3 and winning by 3.
    At this point, I don’t care if he starts Ola Kimrin at QB, if we could JUST BEAT DALLAS.

  6. Anonymous - Sep 16, 2005 at 4:42 PM

    You know, I think Ola Kimrin actually sees the field better than Ramsey. Archives

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