When the Washington Redskins walked off of the field at Tennessee’s Coliseum last Sunday, they had notched a much-needed victory over a formidable AFC opponent. But what the team uncovered in its match-up with the Titans went way beyond what any box score could suggest.
The Redskins, who have hosted a continuous revolving door at the quarterback position for nearly a decade, have finally found their leading man of the future in rookie Patrick Ramsey.
Ramsey, who replaced starter Danny Wuerffel after he was knocked out of the game early in the first quarter, put on an offensive display that wowed the crowd, baffled the Titans’ secondary defense and even surprised his own teammates and coaches.
“I didn’t know that he could step up in there and with guys flying all around him and make plays,” said head coach Steve Spurrier after Ramsey’s NFL debut. “He avoided the rush here and there and hit a lot of third down plays and kept drives going. I didn’t know he could do that. None of us did.”
Immediately following the game, in which Ramsey completed 20 of 34 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns without an interception, Spurrier named him the team’s new starting quarterback. He will be the team’s third different starter this season, in just five games. Wuerffel and Shane Matthews, both of whom enjoyed collegiate success under Spurrier while at the University of Florida, will back up “St. Patrick” for the remainder of the year, and help mentor the quarterback during his first professional season.
Many Redskins fans had been calling for the switch to Ramsey at quarterback for weeks. Spurrier maintained that Ramsey was not yet battle tested like journeymen Wuerffel and Matthews were, and therefore not ready be thrust atop the depth chart. Ramsey also missed the first 16 days of training camp due to a contract dispute, and had to play catch-up the rest of the preseason.
There was also speculation that the choice to keep Ramsey clinging to the clipboard was one based less on ability and more on school colors. Spurrier, who is in his first year in Washington, has made it his mission to successfully transplant the explosive “Fun and Gun” brand of offense he won so regularly with at the college level into the pro game.
Until now, Spurrier had convinced himself that Gator grads Matthews and Wuerffel, who were already familiar with the offense, would be the ones to carry out the order. But the verdict is now in on Ramsey, who clearly has the strongest arm of the three, and he will run the offense from here on out.
The major knock on Ramsey coming out of Tulane, and one that likely allowed him to slip to the end of the first round of the draft, was that he is not extremely mobile in the pocket.
While Ramses does not come from the same mold as some of the speed demons that recently burst onto the QB scene, he is fearless with the ball in hand and has a knack for pushing it up the field under pressure.
Not much of a scrambler, Ramsey relies on a strong arm and accuracy to run the offense effectively. In much the same way that superstar Green Bay Packer QB Brett Favre has excelled for so many seasons, Ramsey seems to feed off of the tough shots he absorbs over the course of a game. Big hits send a rush of adrenaline leaving him calm and confident, rather than weak and hobbled.
By coincidence, Ramsey also happens to don the same uniform number as a former Redskin quarterback and Super Bowl XXVI MVP, Mark Rypien. Ramsey’s crisp passes, complete control of the offense and unflappable poise surely conjured up memories of the glory days of the early nineties among Redskins fans, the last time that Washington won a championship.
At 23, Ramsey has his entire career ahead of him, and the forecast out of the nation’s capital looks bright. In football, though, perhaps more than in any other sport, there exists a myriad of things that can get in the way of a player reaching his full potential. Career altering injuries ? see Rypien ? unfulfilled expectations ? see Heath Shuler ? bad attitudes ? see Jeff George ? and bizarre celebratory mishaps ? see Gus Frerotte ? have all taken an absurd toll on Washington’s recent quarterback fraternity.
While it’s impossible to tell which path Ramsey will take in the NFL, one thing is nearly certain. Dealing with Steve Spurrier on a daily basis and trying to figure out what’s going on inside the ‘Ol Ball Coach’s head will make Ramsey’s inauguration process in D.C. much easier.
Gerton can be reached at email@example.com.