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Mike Wise

Ill Winds Blowing Just Before the Draft

By Mike Wise
Thursday, April 21, 2005; Page D01

Let's see if we get this straight: Joe Gibbs says Patrick Ramsey is his starting quarterback next season. But the coach and president of Washington's professional football team was in Alabama on Tuesday, seeing if Auburn's Jason Campbell might be worth the 25th pick in Saturday's NFL draft. Ramsey is his man, Gibbs said -- even though he won't discount plucking a college quarterback this weekend.

Great. Beautiful.

Quarterback Patrick Ramsey regained the starting role in midseason, but is it his to keep? (Toni L. Sandys -- The Washington Post)

Just what the Redskins need in this mess of an offseason -- yet another quarterback controversy.

The franchise that gave you Sonny vs. Billy, Doug vs. Jay, Gus's Head vs. Dried Cement and Brad vs. Jeff invites you to weigh in on its latest quandary:

Patrick Ramsey or Jason Campbell?

This is, of course, highly speculative. But then, we're just mirroring the mood yesterday at Redskins Park, where Gibbs, Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato and owner Daniel Snyder sat side by side, releasing honest and thoughtful subterfuge about the draft, and discussing the team's offseason chaos.

There was some strong clarification about the team's plans for Saturday. The more voices you heard in the practice facility auditorium and outside the glass doors of Redskins Park, the more you have to worry for Ramsey. Clinton Portis, the starting running back, did not exactly give his quarterback a vote of confidence.

"I think Mark was in an unfortunate situation last year where we did a lot of shuffling on the O-line, tight ends, everything," Portis said of Mark Brunell, the man benched in favor of Ramsey last season. "I really don't think Mark had a good opportunity. We were all under fire early in the season and Mark just got the blame.

"Pat stepped up at a much calmer time and he led this team. He put up numbers, we got a few wins out of it, but you know Pat did it with Jack [Burns] calling the plays, and we threw downfield. Mark never had that luxury, so coming into the season I think it's a battle. I think Mark's got something to prove, I think Pat's got something to prove and if we do draft a quarterback, then he's got to come in with something to prove, because you don't waste a first-round pick and not play."

If Ramsey were a confident Pro Bowler with a few playoff games behind him, maybe this would make sense. But isn't this the player who almost wanted out of town when Brunell was signed for $43 million last offseason? Gibbs seemed as if he was trying to tame Ramsey's downfield rambunctiousness and make him more of a thinking, hunt-and-peck quarterback. Maybe that continues, but does Ramsey need a rookie looking over his shoulder if the job is truly his? And if Campbell or another quarterback is chosen, does this demote Brunell to third string? Gibbs has made it clear he believes Brunell is going to be a key part of the Redskins organization next fall, and we took that to mean he would back up Ramsey. Are those plans shelved, too?

Some nutsy offseason for this crew, huh? Gibbs began the news conference by saying that, Redskins press releases notwithstanding, he and Cerrato and, by association, Snyder, were all on the same page. This probably explains why the team lost Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce to free agency, why wide receiver Laveranues Coles departed angrily -- in a lateral-move trade at best -- for Santana Moss. This may also explain why neither Moss nor second-year safety Sean Taylor has reported for workouts, why Taylor won't even return a Hall of Fame coach's calls because he is upset with his contract. Or why LaVar Arrington, the face of the franchise until Gibbs came along, is upset with the team over his own contract and health issues.

Portis had his teammate's back yesterday, saying Taylor probably needed some time off after having to stomach a 6-10 season. Taylor, he said, just needs to "get away from football" for a while. "I would love to be in the Bahamas or Jamaica, but I'm here with y'all," the running back said. You think 20-year veteran Ray Brown was thinking that yesterday afternoon as he showered and left after his workout?

On top of the quarterback intrigue and the other brushfires, a premier free agent has yet to sign with the team in the last few months. Taking the counterintuitive route, this may be the only good sign at Redskins Park this spring. Yes, after annually hoisting the Lombardi Offseason Championship Trophy, perhaps Gibbs, Cerrato and Snyder have decided they need to spend less in the offseason and win more in the regular season.

Cerrato was even more pointed in his remarks, saying the Redskins would never draft a player who was not "smart and tough." Yet after another head-scratching day at headquarters, Cerrato said nothing about whether those qualities applied to the front office.

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