Doug Williams is getting jobbed and all I hear around town is the sound of the blinds being pulled shut. No one wants to see the obvious. No one wants to get involved, to respond to his pain, to say that what the Redskins are doing to him is not just wrong but outrageous. People shouldn't be treated like this.
Some professional observers tell me he should have played hurt. As they explain it, Williams never should have given Jay Schroeder the chance to have a hot fourth quarter against the New York Giants. He should have toughed it out and played.
My father-in-law tells me he knew all along Williams wouldn't be the starting quarterback for long. He thinks team owner Jack Kent Cooke favors Jay Schroeder. Coach Joe Gibbs might even feel the same as his boss. They both know the 26-year-old Schroeder, who earns $1 million a year (more than twice Williams' salary), is their quarterback of the future.
Meanwhile, Gibbs is calmly repeating on every TV station that he's simply going with the hot quarterback; he just wants to win. He said the dispute has been settled on the field. And he said he never had any rule about a player not losing his job because of an injury.
Gibbs' explanation is not completely truthful. His "hot" quarterback played terribly for almost three quarters of the Giants game. Williams, 32, has been playing better. If this dispute is to be judged on performance, let's look at the statistics. Williams has a better pass completion rate (46.6 for Schroeder vs. 57.9 for Williams). Although Williams has played less, they have about the same yardage passing (Schroeder 1,036 vs. Williams 939). They each have thrown nine touchdown passes, but Williams has only three interceptions to Schroeder's five.
As to Gibbs' claim that he never had any rule about an injured player reclaiming his job -- excuse me, but isn't that the exact reason Gibbs offered for giving Schroeder back his job once the strike ended after he had been out due to injury and Williams had put in two good performances?
A wise friend who follows the team closely took me aside to explain that Gibbs may figure Williams can do a better job of handling the stress of being the backup; Schroeder was not taking his benching well and might have come apart if he had to sit much longer.
This whole town is finding reason after reason not to stand up and shout that what is happening to Williams is unfair and it's wrong. It can't be excused. The line that "Life is Unfair" won't wash. The line that "football is big business" is no excuse.
Here's my bottom line: I felt for Doug Williams when he had tears in his eyes Monday night and I feel for him now because he knows, and everyone else knows (whether they're willing to admit it or not) that Joe Gibbs reversed field inexplicably when it came to Williams and let a starting quarterback lose his job because of a back injury.
Williams got a bad deal even though he had been noble enough to put his team first and honestly tell the coaches that due to his back pain he couldn't give the Redskins his best against the archrival Giants. The team has an excellent and healthy backup in Schroeder, so let him play and give the team the best shot at winning. That is the quintessence of the team philosophy Gibbs preaches.
But is Williams' sense of fair play with his teammates and fidelity with Gibbs' teaching rewarded? No! Is there a reward for Williams' repeated display of maturity and class throughout the season -- his stepping aside to let Schroeder back after Schroeder was injured and his kind words about Schroeder's future after Schroeder was benched in the Detroit game? No!
Instead, everyone runs for the nearest rationalization to excuse a corporation doing-in an employe in front of everyone. In fact, some people are anxious to turn away from it because, they whisper, this thing could become racial and they don't want to make a racial thing out of it. Williams certainly doesn't.
There have been other quarterback controversies in this town -- Kilmer vs. Jurgensen, for one -- but always between two white quarterbacks. Now one of the quarterbacks is black and there is the potential for the controversy to divide the team as well as the town along racial lines.
Everyone seems to feel that since there is the racial angle it's best if everyone keeps his mouth shut about what is happening to Doug Williams.
Nonsense. Doug Williams, the man, the very classy and honorable man, is being abused. His loyalty is going unrewarded. His self-control -- always available to the press and no whining -- is even offered as a reason for why he is being asked to take this abuse.
His proven talent and ability to lead the team is being ignored. Concern over the racial angle aside, Doug Williams is flesh and blood and muscle, and no one wants to say he's having his heart ripped out. Juan Williams is a staff writer on The Washington Post Magazine.