Doug Williams knows how recently demoted Patrick Ramsey feels. In his four years working for Joe Gibbs as a quarterback for the Redskins from 1986 to '89 he bounced from holding clipboards for Jay Schroeder and Mark Rypien to becoming most valuable player of Super Bowl XXII in Washington's 42-10 victory over Denver in 1988 and on to a sad farewell a year later.
Demotions and promotions were part of life for Williams in his 11-year pro career, which began in Tampa Bay in 1978 and included stops in Oklahoma (1984) and Arizona (1985) of the U.S. Football League before signing with the Redskins as a backup in 1986, when he threw one pass.
At 50, Williams is now a personnel executive for the Buccaneers, with a successful head coaching run at Grambling and a brief assistant coaching stint at Navy on his resume. His four years working for Gibbs included being an afterthought, surprise starter, MVP/star, replaced and displaced.
"Joe Gibbs is one guy who makes a decision he believes will help the team win," Williams said in a telephone interview. "He always told me he had to cut personal feelings from personnel decisions. Even when his decisions went against me, I found him an honorable guy. I came here from the USFL and was thankful for the opportunity. When I wasn't playing, I still felt I was the best quarterback. But I dealt with the situation. I was humble by the way I came up. There were few black quarterbacks in the league and I had the chance to compete for playing time. That's all you can ask. I considered it a privilege to play in the league."
I had a similar conversation with Williams last season, when the roles were reversed and Ramsey took over for Mark Brunell. Williams's view this time: "Brunell better play his [rear end] off; Ramsey ought to take what happened and work at getting better. And if you ask for a trade, make sure you know someone wants you. Joe won't throw Jason Campbell to the wolves, but he won't let him sit forever, either."
After last Sunday's game, which the Redskins won against Chicago, 9-7, Gibbs watchers left FedEx Field convinced he would replace Ramsey with Brunell for Monday night's game in Dallas. Statements such as "Mark doesn't make mistakes; I'm sure glad he's back" and not saying Ramsey would start if healthy were hints enough.
Gibbs was wise to officially announce the switch last Monday. But he was wrong to name Ramsey the starter last January rather than keep the position open for a competition that Brunell would have won this summer. "It's something I needed to do," Gibbs explained, if not to the satisfaction of Ramsey and a growing number of fans becoming disenchanted with the coach.
I agree with Gibbs's move to Brunell -- as well as with my friend, the Ol' Ball Coach, who used to say, "If one guy can't do it, try the other guy." What I do not agree with is Gibbs congratulating the fans at FedEx Field for making so much noise Bears QB Kyle Orton had trouble getting off his plays. I call that behavior bush league. In similar situations at NFL stadiums, the QB should step back and wait for the noise to subside, or until the home team is hit with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Leave it to NCAA President Myles Brand to make a bad situation worse, announcing Division I basketball and football players at schools closed by Hurricane Katrina will have to sit out a year if they transfer to another college. Brand said some players planned to transfer together to a single college, a move he called "athletic looting."
What? Did he say "athletic looting?" Get real.
"What an exaggeration," said John Thompson, WTEM and TNT commentator, who used to regularly recruit in New Orleans during his 26 years of coaching basketball at Georgetown. "You want to protect the interest of the kids -- not worry so much about the school -- and do what's best for the player. After what these kids have been through, the NCAA ought to permit them to play anywhere, not punish them, and make judgments."
Retired DeMatha coach Morgan Wootten, who like Thompson is a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, said a number of good high school basketball players affected "will lose the year and maybe their opportunity to play in college."
"We had seven players over the years from New Orleans," Thompson recalled. "A rich tradition there. Starting with Steve Martin [now an executive with the NBA New Orleans Hornets]. They all had old-fashioned values -- good kids -- strongly attached to the city and their high schools. The kids we had were smart and willing."
Touching the Bases
* Disappointed the Caps and Peter Bondra did not find a way to make deal for Bondra to finish his career here. But team owner Ted Leonsis is committed to a youth movement. "We have 20 first-round picks in camp and we will go through growing pains. But it will make the core team of prospects stronger and we won't change our strategy," Leonsis said, pointing to the overachieving Nationals and last season's Wizards as models of success.
I like young, fast teams, but not growing pains. So how about signing some defensemen?
* Did I really hear Nats GM Jim Bowden second-guessing Frank Robinson having Chad Cordero pitch to Atlanta's Chipper Jones and Andruw Jones in the ninth inning last Sunday, when Cordero surrendered back-to-back home runs to both sluggers in a tough-to-take 9-7 loss? Bowden's done a good job, especially having to operate on MLB-mandated payroll of about $55 million. Robinson has done a terrific -- if not perfect -- job keeping these guys alive in the playoff chase, this late in September, and does not need to be second-guessed by his own front office.
If all eight groups seeking to buy the Nationals received "highly detailed" purchase agreements from MLB this week for around $450 million, how can Bud Selig and Co. complete the deal before the end of the World Series? How can all eight groups still be in the running? Who is going to sign that lease for the new stadium if the mayor is in Greece? If the Nats draw 2.7 million fans at RFK, will MLB open the books and show us where the money went? It certainly didn't go for a starting pitcher. How much went to Peter the Great?
* Soccer fans get cranky when I ask dumb questions, such as why is D.C. United -- in the middle of a late run to repeat as MLS champion -- flying 5,000 miles to Santiago, Chile, this week to meet Universidad Catolica in the quarterfinals Thursday of a competition called Copa Sudamericana?
"I love these tournaments and think they are important for our league, players and fans," explained United President Kevin Payne. "This is what we have to do if you're going to be a player in an international sport. It will make us a better, more visible team."
I'll accept that, even with the 5,000-mile schlep, now that I know Feinstein's next book, "My Sudamericana: A Good Flight Spoiled," will chronicle the tournament.
Have a comment or question? Reach me at Talkback@washpost.com.