Although you wouldn’t know it from the reaction he received from the crowd, from the fans discussing the game, or from the press, Patrick Ramsey’s performance took a quantum leap in the positive direction from last week to last night. You wouldn’t know it as he was booed at FedEx Field, has been getting hammered on the message boards and in water-cooler discussions, and several questions at Joe Gibbs’ press conference last night were aimed at getting to coach to show the least bit of wobble in his support for Ramsey.
Although Gibbs opened up the presser with an angry outburst (for him, anyway) at the turnovers that he believes cost his team the game, he didn’t point the finger at Ramsey, who tossed two interceptions, and didn’t waiver in the least in his assertion that Ramsey is the guy at QB and will remain so. As well he should, for a couple of reasons.
First, you can’t yank the guy or even put the job up for grabs after two preseason games. Gibbs announced at the end of last season that the starting quarterback job was Ramsey’s, period. The team has been through minicamp, OTA’s, and two weeks of training camp. You don’t commit to a plan for that long and then, when things to a little bit wrong during two weeks of camp and a couple of exhibition games, throw it all out the widow. That’s not how you get an organization back on track.
Second, the view here is that things aren’t all that wrong. Ramsey did almost nothing right last week against Carolina. His errors, ranging from the interception on the opening drive to depriving his receivers of yards-after-catch opportunities by making them lunge for throws, were well chronicled here. Against the Bengals, Ramsey did a lot right. He averaged over ten yards per attempt and over 20 per completion. In the pocket, he was cool and calm. He developed some timing and rapport on deep passes with David Patten. He didn’t quite develop the same with Santana Moss, although on the first series Moss lost a potential TD pass from Ramsey in the lights. On several occasions, he threw a ball to a spot, the exact spot to which a receiver arrived at the moment the ball did.
It was a very good, perhaps great, performance except for the interceptions.
Yes, that is like the old “other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you like the play?” And Ramsey’s first pick was eerily reminiscent of the one that he threw late in the game last year at FedEx against the Eagles when the Redskins had a chance for a stunning upset. It was the same area of the field, the same kind of pass where he seemed not to see a defender who was stationed right between the quarterback and the receiver. It’s one thing for a quarterback to make a mistake; it’s another for him to make the same mistake over and over again.
But, hey, this just in, quarterbacks throw interceptions. Three of them in two first halves of play is not an outrageous, unheard of event. As long as the quarterback is making some positive things happen, as was the case against Cincinnati, such miscues, while unwelcome, are not stunning nor should they be fatally damaging to a team’s chances.
Also keep in mind that this was just one half of work, 19 attempts. Ramsey seems to be a quarterback who takes a while to get warmed up. He has a track record for doing better as the game went on. Last year, in his 21st through his 30th pass attempts in games, his quarterback rating was a cool 100.8 with three touchdowns, just one interception, 59% of his throws going for first downs, a 68% completion percentage and an average of 7.73 yards per attempt on 64 throws. Like a pitcher who needs a few innings of work to get into the groove, Ramsey needs some time to find the strike zone.
Of course, you can’t always afford to muddle through those first 20 attempts, where in 2004 Ramsey averaged less than six yards per attempt, threw seven interceptions to six touchdowns and a rating in the low 70’s. He has to figure out a way to come out of the chute throwing accurately and with confidence.
The point here is not that Patrick Ramsey is ready right now to go and lead this team back to the promised land of double-digit win seasons and playoff runs. However, he did show enough improvement from the first preseason game to the second to warrant a bit more optimism that he’ll be able to do so.