An NFL starting quarterback is always in the spotlight. The light is more intense when you were a first-round draft pick. When you're the quarterback of the Washington Redskins, with a heritage of signal callers like Baugh, Jurgensen, and Theismann, the light shines even brighter. And when the team you're on drafts another quarterback in the first round it's so bright that Patrick Ramsey might as well be walking on the sun.
Ramsey is very easy to like both as a quarterback and a person. He's smart, personable, seemingly the perfect teammate. Never has a negative word about him from a coach or teammate been reported and there never has been a word about anything but exemplary conduct off the field.
On top of all that, he's 6-2, fearless, and can throw a football the proverbial county mile. Dan Snyder and Steve Spurrier thought so highly of Ramsey that they made him their first selection in the 2002 draft. It's apparent that the Ballcoach had a very high opinion of Ramsey. After naming him the starter for the 2003 season, Spurrier decided that Ramsey could get the job done without the benefit of pass blocking. Ramsey played well in the beginning of the season, but as the season wore on that little detail about the pass blocking resulted in a losing streak for the team and a trip to injured reserve for Ramsey.
Then Joe Gibbs got the job as Redskins head coach and the former offensive line coach shared neither Spurrier's disregard for the importance of pass blocking nor his predecessor's high regard for Ramsey. Last year it was the older Mark Brunell brought in to challenge Ramsey for the starting job. This year it was the younger Jason Campbell drafted as the heir apparent, as though a 26-year-old needs an heir.
As events have unfolded, it appears that Ramsey will have the 2005 season to himself. Brunell demonstrated last year that he can't get the job done and Gibbs would be very hesitant to insert the rookie Campbell into the mix.
Ramsey has had his chances before, opportunities to turn the corner and join, if not the truly elite quarterbacks in the league, a spot in the group right behind them. To be sure, these opportunities have come in individual games and not over the course of an entire season, but these opportunities are snapshots of Ramsey's problems with getting it done when he had the chance to take the next step:
--2003 in Veteran's Stadium, Ramsey had rallied the 3-1 Redskins from a late deficit to within two points of the Eagles. On a two-point conversion attempt to tie the game and send it to overtime. Laveraneus Coles, the primary receiver, broke wide open but Ramsey sailed the ball over his head.
--2004 in the Meadowlands, Brunell went out with a hamstring injury. With a chance to take back the job that Brunell had won in the preseason, Ramsey came in and almost pulled off a comeback win and would have had he not thrown three interceptions in less than a half of play.
--2004 in FedEx Field, the Redskins were deep in Eagle territory late in the game trailing 17-14. On first down from the Eagle 27, Ramsey threw into double coverage and Brian Dawkins came up with a game-saving interception.
These were micro opportunities for Ramsey. The 2005 season is a macro chance for him. If he has the equivalent of his three-interception relief appearance he could well wind up being Gus Frerotte, destined to a career of bouncing around the league fighting for second-string jobs. If he converts the two-pointer, if he leads the rally, if he throws the late-game touchdown pass, he's looking squarely at an eight-figure signing bonus in the next few years, whether it's from the Redskins or from someone else.
In The Spotlight: Patrick Ramsey
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