In Joe Gibbs' first tenure as head coach of the Redskins (1981-92), he worked diligently to ensure his teams had quality depth at each position. In particular, Gibbs seemed to focus on depth at the quarterback position.
In 2004, Gibbs' approach to the quarterback position almost certainly bears a resemblance to his first tenure. He is expected to employ on his regular-season roster three quarterbacks,talent with a blend of experience and youth,who can get the job done on the field when called upon.
There is soundness to the process. But from a larger perspective, what Gibbs is attempting to do is employ his football model to transform the Redskins into Super Bowl contenders.
Gibbs' ingenuity brought the Redskins three Super Bowl championships in four tries with three different quarterbacks in 12 seasons. The quarterbacks' physical skills varied, but each one had a common thread: character and leadership ability with the insatiable desire to win.
Gibbs always had good quarterbacks: Joe Theismann (1974-85), Jay Schroeder (1984-88), Doug Williams (1986-89), Mark Rypien (1987-93) and Stan Humphries (1989-91). Their careers overlapped, but no matter which one got the call, he did the job.
Upon Gibbs arrival at Redskins Park in early January, he brought along his quarterbacks coach, Jack Burns. In discussing the quarterback position, Burns emphasized the importance of having three,not one or two,quality quarterbacks on the roster.
"If you hinder your offense,and you've seen teams do that when they put their No. 2 or No. 3 out there and their offense goes down 50 percent in production,it's not fair to the team," Burns said. "So it'll be up to us to have capable guys who can step in and play if the No. 1 is not on the field."
This time around, Gibbs is again exercising firm judgment in putting together the talent it takes to fill the quarterback position. Incumbent Patrick Ramsey will compete with newly acquired veteran Mark Brunell for the starting job. The others in the mix are Tim Hasselbeck, who finished the 2003 season as the starter for the injured Ramsey, and Gibran Hamdan, who will play in NFL Europe this spring.
Gibbs and Burns have a philosophy in choosing the team's starting quarterback. In their estimation, competition in mini-camps, training camp and pre-season games is the only way for a quarterback to elevate his game.
Said Brunell during his introductory press conference: "A lot of people think that the starting job has been guaranteed to me, but nothing has been guaranteed to me other than the opportunity to compete. When a coach assembles a team, he picks his best 11 guys and those are the guys who are going to be on the field. I'm going to do everything I can to one of those 11 guys."
Ramsey has also said that he welcomes the opportunity to compete for the starting QB job.
As always, the choice will narrow to the coach's decision. Gibbs' judgment when it comes to quarterbacks is remarkable when viewed in the context that none of his Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks are in the Hall of Fame. Yet two of them were Super Bowl MVPs (Williams and Rypien) and all three were successful enough to be among the 70 Greatest Redskins.
In trading for the 33-year-old Brunell, an 11-year veteran with a high career QB rating, Gibbs said it makes for a good situation. It makes for an even better situation by ensuring that Ramsey, whether he's the starter or not, continues to learn and develop his skills to an elite level.
"We're going to be spending a lot of hours together soon," Brunell said. "We have a lot in common and I anticipate being friends with him. I'm looking forward to it."
Ramsey and Brunell are an ideal combination. They solidify the quarterback position, which was in need of being re-energized.
Gibbs believes the quarterback position has now become a position of strength. It's what he has been used to throughout his coaching career, it's what he feels comfortable with and it's partly why he's been able to win. The building blocks to a winner are being put in place now.