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Which is the bigger gamble: the aging veteran on the downside of his career or the young, expensive talent who tore through college defenses but could get chewed up in the pros?
"The risk is so high with a rookie quarterback," Rams general manager Charley Armey says. "I think Eli Manning is going to be a great player, but can you guarantee it? No. That's why if you can sign a veteran who is proven and can do what you want him to do, you have to go that way. You've got to, because [projecting] a rookie's ability to manage the game and deal with the speed is nothing more than guesswork"
If you're a Redskins fan watching the second year of the Steve Spurrier Era wind down, you might be asking yourself: Is my team better off now than it was two years ago when Marty Schottenheimer was in charge? The answer is no. Though he was 8-8 in 2001, his only season as Washington's coach, Schottenheimer ended up winning eight of his last 11 games. Spurrier's two-year record is 12-18, including eight losses in his last 10 games, and he still has difficult tests left against the Bears on the road and the Eagles at home.
Last week Redskins owner Dan Snyder said Spurrier, who in January 2002 signed the richest coaching contract in NFL history ($25 million over five years), will "absolutely" return in '04. While Spurrier seems to possess too bright a football mind to have such a bumbling team, particularly on offense, his squad was shockingly ill-suited to play in the sleet in Washington on Sunday. The Redskins gained only 161 yards in a 27-0 loss to the NFC East rival Cowboys.
In fact, after ranking 20th in the NFL in total offense last year (321.4 yards per game), Washington has fallen to 24th this season (293.8). The decline can be attributed partly to Spurrier's slow adjustment to the intricacies of NFL defenses and to the Redskins' decision to cut loose running back Stephen Davis, who in 13 games with Carolina has rushed for 1,387 yards.
Things aren't all bad. Second-year quarterback Patrick Ramsey, out for the season with an in-jury to his right foot, showed flashes of brilliance earlier in the year. The question is, How much of a pounding can he, or any other passer, take behind a line that can't stop the blitz? Washington's two major free-agent signings, wideout Laveranues Coles and right guard Randy Thomas, have played well. But can the salary-cap-strapped team keep enough other good players—Pro Bowl cornerback Champ Bailey, for one, is a looming free agent—to build a playoff contender?
Spurrier would probably help himself by making changes on his coaching staff, replacing some of his former college aides with more experienced pro assistants. It also wouldn't hurt to bring in a general manager who is well-schooled in the cap and skilled at evaluating mid-level talent.
The draft prospects of Heisman Trophy winner Jason White are not good. White, the Oklahoma quarterback who threw for 40 touchdowns this season, will probably be a second-day selection because he's had reconstructive surgery on both knees and has below-average mobility and average arm strength. White could also apply to the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility....