Schottenheimer calls audible, cuts George

Redskins promote ex-Ravens QB Banks to starter, sign Graham

September 27, 2001|By Milton Kent | Milton Kent,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - In a move that was stunning in its alacrity, Washington Redskins coach Marty Schottenheimer yesterday decided that Jeff George wouldn't be his starter, then elected to waive him from the roster.

Schottenheimer, who benched George in the third quarter of the season opener against San Diego, then watched him guide the Redskins' offense in the franchise's worst shutout loss in 40 years in a 37-0 defeat Monday night in Green Bay, had seen enough.

"I reached the point where I just didn't feel that the Washington Redskins could win with Jeff George as their starting quarterback," said Schottenheimer. "When I reached that point, I had to try to evaluate whether I thought it would serve our purpose to have him as a backup. I also decided that I didn't think that was what we should do."

The move opened the door for former Ravens quarterback Tony Banks, who joined the Redskins in training camp last month after being cut by Dallas, to start Sunday against Schottenheimer's former team, the Kansas City Chiefs.

"This is a business. Everybody understands that we have to move on," Banks said yesterday. "I've been on both sides of the situation, and it's never pleasant, but you have to move on."

To replace George on the roster, Washington signed Kent Graham, who played last season for Pittsburgh and was cut by the Steelers after training camp.

Graham, who also has had stints with the New York Giants, Detroit and Arizona, will be the third-string quarterback this week behind rookie Sage Rosenfels, but may challenge for the No. 2 slot.

"I don't know an awful lot. This is all brand new for me," said Graham, who was recommended to Schottenheimer by Pittsburgh coach Bill Cowher. "I'm excited about being here. This is a great place to be. I've always liked Washington and the tradition here. It's an organization that you want to be a part of."

George, the first overall choice in the 1990 draft and the Rookie of the Year that season, is in his 12th season in the NFL, and his second in Washington. He took over the starting job with the Redskins in Week 10 last year when starter Brad Johnson was injured, and never relinquished the spot once Johnson got healthy.

He joined Deion Sanders and Bruce Smith as splashy free-agent signings made at the behest of owner Daniel Snyder, and George's presence became a wedge between the owner and former coach Norv Turner.

George's penchant for throwing downfield never seemed to mesh with Schottenheimer's more conservative approach, and the two spoke animatedly in San Diego, when he was lifted in the third quarter of the 30-3 loss.

Schottenheimer reinstated George as starter for Monday's nationally televised drubbing against the Packers, but the quarterback declined to speak to the media for nine days after the Chargers game, leading some to question his leadership.

Schottenheimer, who makes personnel decisions in Washington, said he "was steadfastly hoping" that George could be his quarterback, particularly after the team let Johnson leave as a free agent to Tampa Bay and passed on former Ravens starters Banks and Trent Dilfer, as well as other veteran quarterbacks.

"Obviously, had it worked, we probably wouldn't be 0-2. We might be 1-1," said Schottenheimer. "I was of the mind-set that, as a teacher, that I could teach and he could understand. I didn't do a good enough job of teaching it and we didn't understand."

Schottenheimer said he made the decision to release George, whose 34.6 quarterback rating ranks last in the NFL, Tuesday night. He then spoke with Snyder and informed the quarterback early yesterday as he arrived at Redskin Park to lift weights before practice in preparation for Sunday.

George, who missed much of training camp with tendinitis in his throwing shoulder, could not be reached for comment, but he told Washington television station WRC that he didn't see Schottenheimer's decision coming.

"I didn't expect either [benching or being cut]," said George, who was 23-for-42 for 168 yards, no touchdowns, three fumbles and three interceptions in two weeks. "I've always had confidence in myself. We're just going through some tough times, for whatever reason.

"It's a team thing, and we're struggling. You feel bad for the defense, because you want to go out there and produce some points. I take a lot of pride."

George's agent, Leigh Steinberg, said his client had already received phone calls from other teams but was trying to get over the shock of having been waived.

"I am surprised by the timing," said Steinberg from his California office yesterday. "I think the decision was made many months ago."

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