Shrug-it-off ability helps put Matthews in No. 1 seat

He'll start at quarterback for Redskins in opener

August 31, 2002|By Edward Lee | Edward Lee,SUN STAFF

ASHBURN, Va. - Washington Redskins quarterback Shane Matthews isn't too concerned that he has thrown only one more touchdown pass than interception in the preseason: six to five.

It's that kind of self-confidence that may have earned Matthews the starting spot in Washington's season opener against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 8.

"As many times as we try to get the ball down the field, you're going to throw interceptions," said Matthews, who said he was named Washington's starter by coach Steve Spurrier in the final minutes of the team's 28-14 home loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday night.

"It's kind of similar to how I play golf," said Matthews, who won the 1997 Celebrity Golf Association Chicago Golf Classic. "When you make bad shots, you just have to forget about them. It's the same with being a quarterback. You're going to make bad throws. Nobody plays a perfect game. We all wish we could, but it's just not going to happen."

Matthews should know. He started 36 games for Spurrier at the University of Florida between 1990 and 1992 and was never benched by the Gators' coach, according to The Washington Post.

Spurrier, a 1966 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback with Florida who has had a tendency to substitute quarterbacks until he finds the right one, indicated he is willing to let Matthews run the show if he gets results.

"As long as he's playing well and he's thinking clearly and he's not doing anything too, too bad, he'll stay in there," Spurrier said after the loss concluded a 4-1 preseason in which the Redskins set a record for preseason points with 164.

Matthews, who made 15 career starts with the Chicago Bears and had been battling with Danny Wuerffel for the No. 1 position, may have convinced Spurrier with his performance in the third quarter against the Patriots.

Facing a 21-0 deficit, Matthews guided Washington into New England territory in his only two series of the game - one of which resulted in a 37-yard touchdown strike to Darnerien McCants with 1:46 left in the quarter.

Matthews, who did throw an interception in his other series, completed eight of nine passes for 104 yards and finished with a 112.3 quarterback rating. Under him, the offense accumulated 132 yards - 70 more than in the first half.

But he had some help from Wuerffel, who was shaky in his second consecutive appearance at FedEx Field.

After posting a 2-for-5 evening for 27 yards and one interception against the Pittsburgh Steelers on Aug. 18, Wuerffel went 7-for-13 for 58 yards, was sacked five times, fumbled the ball four times and earned a 65.5 rating against the Patriots.

Spurrier acknowledged that Wuerffel's problems played a role in determining the starter for the season opener.

"If Danny had played extremely well in that first half, maybe he would've been comfortable enough to go play against the Cardinals," Spurrier said. "But right now, he's not our best one to go play."

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