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Wilbon about Banks


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Again, Banks Seeks Right Fit

By Michael Wilbon

Sunday, August 26, 2001; Page D01

When Dick Vermeil first arrived in St. Louis and Tony Banks was still the quarterback, the old-school coach told his young quarterback to stop wearing his hat turned to the side.


It suggested to Vermeil that Banks was too casual, that he wasn't nearly intense enough about the mission of playing quarterback in the NFL. It wasn't the first time Banks had heard that criticism, nor the last. It's why Jerry Jones personally shipped him out of Dallas last week. The biggest criticism of Banks? "That I don't care," he answered. "That comes from my demeanor. When things go well, they say, 'Isn't that great that nothing bothers him?' But when things go badly, it's, 'He doesn't care enough.' I'm never going to be that guy who jumps on the goal post or drops to his knees when he throws a touchdown pass."

Banks says his demeanor has nothing to do with how well he can play football. The coaches who've discarded him say his demeanor, in part, has everything to do with how well he plays football. The coaches say if he had a different demeanor, he wouldn't be so up and down, he wouldn't throw so many interceptions, he wouldn't fumble so frequently, he'd be less streaky and more consistent. There would be more nights like Friday night when he threw 14 passes (the 15th was a clock-stopping spike of the ball) and all 14 hit receivers in the hands or on the numbers. Two were dropped.

He did this despite having the playbook sliced considerably. (Perhaps offensive coaches should set aside their egos and slice all their playbooks considerably.) He did it despite not having had time to commit all the new terminology to memory. "One time, I couldn't call [the play] out. So I ran my own play," Banks said, smiling.

The way Banks played gave Friday night a bit of magic. It was the kind of performance that leads the football romantics to believe the still young journeyman just might find a home here, that at 28 he's got plenty of football left in him and perhaps is simply a late-bloomer, which isn't uncommon at quarterback. At the very least, one would have to believe the Redskins are a whole lot better off at backup quarterback than they were 10 days ago when two kids were thrown into the deep water, unfairly.

And if ever a guy has reason to have a chip on his shoulder, has reason to be hell-bent on proving he has been wronged, it's Tony Banks. "I still think about it. It hit my life like a brick," he said of being dumped in Dallas. "I was having the best camp of my career. The coaches were excited about me being there. Joey [Galloway] and Rocket [ismail] were excited about me being there. . . ."

But it's never that simple for Banks. Early on, he had a different offensive system to learn every year. He got to Baltimore, played well for a while, played poorly a few times, got benched, fell off the rocket ship. "I deserved the demotion last year," he says. The Cowboys stint was spectacularly failed. And now he's here in a town that breathed life into the phrase, "quarterback controversy."

"Life throws you some curves," Banks said, describing his six-year NFL career. "Some curves, sliders, change-ups. . . . Everything's been off-speed."

You could make the case Banks is understating the matter. That's because in 1997, his second season after being drafted by the Rams out of Michigan State, he started all 16 games, threw 14 touchdowns to 13 interceptions, threw for more yards than all but three NFC quarterbacks (Troy Aikman, Scott Mitchell and Brett Favre). He passed for 401 yards in a game, against the Falcons.

But the next year, he threw seven touchdowns to 14 interceptions, of course with a new offensive system. In 1999, after moving to the Ravens, he was 6-4 as a starter and went 4-0 in December. The 2000 season was all over the place. One week he led the Ravens to their greatest comeback and was named player of the week in the AFC by throwing five touchdown passes. But there was another week where he went 17 for 39. Up, down. Hot, cold. Okay, maybe it was all the instability resulting from a parade of coaches and systems. But maybe, as some of those coaches suggest, it was because he didn't take minicamp seriously enough, because he didn't throw as often as he should have in the offseason. That was certainly the concern Jerry Jones had in Dallas, though Banks said he apologized to his coaches awhile ago, and it wasn't an issue for those on the field every day.

So what now? How is Marty Schottenheimer, who wears his passions on his sleeve, going to deal with a quarterback who carries this label of being too laid back? "He said, 'Coach, all I want is to start with a clean slate,' " Schottenheimer said after Friday night's game. "And I said, 'If that's what you're looking for you've come to the right place.' "

Banks said Schottenheimer reminds him, in some important ways, of Vermeil, old-school, straightforward, stunningly frank in ways he has come to appreciate as he's gotten older.

The punch he took in the stomach in Dallas still hurts, but the pain is staring to fade. You come in and play like he did Friday, and everybody loves the number two quarterback. It's an unfamiliar position for a man expected to start in three NFL cities. "I know I can play," he said. "I'm healthy, I'm starting to feel comfortable in the offense."

Maybe, for once, even if only temporarily, the expectations of the team and the man can be in sync.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company

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George and Banks have had similar records in their first 5 seasons. If Jeff stinks the place up on Thursday in the first half, and Banks does well in the second half again, should Banks get the start at the Chargers? I don't know, but I don't take anything Marty tells the media as fact. If He is going to try to put the best team on the field, the guy playing better will get the start.

G 67 G 68

GS 61 GS 65

Att 1857 Att 2056

Comp 1004 Comp 1196

Pct 54.1 Pct 57.6

Yds 10127 Yds 13285

Ypa 6.46 Ypa 6.42

Lg 72.4 Lg 6.76

TD 61 TD 64

Int 58 Int 64

Rate 72.2 Rate 73.74

Banks has 704 yards on 191 carries with an Av of 3.68 per in 5 seasons with 4 TDs

George has 307 on 154 carries wit an Av of 1.99 lifetime, with 2 TDs.

Doesn't look like a very big difference no matter who starts. Of course, I didn't compare fumbles or sacks for the two of them, which could taint the way I look at it. Does George have a future with the team past this season? Could Banks be the future? We look at George and say he's so much better then Banks. Banks is thought to not have what it takes to be a starter, yet his career has the same basic lines of Georges in the begining.

I'm fairly sure George will miss 3 or 4 games this season, and as long as we can get the O-Line to protect well, I don't think we could be sitting any better QB wise.

Sorry about the squashed #s

[edited.gif by Pete on August 26, 2001.]

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Wilbon did say something which caught my eye.

He mentioned that Banks looked better with a skeleton set of plays than some guys do with the whole playbook.

His exact words: "He did this despite having the playbook sliced considerably. (Perhaps offensive coaches should set aside their egos and slice all their playbooks considerably.)"

It recalls the '99 season when Brad was lighting it up before the break. Norv went into the break saying that Brad was using less than half of the playbook, and now that he was comfortable they were gonna install the whole thing during the two weeks around the break. Brad never did look the same after that.

I wonder if Wilbon's on to something.

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